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{{Infobox Language |name=Sanskrit |nativename=संस्कृतम् Template:IAST |region=India and some other areas of South and Southeast Asia; many Buddhist scholars in the countries of East Asia such as China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam are also able to communicate in Sanskrit. |extinct=6,106 fluent speakers (1981 census)
194,433 second-language speakers (1961 census) |familycolor=Indo-European |fam2=Indo-Iranian |fam3=Indo-Aryan |nation=India (one of the scheduled languages) |iso1=sa|iso2=san|iso3=san |notice=Indic}}

Sanskrit (Template:IAST संस्कृतम् ; pronunciation : Template:IPA) is an Indo-European classical language of India and a liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It has a position in India and Southeast Asia similar to that of Latin and Greek in Europe, and is a central part of Hindu tradition. It is one of the oldest Indo-European languages in the world and boasts a rich tradition of poetry, literature; as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and religious texts. Sanskrit is one of the 22 official languages of India. It is being revived as a vernacular in the village of Mattur near Shimoga in Karnataka.

Today Sanskrit is mostly used as a ceremonial language in Hindu religious rituals in the forms of hymns and mantras. Its pre-Classical form of Vedic Sanskrit, the liturgical language of the Vedic religion, is one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family, its most ancient text being the Rigveda. It is also the language of Yoga.

The scope of this article is that of Classical Sanskrit as laid out in the grammar of Panini, roughly around 500 BC. Most Sanskrit texts available today were transmitted orally for several centuries before they were written down in ancient/medieval India.



Image:Devimahatmya Sanskrit MS Nepal 11c.jpg

The adjective saṃskṛta- means "refined, consecrated, sanctified". The language referred to as saṃskṛtā vāk "the refined language" has by definition always been a 'high' language, used for religious and scientific discourse and contrasted with the languages spoken by the people. The oldest surviving Sanskrit grammar is Pāṇini's Aṣtādhyāyī ("Eight-Chapter Grammar") dating to ca. the 5th century BC. It is essentially a prescriptive grammar, i.e., an authority that defines (rather than describes) correct Sanskrit, although it contains descriptive parts, mostly to account for Vedic forms that had already passed out of use in Panini's time.

When the term arose in India, "Sanskrit" was not thought of as a specific language set apart from other languages (the people of the time regarded languages more as dialects), but rather as a particularly refined or perfected manner of speaking. Knowledge of Sanskrit was a marker of social class and educational attainment and was taught mainly to Brahmins through close analysis of Sanskrit grammarians such as Pāṇini.

It is no wonder that Sanskrit shows stark similarities—to varying degrees—with Latin, Ancient Greek, Avestan and even Persian and German. Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-Aryan sub-family of the Indo-European family of languages. It is part of the Satem group of Indo-European languages, which also includes the Iranian branch and the Balto-Slavic branch. The categorization may be shown as:

Indo-European → Indo-Iranian → Indo-Aryan (i.e., Sanskrit and its descendents).

Technically, Sanskrit is the oldest of the Old Indo-Aryan languages. Its "daughter languages" include the Prakrits of ancient India, Hindi, Bengali, Kashmiri, Urdu, Marathi, Gujarati, Assamese, Nepali, Punjabi and Romany (spoken by the European Roma people).Telugu though being a dravidian language was much influenced by Sanskrit.

Vedic Sanskrit

Template:Main Sanskrit, as defined by Pāṇini, had evolved out of the earlier "Vedic" form, and scholars often distinguish Vedic Sanskrit and Classical or "Paninian" Sanskrit as separate dialects. However, they are extremely similar in many ways and differ mostly in a few points of phonology, vocabulary, and grammar. Classical Sanskrit can therefore be considered a seamless evolution of the earlier Vedic language. Vedic Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas, a large collection of hymns, incantations, and religio-philosophical discussions which form the earliest religious texts in India and the basis for much of the Hindu religion. Modern linguists consider the metrical hymns of the Rigveda Samhita to be the earliest, composed by many authors over centuries of oral tradition. The end of the Vedic period is marked by the composition of the Upanishads, which form the concluding part of the Vedic corpus in the traditional compilations. The current hypothesis is that the Vedic form of Sanskrit survived until the middle of the first millennium BC. It is around this time that Sanskrit began the transition from a first language to a second language of religion and learning, marking the beginning of the Classical period.

Orthodox Hinduism believes that the language of the Vedas is eternal and revealed in its wording and word order. Evidence for this belief is found in the Vedas itself, where in the Upanishads they are described as the very "breath of God" (nihsvasitam brahma). The Vedas are therefore considered "the language of reality", so to speak, and are unauthored, even by God, the rishis or seers ascribed to them being merely individuals gifted with a special insight into reality with the power of perceiving these eternal sounds. At the beginning of every cycle of creation, God himself "remembers" the order of the Vedic words and propagates them through the rishis. Orthodox Hindus, while accepting the linguistic development of Sanskrit as such, do not admit any historical stratification within the Vedic corpus itself.

This belief is of significant consequence in Indian religious history, as the very sacredness and eternality of the language encouraged exact memorization and transmission and discouraged textual learning via written propagation. Each word is believed to have innate and eternal meaning and, when properly pronounced, mystic expressive power. Erroneous learning of repetition of the Veda was considered a grave sin with potentially immediate negative consequences. Consequently, Vedic learning by rote was encouraged and prized, particularly among Brahmins, where learning of one's own Vedic texts was a mandated duty.

Vedic Sanskrit differs from Classical Sanskrit in to an extent comparable to the difference between Homeric Greek and Classical Greek. Some differences are:

  • Phonology
    • Vedic Sanskrit had a voiceless bilabial fricative (Template:IPA, called upamādhamīya) and a voiceless velar fricative (Template:IPA, called jihvāmūlīya)—which used to occur when the breath visarga appeared before voiceless labial and velar consonants respectively. Both of them were lost in Classical Sanskrit.
    • Vedic Sanskrit had a retroflex lateral approximant (Template:IPA), which was lost in Classical Sanskrit.
    • Vedic Sanskrit had a pitch accent which could fall freely within the word, but Classical Sanskrit as described by Pāṇini had only a stress accent where the placement of the accent was restricted to the last three syllables. Today, the pitch accent can be heard only in the traditional Vedic chantings.
  • Grammar
    • The subjunctive mood of Vedic Sanskrit was also lost in Classical Sanskrit.
    • There were more than 12 ways of forming infinitives in Vedic Sanskrit, of which Classical Sanskrit retained only one single form.
  • Nominal declinations and verbal conjugation also changed pronunciation, although the spelling was retained in Classical Sanskrit.
  • Vocabulary
    • Many lexemes attested in the Vedic texts became lost, while others contained a considerable amount of polysemy.

