victor van Bijlert victorvanbijlert at KPNPLANET.NL
Thu Feb 19 09:59:59 UTC 2009

Homeric Greek probably also did not reflect a spoken language. Of course,
originally a complicated form of Vedic Sanskrit must have been a spoken
language, even a language of communication. But this is guesswork. One could
perhaps only prove something by looking at parallels like ancient Iranian
and other related Indo-European languages. 

Artificiality of Sanskrit does not mean it never was a spoken contact
language, but it must have frozen into a sacred language quite early in
time. The Prakrits simply further developed into contact (?) languages. The
point I should have perhaps emphasised is that I cannot conceive Sanskrit to
be a mothertongue. The premodern linguistic situation was always in the
plural. One grew up with many languages: mother-tongue, contactlanguages and
a sacred standard version of a (dead) language. This situation still obtains
in many areas in the world. Also in India you grow up with a mother-tongue
which could be Bhojpuri or Magahi, you learn the language of the State
(mostly Hindi for Bhojpuri speakers) and you learn English and probably
another Indian language (could be Urdu). Thus one is always polylingual.
Sanskrit comes as the Brahmanic special language of ritual, learning,
literature, philosophy and high culture.

I agree that my qualification as artificial is slightly unreflected. But I
wonder what else the word Sanskrit could convey but that it is frozen into
perfection for all times, perfection meaning that it does not change?

There are modern parallels to artificial sacred languages: the socalled
Sadhu khari in which verses like those of Kabir are composed. I was taught
that Sadhu khari is not a spoken contact language but a version of spoken
Hindustani / Hindi / Urdu language used especially for religious purposes
like spreading Bhakti. And what about Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit? A mix of
quasi-Prakrit quasi-Pali with regular Paninian Sanskrit. This language was
used only for the verse-portions of Mahayana Buddhist Sutras.

-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
Van: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] Namens Dipak Bhattacharya
Verzonden: donderdag 19 februari 2009 5:25
Onderwerp: Re: frequencies

<And is it not also possible that at some stage, without the use of
writing, archaic vocabulary and archaic grammatical features which had
out of the everyday spoken language were preserved for the production of new
What prompts one to explore such possibilities of which there is no hints in
the literature? Why should not the same hold good for Homer? And then why
not extend the same argument to speculate upon the artificiality of Homeric
Greek?  It is absurd and just luxury in speculation to assume that a
language that has parallels should have been created artificially without a
dialectal base and then a literature should be produced. At least that is
not a linguist's standpoint.  
Something akin happened to Classical Sanskrit. But that took place when it
 when it lost its dialectal base.
Moreover, standard dialects exist everywhere. The BBC does not allow Cockney
in speeches delivered through it. Does it? And does that make Standard
British English an artificial language?

--- On Wed, 18/2/09, Allen W Thrasher <athr at LOC.GOV> wrote:

From: Allen W Thrasher <athr at LOC.GOV>
Subject: Re: frequencies
Date: Wednesday, 18 February, 2009, 9:52 PM

Is it not possible that the language of the hymns (or at least some of them)
largely an artificial one, at least that it exploited every possibility of
language for artifice, artifice which might extend to morphology as well as
imagery?  And is it not also possible that at some stage, without the use of
writing, archaic vocabulary and archaic grammatical features which had
out of the everyday spoken language were preserved for the production of new


Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
Senior Reference Librarian
Team Coordinator
South Asia Team, Asian Division
Library of Congress, Jefferson Building 150
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4810
tel. 202-707-3732; fax 202-707-1724; athr at
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of

>>> Dipak Bhattacharya <dbhattacharya2004 at YAHOO.CO.IN> 2/18/2009
11:06:54 AM >>>

09 02 18
Victor's observations pertain to post-Paa.ninian Classical Sanskrit. But
early Vedic was a living language with a Vedic dialectal base. There was no
Prakrit (that has a system different from the one common to Classical
and Vedic) around in say 1000 BCE. The fact that post-Paa.ninian records
outnumber Vedic ones is no reason for forgetting the reality of the Vedic
dialects. To observations like "Sanskrit is by definition an artificial
language" one must add "if we do not regard Vedic as Sanskrit"
But that does not stand.
--- On Wed, 18/2/09, victor van Bijlert <victorvanbijlert at KPNPLANET.NL>

From: victor van Bijlert <victorvanbijlert at KPNPLANET.NL>
Subject: Re: frequencies
Date: Wednesday, 18 February, 2009, 1:36 PM

I think we should also take into consideration that Sanskrit is by
definition an artificial language. The word itself means after all something
like: purified, perfected. It stood in contrast to the Prakrits, the natural
languages (of the Aryan elites?). Being an artificial language, Sanskrit
would not have the same features as a spoken contact language used in the

-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
Van: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] Namens Alexandra Vandergeer
Verzonden: woensdag 18 februari 2009 8:18
Onderwerp: Re: frequencies

Correct, but does it also hold for the top100 of used words? I doubt so, I
personally think that the highly specialized vocabularies, or jargons,
fall in a lower category, except of course of the name and ways of address
of the deity in a purana devoted to that particular deity and so on and so
on. Anyway it would be interesting to see whether indeed the different
genres in Skt texts are so different as we generally assume, restricting
ourselves to the top100. It would be equally interesting to see whether
there is a shift in language use throughout the centuries in the
high-frequency words.


> 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

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