[INDOLOGY] Hindi v Sanskrit

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at uni-muenchen.de
Tue Aug 18 08:58:36 EDT 2015

George Hart wrote:

> Of course, Sanskrit compounds can seem
> difficult if one’s native language does not mimic their syntax. Both
> Hindi and Sanskrit are right-branching, whereas Dravidian is
> left-branching.

Please allow me a bit of nit-picking. If by 'left-branching' we mean
that, e.g., attributes precede the substantives to which they refer,
then both Sanskrit and Hindi (and all the rest of the so-called
Indogermanic / Indo-European languages of India, i.e., 'Indo-Aryan') are
quite left-branching indeed. The so-called 'genitive' in Hindi (which is
actually a kind of adjective, inflected kā-ke-kī according to the gender
and case of the following substantive) already illustrates this.

Of course it is possible for genitives in Sanskrit or (very rarely)
Hindi to follow the substantives to which they refer, esp. for metrical
reasons in verse. But it seems that also in Sanskrit prose, genitives,
as attributive words, as a rule precede that to which they refer – which
is precisely not the tendency in a language such as Latin, which has a
more clearly right-branching tendency. I think that this syntactic
feature is one more bit of evidence that the Indo-Aryan languages were
heavily Dravidianized already from their earliest historical beginnings,
as F.B.J. Kuijper and others have pointed out.

> Naturally, people who speak those languages find
> Sanskrit compounds, which are left-branching like Dravidian languages,
> somewhat difficult.

Indeed the internal structure of samāsas is left-branching, which may
explain why an author like Rāmānujācārya in Tamiḻnāḍu sometimes uses
very long compounds such as are uncommon among philosophical authors.

Stella Sandahl wrote:

> The Sanskrit compound is not at all as complicated as students (and even teachers) like to think.

Indeed. Though there may be statistically determinable average limits of
quick comprehension among ordinary readers, I am sure that it is largely
a matter of what one is accustomed to.


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