LGoehler at LGoehler at
Wed May 22 19:31:24 UTC 1996

Anand Venkt Raman wrote:

>>I am also unaware that the Sanskrit grammarians ever made a
>>synchronic/diachronic distinction beyond the primitive "bhasayam" and
>It is certain that Sanskrit grammarians never made a distinction between
>synchronic and diachronic aspects of language change.  It was because
>they all, including Panini, considered Sanskrit to be eternal and
>unchanging.  According to R.E.Asher, it was this assumption that facilated
>some of their breakthroughs which we are still able to learn from
>- &

 According to my opinion the way Indian grammarians and philosophers describe
language is essentially synchronic. For them language is a system of fixed
relations that is considered as 'static', 'constant' (Words that are
synonymous with 'synchronic' for Saussure). - For several reasons they were
not interested in a diachronic perspective and consequently did not draw a
distinction between diachronic and synchronic approach. To translate 'Nitya'
as 'eternal' may be misleading in this context, because this translation
suggests a historical perspective (together with all the Western connotations
of history and eternality) that was not in the interest of the Indian
grammarians. - If PANini had a diacronic view of language this would have
rendered his whole work invalid sooner or later because what he says of
Sanskrit grammar today will not be true tomorrow due to the historical
development of language. This may have been one of the reasons for KAtyAyana
to speak of the relationship of word and meaning as 'siddha', 'established'
which Patanjali explains as 'nitya', 'constant'.

  It is true that this 'static' view of language facilated some breakthoughs
in the theory and philosophy of language in India (as the introduction of
synchronic view did in the West ) viz. the possibility of STRUCTURAL
approaches that, according to Saussure, permits to describe 'coexisting
terms' of language which was not possible by diacronic approaches.

Dominik Wuyastyk wrote
> The doctrine of sabdanityata and of the levels of
>language etc. have to do not with depth in time, but with "depth in
>consciousness" or perhaps "depth in linguistic abstraction", if I can use
>those terms.

- sounds more Chomskyan than Indian.

Lars Goehler

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