periodisation of Skt. (was: Re: Tamil words in English)

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Sat Feb 21 18:24:50 UTC 1998

>> Medieval Sanskrit, in its syntax, had been deeply influenced by
>> Prakrit. So much so, that some genres, like drama dialog, are just
>> Prakrits in Sanskrit phonology. Modern Sanskrit, being modelled on
>> medieval S., (with some further influences from modern languages),
>> continues this.
>This is in fact a very interesting and important topic, which too
>few people have looked into. If more Sanskritists would try to
>describe how and where Sanskrit was modified in the course of time,
>a variety of colleagues would benefit from it: historians, students
>of literature, etc. etc. This is of course not easy, but such
>research has already been done for, e.g., later Latin, and it
>should be possible for Sanskrit too.

One thing that is interesting here, is that the quality of the Sanskrit
depends partly upon the scholarship of the person writing it, but possibly
also on the target group. When I did statistics on stylistic development of
Skt. in my thesis, I discovered to my absolute astonishment that Somadeva
(he of Kathasaritsagara) was practically undistinguishable from Epic
Sanskrit (regarding, of course, the phenomena I was measuring). Otherwise,
there is a clear tendency in "popular Sanskrit" (if I may coin the term) to
use syntactic devices we find in Prakrits and NIA languages. E.g. the use of
the passive with instrumental agent in the preterite, which eventually is
turned into the ergative construction of such languages as Hindi.

My own study only scratches the surface. There is, I think, much more to be
found. Go for it!

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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