Classical Sanskrit

There is a strong relationship between the various forms of Sanskrit and the Middle Indo-Aryan "Prakrits", or vernacular languages (in which, among other things, most early Jain and Buddhist texts are written), and the modern Indo-Aryan languages. The Prakrits are probably descended from Vedic, and there is mutual interchange between later forms of Sanskrit and various Prakrits. There has also been reciprocal influence between Sanskrit and the Dravidian languages.

Some people believe that the Hindu Epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, are pre-Paninian. However, the generally accepted dating would put them after Panini. The deviations from Panini in the epics are generally due to interference from Prakirts [see Brockington, "The Sanskrit Epics"]. Traditional Sanskrit scholars call such deviations aarsha or "of the rishis", the traditional title for the ancient authors. In some contexts there are also more "prakritisms" (borrowings from common speech) than Classical Sanskrit proper. Finally, there is also a language dubbed "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit" by scholars, which is actually a prakrit ornamented with Sanskritized elements, perhaps for purposes of ostentation (see also termination of spoken Sanskrit).

European Scholarship

European scholarship in Sanskrit, begun by Heinrich Roth and Johann Ernst Hanxleden, led to the proposal of the Indo-European language family by Sir William Jones, and thus played an important role in the development of Western linguistics. Indeed, linguistics (along with phonology, etc.) first arose among Indian grammarians who were attempting to catalog and codify Sanskrit's rules. Modern linguistics owes a great deal to these grammarians, and to this day, for example, key terms for compound analysis such as bahuvrihi are taken from Sanskrit.

Phonology and writing system

Template:IPA notice Classical Sanskrit distinguishes 48 sounds. Some of these, are, however, allophones. The number of phonemes is smaller, at about 35, see below.

The sounds are traditionally listed in the order vowels, diphthongs, anusvara and visarga, stops and nasals (starting in the back of the mouth and moving forward), and finally the liquids and fricatives, written in IAST as follows (see the tables below for details):

a ā i ī u ū ṛ ṝ ḷ ḹ ; e ai o au
ṃ ḥ
k kh g gh ṅ; c ch j jh ñ; ṭ ṭh ḍ ḍh ṇ; t th d dh n; p ph b bh m
y r l v; ś ṣ s h

An alternate traditional ordering is that of the Shiva Sutra.


Devanagari script is the one most popularly associated with Sanskrit, although most other Indic scripts have been and continue to be used to write it. Modern Hindi also uses the Devanagari script (its alphabets are truly speaking, alpha-syllables). Devanagari, being an abugida script, non-word-initial vowels are expressed by diacritics; see Devanagari for details. The vowels of Sanskrit with their word-initial devanagari symbol, diacritical mark with the consonant प् (/p/), pronunciation (of the vowel alone and of /p/+vowel) in IPA, equivalent in IAST and ITRANS and (approximate) equivalents in Standard English are listed below:

AlphabetDiacritical mark with “प्PronunciationPronunciation with /p/IAST equiv.ITRANS equiv.English eqivalent
Template:IPATemplate:IPAaashort Schwa: as the a in above or ago
पाTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAāAlong Open back unrounded vowel: as the a in father
पिTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAiishort close front unrounded vowel: as i in bit
पीTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAīIlong close front unrounded vowel: as i in machine
पुTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAuushort close back rounded vowel: as u in put
पूTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAūU long close back rounded vowel: as oo in school
पेTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAee long close-mid front unrounded vowel: as a in game (not a diphthong), or é in café
पैTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAaiai a long diphthong: approx. as ei in height
पोTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAoo long close-mid back rounded vowel: as o in tone (not a diphthong)
पौTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAauau a long diphthong: approx. as ou in house
पृTemplate:IPATemplate:IPAR short syllabic vowel-like retroflex approximant: approx. as American Eng. bird or meter
पॄTemplate:IPATemplate:IPARR long syllabic vowel-like retroflex approximant: a longer version of Template:IPA
पॢTemplate:IPATemplate:IPALR short syllabic vowel-like retroflex-lateral approximant: approx. as handle
पॣTemplate:IPATemplate:IPALRR long syllabic vowel-like retroflex-lateral approximant: longer version of Template:IPA

The long vowels are held about twice as long as their short counterparts. Also, there exists a third, extra-long length for most vowels, called pluti, which is used in various cases, but particularly in the vocative. The pluti is not accepted by all grammarians.

The vowels e and o continue as allophonic variants of Proto-Indo-Iranian Template:IPA, Template:IPA, and they are phonologically (conceptually) /ai/ and /au/ still in Sanskrit, and are categorized as diphthongs by Sanskrit grammarians even though they are realized phonetically as simple long vowels.

Additional points:

  • There are some additional vowels traditionally listed in the Sanskrit/Hindi alphabet. They are :
    • अं (called anusvāra), pronounced as Template:IPA (IAST: ). Its diacritic (the dot above) is used both for nasalizing the vowel in the syllable and for the sound of a vowel-like /n/ or /m/. (पं).
    • अः (called visarga), pronounced as /əh/ (IAST: ).
    • The diacritic }} (called chandrabindu), not listed in the alphabet, is used interchangeably with the anusvāra to indicate nasalization of the vowel (पँ).
  • If a lone consonant needs to be written without any following vowel, it is given a halanta/virāma diacritic below (प्).
  • The vowel Template:IPA in Sanskrit is more central and less back than in English.
  • All vowels in Hindi, short or long, can be nasalized. All vowels can have acute grave or circumflex pitch accent.
  • Note that the ancient Sanskrit grammarians have classified the vowel system as velars, retroflexes, palatals and plosives rather than as back, central and mid vowels. Hence and are classified respectively as palato-velar (a+i) labio-velar (a+u) vowels respectively. But the grammarians have classified them as diphthongs and in prosody, each is given two mātrās. This does not necessarily mean that they are proper diphthongs, but neither excludes the possibility that they could have been proper diphthongs at a very ancient stage. These vowels are pronounced as long /e/ and /o/ respectively by learned Sanskrit Brahmins and priests of today. Other than the "four" diphthongs, Sanskrit usually disallows any other diphthongs—vowels in succession, if occur, are converted to semivowels according to predetermined rules.
  • In the devanagari script used for Sanskrit, whenever a consonant in a word-ending position is without any virāma (ie, freely standing in the orthography: as opposed to प्), the neutral vowel schwa (Template:IPA) is automatically associated with it—this is of course true for the consonant to be in any position in the word. Word-ending schwa is always short. But the IAST a appended to the end of masculine noun words rather confuses the foreigners to pronounce it as Template:IPA—this makes the masculine Sanskrit/Hindi words sound like feminine! e.g., shiva must be pronounced as Template:IPA and not as Template:IPA.


