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Clauses & Relative Pronouns - Part 1

Relative clauses First let’s look at what a clause is and explain some terminology. Learning this terminology helps when reading grammar guides like Warder.

Clauses - an overview

Previously I said that sentence consisted in a noun phrase + a verb phrase. Strictly this is the description of a clause. A sentence can involve of one or more clauses joined by conjunctions.
clause
conj
clause
noun
verb

pronoun
verb
John
shouted
and
everybody
waved
A clause always has a subject and a verb - even if the subject is implied.

Phrases are groups of words that act as a unit, often playing the role of nouns or verbs, which are then built up to form clauses.

There are different ways to classify clauses. One is as independent or dependent subordinate. An independent clause can stand alone as a sentence while a subordinate clause requires an independent clause in order for it to make sense. The two clauses in the example above are both independent clauses as either one can stand as a sentence on its own. Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) are used to join independent clauses to make a compound sentence.
clause
conj
clause
noun
verb

verb
adverb
John
ran
and
waved
excitedly
Now in this example the second clause is subordinate to the first as it only makes sense when joined to the first independent clause. In this situation the first clause is sometimes termed the main clause and its verb is the main (or finite) verb of the sentence. The subject of the subordinate clause is implied (here placed in brackets), being the same as that of the main clause. An independent clause joined to one or more subordinate clauses is called a complex sentence.
Subordinating conjunctions are used to join dependent and independent clauses. English has a wide range of subordinate conjunctions: 'that, if, though, although, because, when, while, after, before' etc. which can be grouped by purpose:
  • Causative: as, because, in order that, since, so that,
  • Comparative: although, as though, just as, while,
  • Conditional: if, in case, provided that, unless,
  • Spacial: where, wherever,
  • Temporal: after, as soon as, before, once, until, when, while.

Clauses vs Phrases

A phrase formally is one or more words that act as one of the parts of speech i.e. a noun, a verb, a preposition etc. A phrase may act as the subject but it doesn't possess a subject itself. All clauses contain a verb and a subject, though the subject of subordinate clauses are often implied or indefinite.  

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses start with relative pronouns which act as subordinating conjunctions to create a subordinate relative clause.  In English these are clauses starting with pronouns such as: 'who, that, which, whose, where, when'. etc. In Pali, they are formed from declensions of the pronoun 'ya'.
OK so far so good, so lets break down a sentence.
The man, who visited yesterday, stole a book
The main clause of this sentence is ‘the man, stole a book’. Embedded into this is the relative clause ‘who visited yesterday’. The relative pronoun ‘who’ refers to ‘the man’ in the main cause and is technically called the antecedent. Sometimes a pronoun is included in the main clause; this is called a co-relative and also refers back to ‘the man’.

relative clause



antecedent
relative
pronoun

co-relative

The man
who
visited yesterday
he
stole a book
Whereas English embeds, Pali separates out the relative and main clauses, usually placing the relative clause first (though this can be reversed for emphasis or to imply a question).
relative clause
main clause
relative
pronoun
antecedent

co-relative

who
the man
visited yesterday
he
stole a book
The relative clause can be identified due it always beginning with a relative pronoun or relative adverb. The main clause usually starts with a co-relative (either a demonstrative or personal pronoun). Notice the difference in position of the antecedent between the English and Pali  sentences.
So in order to unscramble a relative construction in Pali  the antecedent must first be identified and then moved to the beginning of the translated clause. To do this, the relative pronoun will agree in number and gender with its antecedent noun (or pronoun). Note, in Pali if the antecedent, is a noun, it is placed in the relative clause but if it is a pronoun it remains in the main clause.

Pali Relative clauses in 'ya' & 'ta' stems

The various inflections of the pronouns 'ya' (relative) and 'ta' (3rd pers / demonstrative) form the majority of relative clauses in Pali. So let's work through an example:
relative clause
main clause
ye
dhammā
na
manasi-karaṇīyā,
te
dhamme
manasi-karoti
nom/acc
pl
male
rel. pron.

nom
pl
male

indec
nom
pl
male
fut pass part

nom/acc
pl
male
3rd pers
pron.

loc/acc
sgl,/pl
male

pres. act
sgl

3rd pers.

which/
what
phenomena
not
ought to pay attention
they/
those
phenomena
(he) pays attention
phenomena
which (one) ought not pay attention
(to) those phenomena he pays attention

Firstly, the relative pronoun must match the antecedent in gender & number if it is present in the relative clause. Here it must be ‘dhammā’ as  ‘manasikaraṇīyā’ although the right gender & number, is a participle and the antecedent must be a noun or pronoun. So ‘dhammā’ is to what the relative pronoun and the co-relative both refer. The main verb abides by the normal rules having its subject (the antecedent) in nominative and its object in accusative, though it seems to have lost its plurality.

