Question about writing Sanskrit without breaks between words

Stefan Baums baums at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Sun Oct 10 18:39:03 UTC 2004

Some Asokan and other early Indian inscriptions do actually leave
gaps between syntactic and/or phonological units (usually somewhat
larger than a word), see for instance

   Klaus Ludwig Janert, 1972.  Abstände und
   Schlußvokalverzeichnungen in Asoka-Inschriften.  Wiesbaden:
   Franz Steiner Verlag.  (Verzeichnis der orientalischen
   Handschriften in Deutschland, Supplementband 10.)

It is probably relevant that in the early inscriptions, written in
Middle Indo-Aryan, hardly any conjuncts occur, and especially not
at word boundary, so that it was easy to insert space between any
two words if one so desired.  Later, when Sanskrit began to take
over with its word-final consonants and conjuncts, that ease
disappeared and use of space gradually died out.  But even in some
early Sanskrit manuscripts, space is occasionally used as a sort
of punctuation between chunks of text larger than words.  See
e.g. Buddhist Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, where such
space is transliterated using a diamond mark.

Stefan Baums

Stefan Baums
Asian Languages and Literature
University of Washington

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