Native speakers of Sanskrit...

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at
Tue May 7 10:15:57 UTC 1996

On Mon, 6 May 1996, Das Menon wrote:

> >>Especially the
> >>Paninian Sanskrit seems to have been almost as artifical a language as
> >>medieval Latin.

There are several layers of ideas in this statement.  First, one could
argue that "Paninian Sanskrit" as such didn't ever exist as a category of
thought in pre-modern India.  There was just Sanskrit, and there was its
grammar.  The Paninian grammar was paramount, although other systems were
also widespread (e.g., Vopadeva in the NE.) at different times.  People
learned Sanskrit through memorization, recitation, word-by-word sentence
analysis, and by learning Laghusiddhantakaumudi, etc.  This process often
started very young, so some children would grow up with Sanskrit.  Given
the right milieu, many Brahmins were, and are, as comfortable in Sanskrit
as in their mother tongue.

Many people live and work in a language other than their mother tongue.
This is a pretty normal situation, and the fact that Sanskrit was not
"mother", isn't as important as understanding the other socio-linguistic
issues surrounding it, that have been so well described in Madhav
Deshpande's studies.

Secondly, I don't think medieval Latin was particularly artifical in any
meaningful sense.  In fact, one reason why it is so difficult is that it
is heavily coloured by the vernacular languages of the countries in which
it was used, and this is because it was growing closer to the vernaculars,
and being used for more secular writings.  Medieval Latin was certainly a
great deal less artificial than Ciceronian Latin.

Dominik Wujastyk

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