`Conversational Sanskrit' vs `Real Sanskrit'

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at math.ohio-state.edu
Fri Apr 11 18:21:12 UTC 1997

I have my own pet peeves about modern Sanskrit, one in particular
being a tendency to try to ape English word construction or
syntax. But then this is not unique to Samskrita Bharati.
`antaaraa.s.triya', which is an atrocity as a Sanskrit word,
was not introduced by them [I would appreciate knwing who started this
and when]. Neither was the calque of the English progressive tenses.
What I find most distasteful is the apparently strong dislike of
Sanskritizing/Indianizing the phonology of borrowed words. 
``kaaphii sviikarotu'' is bad Sanskrit irrespective of what gender
you give to `kaaphii'. Tamilians at any rate, and may be all
South Indians would instinctively shorten the final `ii'. So
would Sanskrit speakers, assuming that they give `kaaphii' the
`natural' gender of neuter. Avoidance of such phonological changes,
and looking down on those who use such pronunciations, is a trait that
is typically associated with people of a certain social type and
education, and a trait that should be discouraged, not encouraged.

I would also agree that Samskrita Bharati's work is directed more
towards strengthening the feeling of cultural continuity among
urbanized Indians (in India or elsewhere) and to lessen the feelings
of alienation. But the tone of the some of the criticisms makes me
wonder what is Sanskrit anyway and who owns it? 

Adi Hastings <amhastin at midway.uchicago.edu>

>The 'simple' Sanskrit taught by Hindu Seva Pratishtanam (Sanskrita
>Bharati) in Bangalore is not exactly the same as C.K. Ogden's BASIC
>English (which was supposed to rely on ca. 700 'primitive' lexemes to
>construct an infinite number of BASIC sentences).

Doesn't Baisc English also involve lexical leveling? The old joke about
`blood, sweat and tears' coming as `blood, body water and eyewash' comes
to mind.

>Rather, the simplification has involved a certain amount of lexical
>levelling (i.e., reduction of synonymous roots, etc.),
>simplification of the nominal declensional system (instrumental and
>dative, I think, are replaced by various prepositional constructions),

This well predates Samskrita Bharati. Speyer, in his Sanskrit Syntax,
notes the frequent use of copmounds in -muulena, -maarge.na, -dvaaraa
instead of tritiiyaa (not `the instrumental'; what is the instrument
in `dadhnaudanam'?) etc in `Modern Sanskrit', presumably 18th and 19th
century Sanskrit.

Use of -artham, -nimittaaya etc. for caturtii is not new either.

The various uses of the suffix -tas (for example, `tenaikadik')suggests
that originally it had a different connotation from ablative. Yet it
had become synonymous with the ablative quite early.

>the aorist has been thrown out (as too complicated and cumbersome),
>and the past tense is usally expressed using nominalized verbs
>(e.g., past passive and active participles in -ta and -tavant),
>rather than imperfect or perfect finite conjugated verbs.

I had to reread the header to make sure that the writer is not
D. W. Whitney. Wasn't the aorist out of general use umpteen
centuries ago? And wasn't the replacement the past participle in -ta?

The only thing different about S. B. Sanskrit is the relative
popularity of -tavant. I guess South Indians do not like ergative
constructions :-)

There is a more serious question here: How far is medival Sanskrit,
especially the Sanskrit of commentaries, `Real Sanskrit' and how
much of it is `MIA with Sanskrit phonology'? Is Marathi or Hindi
based Sanskrit somehow more `real' than Kannada based Sanskrit?

This kind of thing goes quite far back. Many vaartikas have the
form `... iti cet ...'. This is dead ringer for Tamil `e_n_taal'
(`enRAl' in ITRANS). [I not claiming that Katyayana's first language
was Tamil. Only that the dominant language of his childhood was
likely Dravidian. Please note that `dominant' <> `first'.]
Interestingly enough, this is not so common in Patanjali when he is
not repeating vartikas. Now, which is `Real Sanskrit'?

I am reminded of a question which was raised several months ago,
about the use of `m' instead of anusvaara before
p, ph, b, bh, m and v. Now praati"saakhyas universally recommend
`m' before the first five and nasalized v (closer to m than to
anusvaara) before v. Panini marks this with `vaa'; Kiparsky has
produced strong evidence that `vaa' marks the preferred option.
Yet there are those who would have us believe that the use of m
is somehow substandard. Which is `Real Sanskrit'?

I think that I will stop here, though much remains to be said.
Nath Rao (nathrao+ at osu.edu)		614-366-9341

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