SV: Question about writing Sanskrit without breaks between words

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at CHELLO.NO
Sun Oct 10 15:10:34 UTC 2004

For Greek inscriptions, see the following web site:

For ancient Virgil manuscripts, see this web site:

As you will see, it is hard to see a space between any of the words. The
same applies to ancient boustrophedon inscriptions. I can't vouch for
Aramaic, but writing a text without separating the words is not something
unique to Indic texts.

Lars Martin


From: Lars Martin Fosse 
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E-mail: lmfosse at 


> -----Opprinnelig melding-----
> Fra: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] På vegne av 
> Madhav Deshpande
> Sendt: 10. oktober 2004 15:54
> Til: INDOLOGY at
> Emne: Question about writing Sanskrit without breaks between words
> Dear Colleagues,
>   A question arose in one of my Sanskrit classes, and perhaps 
> some of you may have some sugestions to shed light on it.  
> The notion of putting gaps between the words of a Sanskrit 
> text is pervasive in printed Sanskrit materials, but is 
> rather non existent in Sanskrit manuscripts.  The printing 
> technology, a colonial importation to the subcontinent, 
> brought along with it English-based notions of putting gaps 
> between the words in print.  Since the Sanskrit manuscripts 
> are written without any such gaps, any attempt to break up a 
> text into its constituent words provides only one possible 
> way of reading the text.  Looking back at even the Ashokan 
> inscriptions, the first readable texts in Indian history, one 
> finds the same thing.  The lines of text run without any 
> breaks between words.  Since the common scholarly view today 
> is that the Brahmi and the Kharosthi scripts of Ashokan 
> inscriptions were developed by modifying the Aramaic 
> characters, the question that arises in my mind is whether 
> the idea of running a text without word-breaks is also 
> inherited from Aramaic writing.  It is also clear that the NW 
> corner of the Indian subcontinent was familiar with greek 
> writing (called the yavana script in Panini).  Was Greek 
> written in those days without word-breaks?  So the question 
> is whether the notion of writing a text without breaks in a 
> continuous format is an importation from Greek or Aramaic 
> ways, or, as is equally likely, simply a result of the 
> notions of Sanskrit grammarians about Sandhis being a natural 
> part of language.  Any suggestions?  Best,
> Madhav Deshpande

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