Devanagari and IAST notation is given, with approximate IPA values in square brackets.

Labial Labiodental Dental Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop Unaspirated p Template:IPA b Template:IPA t Template:IPA d Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA c Template:IPA j Template:IPA k Template:IPA g Template:IPA
Aspirated ph Template:IPA bh Template:IPA th Template:IPA dh Template:IPA ṭh Template:IPA ḍh Template:IPA ch Template:IPA jh Template:IPA kh Template:IPA gh Template:IPA
Nasal m Template:IPA n Template:IPA Template:IPA ñ Template:IPA Template:IPA
Semivowel v Template:IPA y Template:IPA
Liquid l Template:IPA r Template:IPA
Fricative s Template:IPA Template:IPA ś Template:IPA Template:IPA h Template:IPA

The table below shows the traditional listing of the Sanskrit consonants with the (nearest) equivalents in English/Spanish. Each consonant shown below is deemed to be followed by the neutral vowel schwa (Template:IPA), and is named in the table as such.

Template:IPA; English: skip

Template:IPA; English: cat

Template:IPA; English: game

Template:IPA; Aspirated /g/

Template:IPA; English: ring
Template:IPA; ≈English: chat

Template:IPA; Aspirated /c/

Template:IPA; ≈English: jam

Template:IPA; Aspirated Template:IPA

Template:IPA; English: finch
Template:IPA; American Eng: hurting

Template:IPA; Aspirated Template:IPA

Template:IPA; American Eng: murder

Template:IPA; Aspirated Template:IPA

Template:IPA; American Eng: hunter
Template:IPA; Spanish: tomate

Template:IPA; Aspirated Template:IPA

Template:IPA; Spanish: donde

Template:IPA; Aspirated Template:IPA

; English: name
Template:IPA; English: spin

Template:IPA; English: pit

Template:IPA; English: bone

Template:IPA; Aspirated /b/

Template:IPA; English: mine
Palatal Retroflex Dental/
Template:IPA; English: you

Template:IPA; American Eng: tearing

Template:IPA; English: love
व (labio-dental)
; English: vase

Template:IPA; English: ship

Template:IPA; Retroflex form of Template:IPA

Template:IPA; English: same
Template:IPA; ≈English home


The Sanskrit vowels are as discussed in the section above. The long syllabic l () is not attested, and is only discussed by grammarians for systematic reasons. Its short counterpart occurs in a single root only, kḷp "to order, array". Long syllabic r () is also quite marginal, occurring in the genitive plural of r-stems (e.g. mātṛ "mother" and pitṛ "father" have mātṝṇām and pitṝṇām). i, u, ṛ, ḷ are vocalic allophones of consonantal y, v, r, l. There are thus only 5 invariably vocalic phonemes,

a, ā, ī, ū, ṝ.

Visarga is an allophone of r and s, and anusvara , Devanagari of any nasal, both in pausa (ie, the nasalized vowel). The exact pronunciation of the three sibilants may vary, but they are distinct phonemes. An aspirated voiced sibilant Template:IPA was inherited by Indo-Aryan from Proto-Indo-Iranian but lost shortly before the time of the Rigveda (note that aspirated sibilant are exceedingly rare in any language). The retroflex consonants are somewhat marginal phonemes, often being conditioned by their phonetic environment; they do not continue a PIE series and are often ascribed by some linguists to the substratal influence of Dravidian. The nasal ñ is a conditioned allophone of n (n and are distinct phonemes - one has to distinguish aṇu "minute, atomic" (nom. sg. neutr. of an adjective) from anu "after, along"; phonologically independent occurs only marginally, e.g. in prāṅ "directed forwards/towards" (nom. sg. masc. of an adjective) and can thus be omitted). There are thus 31 consonantal or semi-vocalic phonemes, consisting of four/five kinds of stops realized both with or without aspiration and both voiced and voiceless, two nasals, four semi-vowels or liquids, and four fricatives, written in IAST transliteration as follows:

p, ph, b, bh; t, th, d, dh; ṭ, ṭh, ḍ, ḍh; c, ch, j, jh; k, kh, g, gh; m, n, ṇ; v, y, l, r; s, ṣ, ś, h

or a total of 36 unique Sanskrit phonemes altogether.

The phonological rules to be applied when combining morphemes to a word, and when combining words to a sentence are collectively called sandhi "composition". Texts are written phonetically, with sandhi applied (except for the so-called padapāha).

Some additional features of the Sanskrit phonological system are given here, as well as some useful tips for those whose native language is English but are interested in learning Sanskrit language.

