Bhante Sujato Pali Course 2023: Warder lesson 2

Thread for discussing chapter 2 of Warder for the class on August 8.

Let’s use the following Zoom link this week:

Meeting ID: 869 8997 6290
Passcode: 2023

The glitches last week were caused by the molasses-like internet at Lokanta that night. Normally it can be patchy but that was especially bad. Maybe this week will be better. If not, I’ll look at doing the classes from somewhere else, maybe at the local community center.


I know it’s a bit early to ask questions for Lesson 2, but since I am not attending the class I may as well jump the gun.

I’ve created a set of “example sentences” to illustrate key sentence patterns from the Warder lessons. The link to this is in the “Course Resources” thread.

So far, up to Lesson 2, the most complex sentence pattern is the one involving the infamous “yena … tena” construction. Although not explicitly taught by Warder in Lesson 2, Ajahn Brahmali’s answer key (as well as John Kelly’s answer key) to two of the exercises suggests this is the correct construction.

Based on advice from @johnk in the course announcement thread, I have decided to interpret the yena ... tena construction effectively as a sentence with a subclause, bounded by two instrumental pronouns (Warder calls them indeclinables, but they look like pronouns to me).

So the following sentence:

yena mahāmatto tena upasaṃkamanti

is translated as

By where the minister [is], by there [they] approach

or, more idiomatically

[They] approach [the place] where the minister [is]

So, the “minister” is the “agent” of the sub clause, and the “place where the minister is” is the patient of upasaṃkamanti.

This is the best way I can think of to explain why the “minister” is nominative rather than accusative in the sentence.

To further illustrate, have a look at the diagrams in this link (which I have drawn as a pseudo class diagram and a pseudo sequence diagram):

yena tena example

Anyway, my question, probably primarily to @sujato and @johnk is: what do you think of this approach? Everyone else is free to offer their opinion as well, of course.

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Not at all, that’s why I put the thread up.

It’s really a question of semantics. They are instrumental pronouns, but are used in an idiomatic way as indeclinables. :person_shrugging:

Seems fine? I dunno, I feel like there are different linguistic ways of understanding it, but so long as it ends up in the same place it’s good.

Ultimately, linguistics is a set of abstractions to help you understand language utterances. As the complexity of abstraction increases and the number of cases it applies to decreases, the value of abstraction diminishes and you might as well just learn what the utterances mean, which is of course what native speakers do. But it also depends on purpose: as a translator, this won’t affect me, but a linguist wants to dig down into the details.

Since you’re clearly into the finer details of grammar, at some point you’ll want to dig in to Kaccayana. He’ll probably have a specific account of this.


4 posts were merged into an existing topic: Sujato Pali Course 2023: resources

Sometimes these pronouns get certain forms used as indecllinables. Have a look at Pali Studies on YouTube, these two episodes, which build slowly on each other step-by-step, and get to yena … tena by the end.


Best explanation I’ve come across, if longwinded!! He has some slides headed “Relative Adverbs as Conjunctives” that deal with yena … tena.


So, I had a question about pajahati

It seems to have a “weakened” form of the root * ? Why not e.g. pajahāti?

DPD has √hā + hā + a > jaha

I guess this is a case of the “doubling contraction” mentioned in Warder? Any more info on how and when that happens / what’s going on here?

Thanks, I haven’t watched any of those videos to date, I’ve been saving them up as revision for when I have some spare time. The videos look good.

His explanation is fundamentally the same as mine. My point is that Warder is confused, he explains it in multiple ways inconsistently. yena and tena are already declined, so no need for further declinations. Warder inconsistently refers to yena as undeclinable AND separately as “an instrumental pronoun”.

Plus I can’t find any reference to Warder’s explanation of yena “governing the noun” as a nominative in any other grammar book.

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Thank you both for this. One day I’ll be brave enough to read it!


It can be either, depending on the context (ie grammatical context aka sentence structure).


Not sure if it’s appropriate to ask about the homework exercises here? Please delete if we’re not supposed to be posting answers. Two word usage questions - happy either to receive the answer here, or to discuss in class.


Checking against the key, the correct answers are different from mine, as a result of the multiple definitions possible for each word - sometimes with variations in meaning that are quite significant.

The biggest divergence was in: “manussā bhavaṃ īcchanti”.
Mine: “The men wish for good fortune.”
Warder: “Human beings desire existence.”
Was my response very far off in meaning from how bhava and ¯icchati are used?

Similarly with “They go to the minister.”
Mine: “Mahāmattaṃ gacchanti.”
Warder: “Mahāmattaṃ upasaṃkamanti.”

I had thought gacchati was like travelling to the general location of where the patient is, upasaṃkamati (approach) was like walking up to someone already close by. Like when you approach the bench in court. Have I misunderstood the nuanced difference between gacchati and upasaṃkamati ?

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Sure, this is exactly the right place. Idheva sammāṭhānaṁ.

Both are correct.

Both are correct.

That’s pretty close, but the English phrase, devoid of context, could cover either.

Don’t sweat such small differences at this point, as subtleties of meaning are revealed through the way vocabulary interacts with context, and we don’t yet have enough context.

Indeed. The verb is very irregular! Note that Sanskrit is similar, prajahāti, so I’m guessing that any emic Pali explanation is going to sound forced. “Take the root, duplicate it, change the first consonant, then add a stem vowel, which then disappears because you shorten the vowels of both occurrences of the duplicated stem, add a prefix, inflect it, good to go. Simple!”

As to why it happens, I’m going to guess that the real reason is the dialectical history of the word, which is outside the purview of Pali study as such. Reduplication sometimes has a semantic meaning (as a desiderative) but in this case I don’t think that is so.


