victor van Bijlert victorvanbijlert at KPNPLANET.NL
Wed Feb 18 11:05:22 UTC 2009

The holiness of Sanskrit derives from the fact that it is the medium of
communication of Brahminical values, and it is the language of ritual and of
the mantras. Of course, even Sanskrit is constantly 'polluted' by the
The idea of modern Sanskrit as a spoken language is, to my mind, an
interesting example of Brahminical invention of tradition.

-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
Van: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] Namens Alexandra Vandergeer
Verzonden: woensdag 18 februari 2009 9:38
Onderwerp: Re: frequencies

That makes it even more interesting to perform statistical tests. When you
read Latin descriptions of new species in the 19th century, you can't help
seeing a native language substratum underlying this 'Latin'. Why this
wouldn't have been the case for Sanskrit? Everybody repeats the same,
Sanskrit is pure, holy and so on, but has this ever been measured? Being
holy doesn't make it vulnerable to impacts from a 'lower' level, including
the bazaar, if you like. Also Sanskrit suffered from an evolution from
within, so to say.

(I'm not a linguist either; even if my phd is on a linguistic subject, I'm
more interested in the statistics of language use than in the derivation
of word stems :-) ).


> Obviously Sanskrit is a language functioning in a timeless never-never
> world. It is the language of the Brahmanical sacred world-order. Thus it
> would probably never have been meant to be a vehicle of daily
> communication.
> Sanskrit is timeless, pure and holy, at least certainly since the second
> millenium (C.E.). The use of Sanskrit by Buddhists in the first millenium
> is
> certainly remarkable. Could it indicate a strong tendency on the part of
> Buddhists to adapt themselves even more to Brahmanical norms than the
> texts
> of the Pali canon seem to indicate? The comparison with Hebrew is
> interesting, for Hebrew is another ancient sacred language of scriptures
> and
> not of daily communication on worldly matters. Latin and Arabic also
> developed these tendencies.
> But I'm no linguist.
> Victor van Bijlert
> -----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
> Van: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] Namens
> franco at RZ.UNI-LEIPZIG.DE
> Verzonden: dinsdag 17 februari 2009 15:55
> Aan: INDOLOGY at
> Onderwerp: Re: frequencies
> Frequency in Sanskrit does not work in the same way as in English and
> other modern languges. It is possible to complie a list of 3000 words
> in English that cover 70-80% of "all" conversations, newspaper
> articles, etc. This is just not possible in the case of Sanskrit--if
> it were possible, it would have been done a long time ago--because the
> vocabulary is highly specialized according to literary genres. On the
> other hand, if one moves within the same genre, one can go back and
> forth hundreds of years without any difficulty, something that cannot
> be done in English, German, French and do on. Hebrew is an exception,
> but this is a special case.
> Best wishes,
> EF
>   Quoting Jonathan Silk <kauzeya at GMAIL.COM>:
>> Just a quick note (in addition to correcting the misprint pointed out by
>> Jan--yes, of course, linguist!): Whether or not one wants to include the
>> lexicon of Buddhist texts as "Sanskrit"--and there was long ago more
>> than
>> one discussion about this, about whether we also want to speak of Jaina
>> Sanskrit, architectural Sanskrit and so on--the language of these texts
>> is
>> not in any sense "derived from Pali". While the two are related, to be
> sure,
>> and some portion of Buddhist(ic) Sanskrit vocabulary may have been
> borrowed
>> or adapted from Middle Indic (--that is, *some* Buddhist[ic] Skt is
>> 'Sanskritized Prakrit'), I am not aware of any case in which it can be
> shown
>> that the Middle Indic in question is Pali (but I have not looked into
>> this--has anyone?).
>> This is slightly off the topic, but the point is that if one wants to
> decide
>> to exclude particularly Buddhist lexica from a lexicon of Skt, the
>> grounds
>> for this cannot be that the words are not Skt.
>> On Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 2:39 PM, Alexandra Vandergeer
>> <geeraae at>wrote:
>>> Naturally, but the same is valid for present-day English. Frequency
>>> lists
>>> are based on a wide spectrum, including newspapers, books, literature,
>>> spoken language, but not necessarily poems. In the case of Skt, I'd
> expect
>>> epics, philosophical texts in the broadest sense, shastras, [Buddhist
>>> texts not, likely derived from Pali] to give a reasonable sample of the
>>> Sanskrit language as is.
>>> And I agree with Jonathan that the lexicon suggested by Himal is likely
>>> a
>>> 'useful' vocabulary to read avarage Skt texts. Anyway, thanks Himal for
>>> the suggestion.
>>> Alexandra van der Geer
>>> Athens
>>> > I am not sure whether the question is even meaningful for classical
>>> > Sanskrit. Frequency where? In Epic literature? In philosophical
>>> > literature? In dharmasaastra or Buddhist texts? Each genre has its
>>> own
>>> > special vocabulary, and its own frequencies.
>>> > Best wishes
>>> > EF
>> --
>> J. Silk
>> Instituut Kern / Universiteit Leiden
>> Postbus 9515
>> 2300 RA Leiden
>> Netherlands
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