  • No other nasal consonant except /m/ and /n/ can start a word in Sanskrit.
  • The distinction between the aspirated and the unaspirated consonants is really very strong, not only in Sanskrit, but also in Hindi and all other Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages of India.
  • The distinction between the dental plosives and the retroflex plosives is also very stark in all Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages.
  • The number of allowable consonant clusters of Sanskrit is limited, but still very large as compared to other IE languages.
  • The "r" of Sanskrit may be as in Standard American English. Certain regional traditions pronounce the vowel "ṛ" as /ri/, while others as /ru/. Still others pronounce it simply as /r/. The oldest Śikṣās (general phonetic texts) and Prātiśākhyas (phonetic studies of particular branches of Vedas) vary significantly in descriptions of these sounds; this may be due to different dialects and/or traditions their authors belonged to.
  • There is no retroflex flap in Sanskrit. In modern Hindi and other Indo-Aryan languages, they have sprung up as the allophonic flap variants of Sanskrit's simple voiced retroflex plosives. The Template:IPA ( or ण) in Sanskrit is not a flap but a simple nasal stop, although it is pronounced by modern pundits while chanting as a nasal variant of the voiced retroflex flap.
  • Aspiration is actually a puff of breath that may follow a plosive consonant. English speakers could try pronouncing the words "kite", "take", "chip" and "pat" with a greater-than-usual puff of breath after the first consonant. The corresponding unaspirated plosives must be pronounced with no significant puff of breath at all.
  • For practicing the voiced aspirates, one could try: "drag him", "said him", "enrage him", "grab him". The voiced aspirated plosives (also called as murmur stops) are extremely important and frequent in Sanskrit. Sanskrit (and its daughters) is the only language that has faithfully preserved these original Proto-Indo-European stops.
  • The dental consonants in Sanskrit are as in Spanish or French. They can be pronounced by pronouncing /t/ and /d/ (of English) by pressing the tip of the tongue against the back of the teeth rather than against the back of the alveolar ridge as done by English speakers. The normal "t" and "d" in IAST transliteration are the dental stops; and they occur much, much more frequently than the retroflex stops.
  • The retroflex consonants are the most difficult to pronounce. They are pronounced by curling the tongue such that its tip touches the roof of the mouth, like how the Americans pronounce their "r". However, bringing the tip of the tongue a bit above the normal alveolar ridge would also work fine. The normal alveolar plosives of English /t/ and /d/ do not exist as such in Sanskrit.
  • The palatal plosives of Sanskrit do not have a sharp frictional sound following them, as what happend in English chips and jam. These are more of pure plosives than affricates.
  • Sanskrit has no /v/. Its nearest equivalent is Template:IPA, which is very close to /v/, but does not a friction or buzzing sound associated with it. But in consonant clusters, this may allophonically change to /w/.
  • The palatal sibilant of Sanskrit (IAST: ś) is very close to like the English sh in ship (although the Sanskrit phoneme is the voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative Template:IPA) while the English phoneme is the voiceless postalveolar fricative Template:IPA with lip rounding). Today, speakers of Sanskrit vary the palatal fricative from Template:IPA to Template:IPA.
  • The retroflex sibilant Template:IPA is pronounced like Template:IPA, but with the tongue curled upwards towards the roof of the mouth. In Mādhyandini branch of Yajurveda, this phoneme is allowed to be pronounced at certain places as Template:IPA.
  • The Sanskrit Template:IPA is a voiced allophone of the normal h.
  • Although any consonant may come in the word-final position in an uninflected word-stem, the number of word-final consonants in any inflected word (or verb or particle) standing freely by itself is severly limited and determined by the rules of Sandhi. Only the following consonants may come in the word-final position: Template:IPA, Template:IPA, Template:IPA, Template:IPA, Template:IPA (rare), voiceless Template:IPA (i.e., visarga), and all nasals except Template:IPA. Any vowel may come at the word-final position.


Vedic Sanskrit is a pitch accent language. Native grammarians define three tones (svara): udātta = 'raised', anudātta = 'not raised', and svarita = 'sounded'. The udātta syllable corresponds to the original Proto-Indo-European stress. The svarita is usually the next syllable after an udātta. Probably when the Rigveda was written down, the pitch of speech rose through the udātta and came back down through the following svarita. A svarita which is not preceded by an udātta is called an "independent svarita". In transliteration udātta is marked with acute accent (´) and independent svarita with a grave accent (`). Independent svarita occurs only where its udātta was lost because of vowel sandhi.

Classical Sanskrit is usually pronounced with a stress accent decided by the syllable length pattern of each word.


Image:Kashmir Sharada MS.jpg

Sanskrit historically has had no single script associated with it. Since the late 19th century, the Devanagari (meaning "as used in the city of the gods") script has become the most widely used and associated with Sanskrit, yet this was by no means the case earlier. Each region adapted the script of the local vernacular, whether Indo-Aryan or Dravidian. In the north, there are inscriptions dating from the early centuries B.C. in the Brahmi script, also used by the king Ashoka in his famous Prakrit pillar inscriptions. Roughly contemporary with the Brahmi, the Kharosthi script was used. Later (ca. 4th to 8th centuries AD) the Gupta script, derived from Brahmi, became prevalent. From ca. the 8th century, the Sharada script evolved out of the Gupta script, and was mostly displaced in its turn by Devanagari from ca. the 12th century, with intermediary stages such as the Siddham script. The Bengali and other scripts were also used in their respective regions.

The devanagari alphabets (alpha-syllables) for the vowels and the consonants have been discussed in the sections above. The next table gives the system of combining two consonants, ie., making a consonant cluster. To write a consonant cluster /XYa/ from /Xa/ and /Ya/ syllables, Sanskrit usually converts the alphabetic symbol of the initial consonant X into the corresponding half-consonant (sic)—mostly achieved by cutting the right-side portion of the alphabet. Similarly for a cluster /XYZa/, both X and Y would be "halved". There are many variants for this consonant cluster writing in devanagari script. The most common system is shown below for the traditional table. Here the second vowel is taken to be /n/, followed by the schwa.

ka-group क्न
cha-group च्न
ta-group ट्न
ta-group त्न
pa-group प्न
ya-group य्न
va-group श्न

In the south where Dravidian languages predominate, scripts used include Grantha in Tamil speaking regions, Telugu in Telugu and Tamil speaking regions, Kannada, and Malayalam. Grantha, which was the precursor to the Tamil script, was used exclusively for Sanskrit and is rarely seen today. A recent development has been to use Tamil characters with numeric subscripts indicating voicing and aspiration.

Image:Phrase sanskrit.png
Sanskrit in modern Indian scripts. May Śiva bless those who take delight in the language of the gods. (Kalidasa)

Verbal learning occupied the pride of place in ancient India and bears an influence which can still be felt in Indian schooling today. Very high value was placed on large-scale memorization of texts, often using sophisticated mnemonic techniques. As such, propagation and learning through writing was correspondingly deemphasized and it is hypothesized that writing was introduced relatively late to India. Rhys Davids suggests that writing may have been introduced from the Middle East by traders, with Sanskrit remaining a purely oral language until well into India's Classical age.

It is interesting to note the importance that Sanskrit orthography and Vedic philosophy of sound play in Hindu symbolism, as the varnamala, or sound-garland/alphabet, of 51 letters is also seen to be represented by the 51 skulls of Kali. In the Upanishads, the transcendent-immanent nature of Brahman is represented by the half-matra, or sphota of sound that is inherent to a beat of sound in the Sanskrit system.


