A not quite so simple question for Sanskritists

harry spier harryspier at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Feb 15 23:35:53 UTC 1999

I ask this question with slight trepidation since a simple question I
asked regarding where to split words in roman transliteration is still
echoing down the list with at last count references to Tulsidas,
visiting professors of Urdu, George Washington and Lord Shiva.  Perhaps
appropriate since yesterday was Shiva Ratri.  So Happy Shiva Ratri
everyone.  Anyhow I seem to be on a roll with questions like this one
and questions about the spelling of words (patra/pattra) being answered
by the best academic Sanskrit minds. And thank you very much for those
answers.  So I'm not going to let this opportunity go by to ask a
question I've always wondered about.  Its a question about Panini and

What exactly is Panini's Grammar and What is he describing?

In other words is he describing a language that at the time he wrote his
treatise some community somewhere was using in its day to day discourse?
Or was he describing a language situation completely like Latin in
Europe in the Middle Ages (a language only used for higher discourse),
or like Hebrew in Jewish communities in Eastern Europe/Russia at the end
of the nineteenth century where the people spoke Hebrew for
Religeous/Philosophical purposes, Yiddish among themselves and the local
language when dealing with local authorities?

Was he describing the way everybody used Sanskrit or was he declaring a
certain diction, pronunciation, and usage of Sanskrit as proper
Sanskrit?  Are there manuscripts that are completely Sanskrit but differ
from Panini's rules?

And how did his grammar come to have such authority that it literally
came to define what was Sanskrit?

Thank You

Harry Spier

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