They can be a bit tricky to get your head round, so here's another.
buddhānaṃ
sāmukkaṃsikā
dhamma+desanā
taṃ
pakāsesi
nom
sgl
fem
rel. pron

dat/gen
pl
male

dat/gen ?
pl
male

nom, nom/acc
sgl,    pl
fem


acc
sgl
fem
demon pron

past cause
sgl

3rd pers

which/
what
of/by the Buddhas
praising
(the) exposition of dhamma
that
(he) made known
the exposition of dhamma, which the Buddhas praise,  (that) he made known

Again, the relative pronoun must match the antecedent in gender & number if it is present in the relative clause. Here it must be Dhammadesanā. So this is to what the relative pronoun and the co-relative both refer. It is that which is both ‘praised by the Buddhas’ and ‘made known’.
He made known the the exposition of dhamma, which the Buddhas praise
Remember, if the antecedent, is a noun, it is placed in the relative clause but if it is a pronoun it remains in the main clause. There was an example in the last post:
yo
maṃ
passati
so
dhammaṃ
passati
nom
sgl
male
rel pronn

acc
sgl
male
1st pers pron

pres, act.
sgl

3rd pers

nom
sgl
male
3rd pers pron

acc
sgl
male


pres, act.
sgl

3rd pers

who
me
(he) sees
he
(the) dhamma
sees
(He) who sees me
He sees the dhamma

Literally:
He, who sees me, sees the Dhamma.

Here's a video intro to Relative pronouns & clauses in Pali:

Learn Pali Grammar: Relative Pronouns & Clauses #1

In this Pali language tutorial we take a look at the grammar of relative pronouns & relative clauses both in English and the Pali language.

Empty Relatives

Relative pronouns yaṃ & yathā are sometimes ‘empty’; meaning they serve simply as markers of the clause and if necessary can be translated as ‘that’, 'as', or 'so'.
dhammatā
esā,
bhikkhave,
yaṃ
sukhino
cittaṃ
samādhiyati
nom/acc
sgl/pl
fem

nom
sgl
f
demon
pron

voc
pl
male

acc
sgl
m,n,f

dat/gen, nom/acc
sgl, pl
male
adj

nom/acc
sgl
male

pres pass
sgl

3rd pers

natural law
it/this
O monks
which/
what
at ease
the mind
composed
this (is) a natural law, o monks
that the mind at ease (is) composed

Relative + Demonstrative pronouns

A demonstrative pronoun immediately following a relative can mean something like: ‘that which’, ‘he who’ or just 'which/whatever'. If there is no relative clause then it may just be emphatic ‘just as’… especially if followed by an emphatic (y)eva ‘just this’…
yo
so
satto
paṭhamaṃ
upapanno
tassa
evaṃ
hoti
nom
sgl
male
rel. pron

nom
sgl
male
demon
pron

nom
sgl
male

adverb
nom
sgl
male
past part

dat/gen
sgl
male
3rd pers pronoun

adverb
pres, act
sgl
3rdpers

which/
what
he/that
being
firstly
arose
of he, his, its
thus
is
that being, who arose first, of him thus is…

'Yena - Tena' Constructions

Although the accusative case is often used to express the destination of motion, an alternative form is to use a ‘yena –tena’ relative clause construction. This literally translates as ‘where…there…’ in locative. The destination of the verb’s motion follows ‘yena’ and usually the thing doing the moving and the verb follows the ‘tena’ term. This results in constructions like:
Relative clause
Main clause
relative pronoun

co-relative

where
the ascetic
there
the minister approaches

And now an example in Pali:
te
brāhmaṇā
yena
kūṭadanto
brāhmaṇo
ten’
upasaṅkamiṃsu
nom/acc
pl
male
3rd pers pron

nom/voc
pl
male

instr
sgl
m,n
relative pronoun

nom
sgl
male

nom
sgl
male

instr
sgl
m,n
rel pronn

aorist, act
pl

3rd pers

those
brahmins
where
kūṭadanta
the brahmin
there
(they) approached
Those Brahmins approached Kūṭadanta the Brahmin

To analyse this sentence, we can see the verb agrees with its subject, being ‘those bramins’ in plural 3rd pers. The relative pronoun ‘yena’ agrees with its object: the phrase ‘Kūṭadanta the Brahmin’. Notice within a ‘yena – tena’ clause the destination (i.e. the yena part) is expressed in the nominative case – and not the accusative.
ehi
tvaṃ,
māṇavaka,
yena
samaṇo
ānando
ten’
upasaṅkama
imperative
sgl

2nd pers of eti

nom/acc
sgl
m,n,f
2nd pers  pron

voc
sgl
male

instr
sgl
m,n
rel pron

nom
sgl
male

nom
sgl
male

instr
sgl
m,n
rel pron

imperative
sgl

2nd pers 

come here
you
young man
where
the recluse
ānanda
there
(you) go/approach
‘Young man’ come here! Go you (to) the recluse Ananda

In this example, the verb of the yena - tena clause is a 2nd person imperative of ‘to approach’ i.e. an insistent go! As the name suggests, the imperative form of verbs express commands but also invitations or wishes. However, the 2nd person is usually reserved for commands. A verb’s subject is identified by a noun/pronoun in identical number & person, here it is the pronoun ‘you’.
Imperative verbs (when not part of a yena - tena construction) often occur at the beginning of a sentence. Here ‘ehi’ is the imperative of ‘to come’ and this is accompanied by a noun in vocative case which denotes a form of address similar to ‘dear sir’, or in this case ‘Young man’.


A second part on Pali clauses will follow.

But in the next post we'll look at The passive voice and passive sentences in Pali.

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