Sanskrit Primers: R. Antoine's Sanskrit Manual

Stella Sandahl ssandahl at SYMPATICO.CA
Tue Jul 22 12:20:34 UTC 2008

Dear Colleagues,
Good old Antoine! I think it is still relatively easy to get copies  
in India. Unfortunately, the one I used to have (in two volumes) was  
printed in India and was very difficult to read because of the so  
badly printed (and too small) devanagari script, not to speak of the  
many printing errors. But it was - and remains - a very thorough  
introduction to Sanskrit along with Kale's grammar (which suffers  
from the same printing defects).
There seems to be an amazing array of published and unpublished  
Sanskrit primers which I have been made aware of through kind  
communications from many colleagues. Mille grazie! Personally I would  
have liked to try out David Shulman's superb primer.  Unfortunately  
it is in Hebrew, and the English translation is not yet out.  Maurer   
caught my attention because it is amusing with chapters like "The  
mysterious gerund" and "The Romance of compounds" apart from being  
very well organized.
Coulson has too much transliteration, and since it is a teach- 
yourself-book, there is a key to all the exercises which is counter- 
productive in a class room. Killingley introduces the devanagari  
script only in lesson 23. Here in Canada, where more than half (and  
sometimes all) of the students are of Indian origin, a text book  
using so much transliteration will be perceived as arrogant Western  
neo-colonialism. And even the least gifted student usually learns the  
script in two weeks - that's when I stop transliterating.

There is no ideal text book out there - but there are many very good  
ones. All of them have their strong and weak points. As the grammar  
doesn't change from one year the only thing an instructor can change  
is the text book.
Best regards to all
Stella Sandahl

Stella Sandahl
ssandahl at

On 22-Jul-08, at 5:09 AM, Christophe Vielle wrote:

> Dear Colleagues,
> I dare to add another Sanskrit primer to the other excellent ones  
> (Coulson, Deshpande, etc.) which could have been quoted in the  
> discussion.
> Some years ago, I heard through an Indian friend (a Syriac scholar  
> from Kottayam) about the high value of the Sanskrit Manual of  
> Father R. Antoine s.j., a Belgian scholar who taught in St.  
> Xavier's College, Calcutta(cf. :  
> Robert Antoine: The Indologist by J Felix Raj, SJ).
> More recently, Prof. Winand Callewaert, from the University of  
> Leuven, told me that he was also using Antoine's manual for his 1st  
> year Sanskrit students.
> I finally got an exemplar of this manual through an antiquarian  
> bookseller.
> The "Part I" is in two volumes entitled "A Sanskrit Manual for High  
> schools" and "Book of Exercises for the Sanskrit Manual" (1953,  
> Catholic Press, Ranchi; a think that there was in the seventies a  
> reprint in one vol.). The 26 lessons, supposed to cover "the matter  
> of the first three years (standards IV to VI or classes VI to  
> VIII)" of High school, appears to fit perfectly with a first year  
> Sanskrit at the university level.
> The lessons are very clear, and the vocabulary to learn, Sanskrit  
> sentences to translate and composition exercises well chosen.
> The "Part II" "meant as an immediate preparation for the School  
> Final Examination", joins in one vol. 27 lessons and the exercices,  
> in which the Sanskrit sentences are taken from Kaavya-maalaa or  
> Kaalidaasa and classical literature (+ at the end a list of "verbal  
> roots with their principal parts", "Sanskrit-English Glossary" and  
> "English-Sanskrit Glossary"). So, at the end of High school, it was  
> at that time possible to acquire a Sanskrit level as good as here  
> the level of Greek and Latin of my forefathers... (which is now  
> only possible to acquire at the University).
> Despite a few misprints to be corrected, the Manual deserves to be  
> reprinted.
> I shall try with 1st year students the vol. I for the coming  
> academic year.
> With best wishes,
> Christophe Vielle
> -- 

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