Template:Main Since the late 18th century, Sanskrit has also been transliterated using the Latin alphabet. Most commonly used today is the IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration), which has been the academic standard since 1912, and which is used in this article. ASCII based transliteration schemes have evolved due to difficulties representing Sanskrit characters in computer systems. These include Harvard-Kyoto and ITRANS, a lossless transliteration scheme that is used widely on the Internet, especially in Usenet and in email, for considerations of speed of entry as well as rendering issues. With the wide availability of Unicode aware web browsers, IAST has become common also for online articles.

For scholarly work, Devanagari in the 19th century was generally preferred for the transcription and reproduction of whole texts and lengthy excerpts also by European scholars; however, references to individual words and names in texts composed in European languages are usually represented using Roman transliteration, and from the mid 20th century, textual editions edited by Western scholars have also been mostly in romanized transliteration.


Grammatical tradition


  1. redirect Template:Expandsect

Sanskrit grammatical tradition (vyākaraṇa, one of the six Vedanga disciplines) begins in late Vedic India, and culminates in the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini (ca. 5th century BC). Patañjali, who lived several centuries after Panini, is the reputed author of the Mahābhāṣya, the "Great Commentary" on the Aṣṭādhyāyī.


Classification of verbs

Sanskrit has ten classes of verbs divided into in two broad groups: athematic and thematic. The thematic verbs are so called because an a, called the theme vowel, is inserted between the stem and the ending. This serves to make the thematic verbs generally more regular. Exponents used in verb conjugation include prefixes, suffixes, infixes, and reduplication. Vowel gradation is also very common; every root has (not necessarily all distinct) zero, gua, and vddhi grades. If V is the vowel of the zero grade, the gua-grade vowel is traditionally thought of as a + V, and the vddhi-grade vowel as ā + V.

Tense systems

The verbs tenses (a very inexact application of the word, since more distinctions than simply tense are expressed) are organized into four 'systems' (as well as gerunds and infinitives, and such creatures as intensives/frequentatives, desideratives, causatives, and benedictives derived from more basic forms) based on the different stem forms (derived from verbal roots) used in conjugation. There are four tense systems:

Present system

The present system includes the present and imperfect tenses, the optative and imperative moods, as well as some of the remnant forms of the old subjunctive. The tense stem of the present system is formed in various ways. The numbers are the native grammarians' numbers for these classes.

For athematic verbs, the present tense stem may be formed through:

  • 2) No modification at all, for example ad from ad 'eat'.
  • 3) Reduplication prefixed to the root, for example juhu from hu 'sacrifice'.
  • 7) Infixion of na or n before the final root consonant (with appropriate sandhi changes), for example rundh or ruadh from rudh 'obstruct'.
  • 5) Suffixation of nu (gua form no), for example sunu from su 'press out'.
  • 8) Suffixation of u (gua form o), for example tanu from tan 'stretch'. For modern linguistic purposes it is better treated as a subclass of the 5th. tanu derives from tnnu, which is zero-grade for *tannu, because in Indo-European [m] and [n] could be vowels, which in Sanskrit (and Greek) change to [a]. Most members of the 8th class arose this way; kar = "make", "do" was 5th class in Vedic (krnoti = "he makes"), but shifted to the 8th class in Classical Sanskrit (karoti = "he makes")
  • 9) Suffixation of (zero-grade or n), for example krīa or krīī from krī 'buy'.

For thematic verbs, the present tense stem may be formed through:

  • 1) Suffixation of the thematic vowel a with gua strengthening, for example, bháva from bhū 'be'.
  • 6) Suffixation of the thematic vowel a with a shift of accent to this vowel, for example tudá from tud 'thrust'.
  • 4) Suffixation of ya, for example dī́vya from div 'play'.

The tenth class described by native grammarians refers to a process which is derivational in nature, and thus not a true tense-stem formation.

Perfect system

The perfect system includes only the perfect tense. The stem is formed with reduplication as with the present system.

The perfect system also produces separate "strong" and "weak" forms of the verb — the strong form is used with the singular active, and the weak form with the rest.

Aorist system

The aorist system includes aorist proper (with past indicative meaning, e.g. abhū "you were") and some of the forms of the ancient injunctive (used almost exclusively with in prohibitions, e.g. mā bhū "don't be"). The principal distinction of the two is presence/absence of an augment - a- prefixed to the stem.

The aorist system stem actually has three different formations: the simple aorist, the reduplicating aorist (semantically related to the causative verb), and the sibilant aorist. The simple aorist is taken directly from the root stem (e.g. bhū-: a-bhū-t "he was"). The reduplicating aorist involves reduplication as well as vowel reduction of the stem. The sibilant aorist is formed with the suffixation of s to the stem.

Future system

The future system is formed with the suffixation of sya or iya and gua.

Verbs: Conjugation

Each verb has a grammatical voice, whether active, passive or middle. There is also an impersonal voice, which can be described as the passive voice of intransitive verbs. Sanskrit verbs have an indicative, an optative and an imperative mood. Older forms of the language had a subjunctive, though this had fallen out of use by the time of Classical Sanskrit.

Basic conjugational endings

Conjugational endings in Sanskrit convey person, number, and voice. Different forms of the endings are used depending on what tense stem and mood they are attached to. Verb stems or the endings themselves may be changed or obscured by sandhi.

Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Primary First Person mi vás más é váhe máhe
Second Person si thás thá ā́the dhvé
Third Person ti tás ánti, áti ā́te ánte, áte
Secondary First Person am í, á váhi máhi
Second Person s tám thā́s ā́thām dhvám
Third Person t tā́m án, ús ā́tām ánta, áta, rán
Perfect First Person a é váhe máhe
Second Person tha áthus á ā́the dhvé
Third Person a átus ús é ā́te
Imperative First Person āni āva āma āi āvahāi āmahāi
Second Person dhí, hí, — tám svá ā́thām dhvám
Third Person tu tā́m ántu, átu tā́m ā́tām ántām, átām

Primary endings are used with present indicative and future forms. Secondary endings are used with the imperfect, conditional, aorist, and optative. Perfect and imperative endings are used with the perfect and imperative respectively.

Present system conjugation

Conjugation of the present system deals with all forms of the verb utilizing the present tense stem (explained under Tense Stems above). This includes the present tense of all moods, as well as the imperfect indicative.

