[INDOLOGY] question for European Indologists

C.A. Formigatti caf57 at cam.ac.uk
Thu Jul 4 14:55:27 UTC 2013

Dear colleagues,

I might answer Christophe Vielle's question about Italian Sanskrit manuals 
and add my experience as a student back in Milan. In the nineties we 
studied Sanskrit grammar in one year (two semesters, from October to 
mid-February and from March to Mai), six hours (three two-hours sessions) 
per week. We used the second edition of Della Casa's Corso di Sanscrito -- 
apart from one student who still had the first edition from 1980, that was 
just a reproduction of Della Casa's typewritten draft, thus with no 
Devanagari at all, if I remember correctly. The chair for Sanskrit had been 
created for the need of students of Indo-european studies (Glottologia), 
and this is the main reason, I guess, why also in the second edition 
(typeset with a computer), Devanagari is not introduced until the end of 
the book -- that is to say, when the students are supposed to master enough 
grammar to be able to read the passages at the end of the book, printed in 
a beautiful and easily readable Devanagari. These are Hitopadesa and 
Pancatantra stories (I remember the first one we read, the story of the 
dull tortoise and the two geese), passages from the Mahabharata, one 
passage from the Satapathabrahmana, one story from the Kathasaritsagara 

Despite the title, I would not define it a "coursebook," but rather a 
reference grammar. The structure is identical with the one of grammars for 
Latin and Greek we used in high school (our ginnasio and liceo), and there 
is practically no explanation of the syntax (but for a short chapter of one 
and a half page). I think this is the major drawback of the book, together 
with the fact that it uses transliteration throughout, except for the 
reading passages at the end, as already said.

During my time as a student in Marburg, I started using as reference 
Stenzler's (I don't remember which edition) and Whitney's grammars, and I 
must confess I got the impression that Della Casa is more or less an 
adaptation of Stenzler's grammar. In fact, Stenzler is still the grammar I 
turn to for a quick reference, mainly because I know where to look up due 
to its structure almost identical to Della Casa's Corso di Sanscrito.

As to traditional grammar, in the second semester we had a general 
introduction to Panini (two hours per week), but I think this was the only 
semester in which it has been offered.

Camillo Formigatti
Research Associate
Cambridge University
Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

On Jul 4 2013, indology-request at list.indology.info wrote:

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>Today's Topics:
>   1. Re: question for European Indologists (Christophe Vielle)
>Message: 1
>Date: Thu, 4 Jul 2013 12:35:52 +0200
>From: Christophe Vielle <christophe.vielle at uclouvain.be>
>To: soni at staff.uni-marburg.de
>Cc: indology at list.indology.info
>Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] question for European Indologists
>Message-ID: <B277B865-A9B8-4278-965A-A9B0D5222D4C at uclouvain.be>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
> It is not the first Indian testimony I hear about the practical qualities 
> of Father Robert Antoine's Manual (which in its grammatical explanations 
> follows the indigenous, synchronic, tradition, and in the same time is 
> close to the Jesuit manuals of Latin or Greek which where in use in the 
> European high schools until the 70s). I like it (including all its little 
> defaults) and use it now for teaching in Louvain-la-Neuve since a few 
> years - see more on it from Indology list archives 22-7-2008 below.
> I am surprised to not hear on this list about Sanskrit teaching in 
> countries like France and Italy which both have a strong and long 
> tradition in the matter (the Coll?ge the France will celebrate in 2014 
> the bi-centenary of the creation of the first occidental Sanskrit chair, 
> started with Antoine-L?onard de Ch?zy). I would be interested to know 
> more about the teaching tradition in Italy and the use of manuals such 
> the ones by Pizzagalli (1931), Rampolla del Tindaro (1936) or Della Casa 
> (1980). In France, I suppose that Victor Henry's "?l?ments de sanscrit 
> classique" (1902), despite its 1963 reprint, is now forgotten. Abel 
> Bergaigne's "Manuel pour ?tudier la langue sanscrite" (1st ed. 1883), to 
> the reprint of which Louis Renou added an "avant-propos" (1966) 
> underlying the "good" difficulty of it, is still held in high esteem, but 
> apparently no longer in use (to note that Sylvain Brocquet in his recent 
> "grammaire ?l?mentaire et pratique", which is mainly a manual, proposes 
> [p. 450] to start it... after having completed his own one!). Gonda's 
> little grammar (which despite its French title "Manuel de grammaire" is 
> not really a manual) in its French translation by Rosane Rocher (cf. now 
> the 1997 ed. with Oguibenine's addenda), appears to be still widely used 
> as a handout (I personally prefer to propose in this role Renou's 
> "Grammaire ?l?mentaire", 1st ed. 1946). In French-speaking Belgium, 
> Bergaigne's "Manuel" was used by Louis de La Vall?e Poussin (see what he 
> says in the Pr?face to his former student Joseph Mansion's "Esquisse 
> d'une histoire de la langue sanscrite"). I know that Etienne Lamotte was 
> not fond of teaching elementary grammar: his students had to read and 
> learn by themselves the paradigms etc., and, before to go through the 
> texts, he limited his basic teaching to one lesson on the script, on 
> lesson on the sandhi, and one on the compounds: I have made a .pdf copy 
> of Lamotte's syllabus on the compounds available at 
> http://belgianindology.blogs.lalibre.be/list/s-b-i-o-library/composition-en-sanskrit.html 
> http://belgianindology.blogs.lalibre.be/list/s-b-i-o-library/1107017223.pdf
>Best wishes,
>Christophe Vielle
>Le 4 juil. 2013 ? 07:18, soni at staff.uni-marburg.de a ?crit :
>> The first time I really ?studied? Sanskrit (and then understanding the 
>> mantras which we had learnt by rote), was in the 70s, and through the 
>> Jesuit priest Antoine?s book on Sanskrit. in 2 volumes. Now it sounds 
>> strange that a traditional Sanskritist here in Banaras used this as a 
>> text book, this was for English speaking students.
>> By that time I had passed the stage of fearing the classical languages 
>> as with Latin when we said at school: Latin is a subject as dead as dead 
>> can be; it killed the ancient Romans and now it?s killing me! Sanskrit 
>> is now keeping me alive.
>> Jay
>De :  Stella Sandahl <ssandahl at sympatico.ca>
>Objet : Sanskrit Primers: R. Antoine's Sanskrit Manual
>Date : 22 juillet 2008
>? :    INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk
>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
>De : Christophe Vielle <Christophe.Vielle at uclouvain.be>
>Objet : Sanskrit Primers: R. Antoine's Sanskrit Manual
>Date : 22 juillet 2008
>? :    INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk
>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. 
> http://www.goethals.in/collections/felixrajarticles/robert.htm : 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
> [Addendum 2013:] A .pdf version of the 1st ed. Antoine, R. 1953-1954, A 
> Sanskrit Manual for High Schools, 2 vols, Calcutta : St. Xavier?s 
> College. is available at : http://www.ragalalit.net/priv/ (id = Lalit, pw 
> = komalRe) A reprint of vol. 1 is available at: 
> http://www.archive.org/details/sanskritmanualfo00antouoft
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