Sanskrit to be an elective subject in schools

Tue Oct 11 02:27:01 UTC 1994

Aditya Mishra writes:

>Moreover, Sanskrit means Cultured or cultivated language which proves
>that there must be  a language of the masses whether it was Pali or Prakrit.

Without wanting to start a big "thang" (sic), I would just point out that
Pali is by no means now nor was it ever "a language of the masses."  As has
been abundantly shown by many philologists, for example KR Norman and Oskar
van Hinuber, Pali was / is an "artificial language."  Without getting into
all the implications of what this means, one of the most important things
we might note is that it is virtually impossible for it ever to have been
anyone's native language -- ever.  This is a different case from that of
Skt., which it is assumed was at least at some period (up to the time of
Panini, at least??) still somebody's first language.  As for Prakrit, since
it is not clear what the writer intends by this term (I think, if I recall
correctly, there is a good discussion of the different meanings of the term
in the introduction to Woolner's Prakrit Grammar), it is difficult to say
if what he suggests makes sense or not.  If he intends Prakrit to simply
mean "vernacular," he may be right.  However, the logic that *because*
"Sanskrit" (= sa.msk.rta) means "Cultured or cultivated language"
*therefore* this *proves* that there must be .... whatever...  is, I
confess, beyond me.
        Anyway, I appeal to the karu.naa of linguists like Madhav Deshpande
and others for my feeble response to the linguistic faux pas of Mr. Mishra,
but I could not let it slide.

Jonathan Silk


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