Athematic inflection

The present system differentiates strong and weak forms of the verb. The strong/weak opposition manifests itself differently depending on the class:

  • The root and reduplicating classes (2 & 3) are not modified in the weak forms, and receive guṇa in the strong forms.
  • The nasal class (7) is not modified in the weak form, extends the nasal to in the strong form.
  • The nu-class (5) has nu in the weak form and in the strong form.
  • The nā-class (9) has in the weak form and nā́ in the strong form. disappears before vocalic endings.

The present indicative takes primary endings, and the imperfect indicative takes secondary endings. Singular active forms have the accent on the stem and take strong forms, while the other forms have the accent on the endings and take weak forms.

Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Present First Person dvémi dvivás dvimás dvié dviváhe dvimáhe
Second Person dvéki dviṣṭhás dviṣṭ dviké dviā́the dviḍḍhvé
Third Person dvéṣṭi dviṣṭás dviánti dviṣṭé dviā́te dviáte
Imperfect First Person ádveam ádviva ádvima ádvii ádvivahi ádvimahi
Second Person ádve ádviṣṭam ádvisa ádviṣṭhās ádviāthām ádviḍḍhvam
Third Person ádve ádviṣṭām ádvian ádviṣṭa ádviātām ádviata

The optative takes secondary endings. is added to the stem in the active, and ī in the passive.

Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
First Person dviṣyā́m dviyā́va dviyā́ma dviīyá dviīvahi dviīmahi
Second Person dviyā́s dviyā́tam dviyā́ta dviīthās dviīyāthām dviīdhvam
Third Person dviyā́t dviyā́tām dviyus dviīta dviīyātām dviīran

The imperative takes imperative endings. Accent is variable and affects vowel quality. Forms which are end-accented trigger gua strengthening, and those with stem accent do not have the vowel affected.

Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
First Person dvéṣāṇi dvéāva dvéāma dvéāi dvéāvahāi dvéāmahāi
Second Person dviḍḍ dviṣṭám dviṣṭá dvik dviāthām dviḍḍhvám
Third Person dvéṣṭu dviṣṭā́m dviántu dviṣṭā́m dviā́tām dviátām

Nominal inflection

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Sanskrit is a highly inflected language with three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) and three numbers (singular, plural, dual). It has eight cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, instrumental, dative, ablative, genitive, and locative.

The number of actual declensions is debatable. In this article they are divided into five declensions. Which declension a noun belongs to is determined largely by form.

The basic declination suffix scheme for nouns and adjectives

The basic scheme is given in the table below—valid for almost all nouns and adjectives. However, according to the gender and the ending consonant/vowel of the uninflected word-stem, there are predermined rules of compulsory sandhi which would then give the final inflected word. The parentheses give the case-terminations for the neuter gender, the rest are for masculine and feminine gender. Both devanagari script and IAST transliterations are given.

Nominative-स् -s
(-म् -m)
-औ -au
(-ई -ī)
-अस् -as
(-इ -i)
Accusative-अम् -am
(-म् -m)
-औ -au
(-ई -ī)
-अस् -as
(-इ -i)
Instrumental-आ -ā-भ्याम् -bhyām-भिस् -bhis
Dative-ए -e-भ्याम् -bhyām-भ्यस् -bhyas
Ablative-अस् -as-भ्याम् -bhyām-भ्यस् -bhyas
Genitive-अस् -as-ओस् -os-आम् -ām
Locative-इ -i-ओस् -os-सु -su
Vocative-स् -s
(- -)
-औ -au
(-ई -ī)
-अस् -as
(-इ -i)


A-stems (Template:IPA) comprise the largest class of nouns. As a rule, nouns belonging to this class, with the uninflected stem ending in short-a (Template:IPA), are either masculine or neuter. Nouns ending in long-A (Template:IPA) are almost always feminine. A-stem adjectives take the masculine and neuter in short-a (Template:IPA), and feminine in long-A (Template:IPA) in their stems.

Masculine (kā́ma- 'love') Neuter (āsya- 'mouth') Feminine (kānta- 'beloved')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative kā́ma kā́māu kā́mā āsyàm āsyè āsyā̀ni kāntā kānte kāntā
Accusative kā́mam kā́māu kā́mān āsyàm āsyè āsyā̀ni kāntām kānte kāntā
Instrumental kā́mena kā́mābhyām kā́māi āsyèna āsyā̀bhyām āsyāì kāntayā kāntābhyām kāntābhi
Dative kā́māya kā́mābhyām kā́mebhya āsyā̀ya āsyā̀bhyām āsyèbhya kāntāyai kāntābhyām kāntābhyā
Ablative kā́māt kā́mābhyām kā́mebhya āsyā̀t āsyā̀bhyām āsyèbhya kāntāyā kāntābhyām kāntābhyā
Genitive kā́masya kā́mayo kā́mānām āsyàsya āsyàyo āsyā̀nām kāntāyā kāntayo kāntānām
Locative kā́me kā́mayo kā́meu āsyè āsyàyo āsyèu kāntāyām kāntayo kāntāsu
Vocative kā́ma kā́mau kā́mā ā́sya āsyè āsyā̀ni kānte kānte kāntā

i- and u-stems

Masc. and Fem. (gáti- 'gait') Neuter (vā́ri- 'water')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative gátis gátī gátayas vā́ri vā́riī vā́rīi
Accusative gátim gátī gátīs vā́ri vā́riī vā́rīi
Instrumental gátyā gátibhyām gátibhis vā́riā vā́ribhyām vā́ribhis
Dative gátaye, gátyāi gátibhyām gátibhyas vā́rie vā́ribhyām vā́ribhyas
Ablative gátes, gátyās gátibhyām gátibhyas vā́rias vā́ribhyām vā́ribhyas
Genitive gátes, gátyās gátyos gátīnām vā́rias vā́rios vā́riām
Locative gátāu, gátyām gátyos gátiu vā́rii vā́rios vā́riu
Vocative gáte gátī gátayas vā́ri, vā́re vā́riī vā́rīi
Masc. and Fem. (śátru- 'enemy') Neuter (mádhu- 'honey')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative śátrus śátrū śátravas mádhu mádhunī mádhūni
Accusative śátrum śátrū śátrūn mádhu mádhunī mádhūni
Instrumental śátruā śátrubhyām śátrubhis mádhunā mádhubhyām mádhubhis
Dative śátrave śátrubhyām śátrubhyas mádhune mádhubhyām mádhubhyas
Ablative śátros śátrubhyām śátrubhyas mádhunas mádhubhyām mádhubhyas
Genitive śátros śátrvos śátrūām mádhunas mádhunos mádhūnām
Locative śátrāu śátrvos śátruu mádhuni mádhunos mádhuṣu
Vocative śátro śátrū śátravas mádhu mádhunī mádhūni