I am not convinced this is correct.

I feel all this stems from Warder’s confusion when he refers to nipāta as “indeclinable” but it should more properly be referred to as “particle”. Warder based his grammar on notes provided by his teacher Dr. W Stede which are incomplete and some of Warder’s “explanations” are not shared by any other grammar book I have read.

In many ways, Pali resembles Japanese more than English, and Japanese uses particles as semantic “anchors” in sentences, exactly like Pali.

So it makes much more sense to say relative/personal pronoun pairs like yaṃṭaṃ and yenatena can act as particles in sentence construction. They are not “indeclinables” because they are already declined.

At this stage in my Pali studies, I am getting more careful about “grammar explanations” from a European centric perspective. I think it’s important to learn Pali in Pali, and understand the language by its own terms - all languages have an internal “logic” and it is worthwhile to appreciate this internal logic rather than impose an external framework on it. Anyway, just my two cents for today.

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Hi Karuna,

I had similar issues when I was doing the exercises, so you are not alone.

The way I rationalise it is: the Warder exercises are based on extracts from suttas. Both the Answer Key by @johnk and Ajahn Brahmali reflect this - they actually provide references to which sutta the exercise came from (where possible).

So the specific choice of words may differ from what you/I might expect from reading the textbook because in the suttas there may have been additional context which may have influenced using one word vs another.

I would say in the absence of context your answers are perfectly reasonable (or maybe I am boostering the validity of my own answers which were similar to yours).


But particles are indeclinable, ie they don’t decline.

I like the way Warder tries to prepare students to approach the sutras, btw, and don’t feel he can cram everything into Lesson One.

EDIT: In Kaccayana’s ancient grammar the tripartite division of words into nominals, verbs and indeclinables makes good basic sense because nouns accept endings that relate to semantic roles (declension), verbs accept endings that express a different semantic range of meanings (conjugation), while indeclinables have no inflections at all. This is supremely logical because the categorisation is based on one simple difference.

I have not yet studied how Kaccayana sorts out different subtypes of indeclinable (on the to-do list) but, while I have been trying to work through text books and read suttas, I have been exposed to various teachers’ interpretations. I often get the feeling that there is muddle! Sometimes they are using different linguistic models to those I might use. Sometimes subcategorisation is based on how the indeclinable word has been formed, and there may be different interpretations of this. Sometimes subcategorisation is based on apparent similarity with a familiar modern language, most often English, that doesn’t quite match the Pali.

As a once language teacher I know that – rather than offering the best linguistic analysis (maybe complex, and anyway linguists seldom agree) – it is often expedient for teachers to use explanations that just make the easiest sense to students. Obviously this happens most often at the beginner level. Warder was a pretty cluey fellow, and I doubt that he got confused over basic linguistic facts; however he may well have temporarily compromised them in order to get students reading simple texts as quickly as possible. I regard this as teachers using “skilful means,” or as being in line with the Simile of the Raft.

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The homework ‘due’ for this next class is technically exercise 1, right?
First week (last week) assignment: “read the intro”
Second week (this week) should be the one after that, exercise 1.


But nipāta isn’t “indeclinable”

Indeclinable in Pali is another word altogether: avyaya

That’s why I said Warder is confused.

By the way, Kaccayana Vol 2 page 185 (and with greater detail on page 341) states that some nipāta (and even upasagga - prefixes) are subject to vibatti (case ending) transformations - yena and tena would be two examples. Duroiselle gives further examples.

This is why ultimately it is best to learn Pali in Pali, using Pali grammatical terms. Over reliance on grammar books written in English can lead to confusion.

No, we covered lesson one in class. Lesson 2 is due this week. That means in 4 hours time!

Hate to say it, but they’re all fine. Just pick one and don’t get caught up in details. That’s what academic journals are for.

Using English grammar books is just fine. You’re trying to push it to answer questions it was not trying to answer. Just learn each lesson as it is.

I would encourage further discussions of such theoretical nature to take place in a separate thread. It’s not encouraging for new students to see what appears to be a thread of people arguing incomprehensibly about what way the textbook is wrong. These threads are for checking details of the lessons as we go and getting feedback.


Thanks. Noted. I would encourage Gillian to privately message me if she wants to continue the discussion. As for me, I think I’m satisfied that everything has been resolved and don’t wish to discuss further.


No worries. To be clear, I personally really appreciate the conversation and have learned a lot! I just want to keep things focused for the class.


I so totally agree with @sujato here! Much of the discussion on this thread by some students here who have already spent some time with Pāli and are knowledgeable about linguistics, while laudable and worth having, I would imagine could be very off-putting by people in this class who are very new to Pāli, and especially for some of them for whom English may not be their first language. Take the discussion to a separate thread.

I’ve been working with Pāli for years - assisting in translations, teaching, etc. - but I find a lot of what Warder discusses in these early lessons (e.g., vowel gradations, converting verb roots to verb stems in different conjugations), not very useful at all for a beginning student.

Focus on the following:

  1. Learn the verbs presented in 3rd person singular form, that is upasaṅkamati, pakkamati, cavati, and so on in lesson 1, and pavisati, phusati, icchati, etc., in lesson 2. Make a note of the roots, but don’t worry to much about them yet.
  2. Learn the nouns presented in these first two lessons - so far just masculine a-stem nouns.
  3. Learn the function of the two cases presented so far: nominative (the subject or “agent”), and accusative (the direct object or what Warder calls “patient”).

If you have the above three things down solid, you all should find the exercises in these first two lessons a breeze.