Long Vowel-stems

ā-stems (jā- 'prodigy') ī-stems (dhī- 'thought') ū-stems (bhū- 'earth')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative jā́s jāú jā́s dhī́s dhíyāu dhíyas bhū́s bhúvāu bhúvas
Accusative jā́m jāú jā́s, jás dhíyam dhíyāu dhíyas bhúvam bhúvāu bhúvas
Instrumental jā́ jā́bhyām jā́bhis dhiyā́ dhībhyā́m dhībhís bhuvā́ bhūbhyā́m bhūbhís
Dative jā́bhyām jā́bhyas dhiyé, dhiyāí dhībhyā́m dhībhyás bhuvé, bhuvāí bhūbhyā́m bhūbhyás
Ablative jás jā́bhyām jā́bhyas dhiyás, dhiyā́s dhībhyā́m dhībhyás bhuvás, bhuvā́s bhūbhyā́m bhūbhyás
Genitive jás jós jā́nām, jā́m dhiyás, dhiyā́s dhiyós dhiyā́m, dhīnā́m bhuvás, bhuvā́s bhuvós bhuvā́m, bhūnā́m
Locative jós jā́su dhiyí, dhiyā́m dhiyós dhīṣú bhuví, bhuvā́m bhuvós bhūṣú
Vocative jā́s jāú jā́s dhī́s dhiyāu dhíyas bhū́s bhuvāu bhúvas


-stems are predominantly agental derivatives like dāt 'giver', though also include kinship terms like pit́ 'father', māt́ 'mother', and svás 'sister'.

Singular Dual Plural
Nominative pitā́ pitárāu pitáras
Accusative pitáram pitárāu pit́n
Instrumental pitrā́ pit́bhyām pit́bhis
Dative pitré pit́bhyām pit́bhyas
Ablative pitúr pit́bhyām pit́bhyas
Genitive pitúr pitrós pitṝṇā́m
Locative pitári pitrós pitṛ́ṣu
Vocative pítar pitárāu pitáras

See also Devi inflection, Vrkis inflection.

Personal Pronouns and Determiners

The first and second person pronouns are declined for the most part alike, having by analogy assimilated themselves with one another.

Note: Where two forms are given, the second is enclitic and an alternative form. Ablatives in singular and plural may be extended by the syllable -tas; thus mat or mattas, asmat or asmattas.

First Person Second Person
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative aham āvām vayam tvam yuvām yūyam
Accusative mām, mā āvām, nau asmān, nas tvām, tvā yuvām, vām yuṣmān, vas
Instrumental mayā āvābhyām asmābhis tvayā yuvābhyām yuṣmābhis
Dative mahyam, me āvābhyām, nau asmabhyam, nas tubhyam, te yuvābhyām, vām yuṣmabhyam, vas
Ablative mat āvābhyām asmat tvat yuvābhyām yuṣmat
Genitive mama, me āvayos, nau asmākam, nas tava, te yuvayos, vām yuṣmākam, vas
Locative mayi āvayos asmāsu tvayi yuvayos yuṣmāsu

The demonstrative ta, declined below, also functions as the third person pronoun.

Masculine Neuter Feminine
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative sás tāú tát tā́ni sā́ tā́s
Accusative tám tāú tā́n tát tā́ni sāŕ tā́s
Instrumental téna tā́bhyām tāís téna tā́bhyām tāís táyā tā́bhyām tā́bhis
Dative tásmāi tā́bhyām tébhyas tásmāi tā́bhyām tébhyas tásyāi tā́bhyām tā́bhyas
Ablative tásmāt tā́bhyām tébhyam tásmāt tā́bhyām tébhyam tásyās tā́bhyām tā́bhyas
Genitive tásya táyos téṣām tásya táyos téṣām tásyās táyos tā́sām
Locative tásmin táyos téṣu tásmin táyos téṣu tásyām táyos tā́su


One other notable feature of the nominal system is the very common use of nominal compounds, which may be huge (10+ words) as in some modern languages such as German. Nominal compounds occur with various structures, however morphologically speaking they are essentially the same. Each noun (or adjective) is in its (weak) stem form, with only the final element receiving case inflection. Some examples of nominal compounds include:

1. Dvandva (co-ordinative)

These consist of two or more noun stems, connected in sense with 'and', e.g. matara-pitara 'Mother and Father'. Due to these compounds having more than one noun in them, they must be in the dual or plural.

2. Bahuvrīhi (possessive)

Bahuvrīhi, or "much-rice", denotes a rich person—one who has much rice. Bahuvrīhi compounds refer (by example) to a compound noun with no head -- a compound noun that refers to a thing which is itself not part of the compound. For example, "low-life" and "block-head" are bahuvrihi compounds, since a low-life is not a kind of life, and a block-head is not a kind of head. (And a much-rice is not a kind of rice.) Compare with more common, headed, compound nouns like "fly-ball" (a kind of ball) or "alley cat" (a kind of cat). Bahurvrīhis can often be translated by "possessing..." or "-ed"; for example, "possessing much rice", or "much riced".

3. Tatpuruṣa (determinative)

There are many tatpuruas (one for each of the nominal cases, and a few others besides); in a tatpurua, the first component is in a case relationship with another. For example, a doghouse is a dative compound, a house for a dog. It would be called a "caturtitatpurua" (caturti refers to the fourth case—that is, the dative). Incidentally, "tatpurua" is a tatpurua ("this man"—meaning someone's agent), while "caturtitatpurua" is a karmadhārya, being both dative, and a tatpurua. An easy way to understand it is to look at English examples of tatpuruas: "battlefield", where there is a genitive relationship between "field" and "battle", "a field of battle"; other examples include instrumental relationships ("thunderstruck") and locative relationships ("towndwelling").

4. Karmadhāraya (descriptive)

The relation of the first member to the last is appositional, attributive or adverbial, e. g. uluka-yatu (owl+demon) is a demon in the shape of an owl.

5. Amreḍita (iterative)

Repetition of a word expresses repetitiveness, e. g. dive-dive 'day by day', 'daily'.


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Because of Sanskrit's complex declination system the word order is free ( with tendency toward SOV ).


The numbers from one to ten are:

1 éka
2 dví
3 trí
4 catúr
5 pañca
6 ṣáṣ
7 saptá, sápta
8 aṣṭá, áṣṭa
9 náva
10 dáśa

The numbers one through four are declined. Éka is declined like a pronominal adjective, though the dual form does not occur. Dvá appears only in the dual. Trí and catúr are declined irregularly:

Three Four
Masculine Neuter Feminine Masculine Neuter Feminine
Nominative tráyas trī́ṇi tisrás catvā́ras catvā́ri cátasras
Accusative trīn trī́ṇi tisrás catúras catvā́ri cátasras
Instrumental tribhís tisṛ́bhis catúrbhis catasṛ́bhis
Dative tribhyás tisṛ́bhyas catúrbhyas catasṛ́bhyas
Ablative tribhyás tisṛ́bhyas catúrbhyas catasṛ́bhyas
Genitive triyāṇā́m tisṛṇā́m caturṇā́m catasṛṇā́m
Locative triṣú tisṛ́ṣu catúrṣu catasṛ́ṣu


Modern-day India

Sanskrit's greatest influence, presumably, is that which it exerted on languages that grew from its vocabulary and grammatical base. Especially among elite circles in India, Sanskrit is prized as a storehouse of scripture and the language of prayers in Hinduism. Like Latin's influence on European languages, Sanskrit has influenced most Indian languages. While vernacular prayer is common, Sanskrit mantras are recited by millions of Hindus and most temple functions are conducted entirely in Sanskrit, often Vedic in form. Most higher forms of Indian vernacular languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu and Hindi, often called 'shuddha' (pure, higher) are much more heavily Sanskritized. Of modern day Indian languages, while Hindi tends to be, in spoken form, more heavily weighted with Arabic and Persian influence, Bengali and Marathi still retain a largely Sanskrit vocabulary base. The national anthem, Jana Gana Mana is higher form of Bengali, so Sanskritized as to be archaic in modern usages. The national song of India Vande Mataram which is originally a poem - composed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and taken from his book called 'Aanandmath', is in pure Sanskrit. Malayalam, which is spoken in the Kerala state of India, also combines a great deal of Sanskrit vocabulary with Tamil (Dravidian) grammatical structure. Kannada, another South Indian language, also contains Sanskrit vocabulary. But as a medium of spiritual instruction for Hindus in India, Sanskrit is still prized and widespread.

Sanskrit words are found in many other present-day non-Indian languages. For instance, the Thai language contains many loan words from Sanskrit. For example, in Thai, the Rāvana - the emperor of Sri Lanka is called 'Thoskonth' which is clearly a derivation of his Sanskrit name 'Dashakanth' (of ten necks). And ranged as far as the Philippines, e.g., Tagalog 'gurò' from 'Guru', or 'teacher', with the Hindu seafarers who traded there.

Attempts at revival

Of late, there have been attempts to revive the speaking of this ancient tongue among people, so that vast literature available in Sanskrit can be made easily available to everyone. The CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) in India has made Sanskrit a third language in the schools it governs. In such schools, learning Sanskrit is an option for grades 5 to 8. An option between Sanskrit and Hindi (or many other local languages) as a second language exists for grades 9 and 10. Many organizations like the Samskrta Bharati are conducting Speak Sanskrit workshops to popularize the language. About four million people are claimed to have acquired the ability to speak Sanskrit fluently.

Sanskrit is claimed to be spoken natively by the population in Mattur, a village in central Karnataka. Inhabitants of all castes learn Sanskrit starting in childhood and converse in the language. Even the local Muslims speak and converse in Sanskrit. Historically, the village was given by king Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire to Vedic scholars and their families. People in his kingdom spoke Kannada and Tuluva.

Several organizations across India are putting in tireless efforts to revivie the language and to save Veda's. Shri Vedabharathi( is one such organization based out of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh that has been digitizing the Vedas through voice recording the Veda recitations of Vedic Pandits. They have already recorded 1000 Hours of Vedic recitation and plan to record upto 8000 of the Vedas and make them available to public at large.

Interactions with Sino-Tibetan languages

Sanskrit and related languages have also influenced their Sino-Tibetan-speaking neighbors to the north through the spread of Buddhist texts in translation. Buddhism was spread to China by Mahayanist missionaries mostly through translations of Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit texts, and many terms were transliterated directly and added to the Chinese vocabulary. (Although Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit is not Sanskrit, properly speaking, its vocabulary is substantially the same, both because of genetic relationship, and because of conscious imitation on the part of composers. Buddhist texts composed in Sanskrit proper were primarily found in philosophical schools like the Madhyamaka.)

Western vogue for Sanskrit


At the end of the introduction to The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer claimed that the rediscovery of the ancient Indian tradition would be one of the great events in the history of the West. Goethe borrowed from Kalidasa for the Vorspiel auf dem Theater in Faust.

Goethe and Schopenhauer were riding a crest of scholarly discovery, most notably the work done by Sir William Jones. (Goethe likely read Kalidasa's The Recognition of Sakuntala in Jones' translation.) However, the discovery of the world of Sanskrit literature moved beyond German and British scholars and intellectuals — Henry David Thoreau was a sympathetic reader of the Bhagavad Gita — and even beyond the humanities. In the early days of the Periodic Table, scientists referred to as yet undiscovered elements with the use of Sanskrit prefixes (see Mendeleev's predicted elements).

The nineteenth century was a golden age of Western Sanskrit scholarship, and many of the giants of the field (Whitney, Macdonnell, Monier-Williams, Grassmann) knew each other personally. Perhaps the most commonly known example of Sanskrit in the West was also the last gasp of its vogue. T.S. Eliot, a student of Indian Philosophy and Lanham's, ended The Waste Land with Sanskrit: "Shantih Shantih Shantih".

Computational linguistics

There have been suggestions to use Sanskrit as a metalanguage for knowledge representation in e.g. machine translation, and other areas of natural language processing because of its highly regular structure (The AI Magazine, Spring, 1985 #39). This is due to Classical Sanskrit being a regularized, prescriptivist form abstracted from the much more irregular and richer Vedic Sanskrit. This levelling of the grammar of Classical Sanskrit occurred during the Brahmana phase, after the language had fallen out of popular use, arguably qualifying Classical Sanskrit as an early engineered language.

See also


External links

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