Re: [INDOLOGY] Speaking of plagiarism: Satya Prakash Sarasvati and Satyakam Vidyalankar’s Ṛgveda

Valerie Roebuck vjroebuck at
Mon Jul 20 06:49:23 UTC 2015

I think it’s fairly safe to say that Sir Monier Monier-Williams was not a very nice person. 

E.g. from p. xxxi of his Dictionary, in the ‘Acknowledgements of Assistance Received’ - normally a place to be polite and grateful to people who have helped us:

'The names of my new Assistants in chronological order are as follow: -

'First, Dr. Ernst Leumann (a native of Switzerland), who worked with me in Oxford from October 3, 1882, until April 15, 1884…

'He was succeeded by the late Dr. Schönberg (a pupil of the late Professor Bühler), who came to me in a condition of great physical weakness, and whose assistance only extended from May 20, 1884, to July 19, 1885, when he left me to die. He was a good scholar, and a good worker, but impatient of supervision, and, despite my vigilance, I found it impossible to guard against a few errors of omission and commission due to the rapid impairment of his powers.’

Valerie J Roebuck
Manchester, UK

> On 20 Jul 2015, at 00:35, Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at> wrote:
> On 19 July 2015 at 20:12, George Hart <glhart at <mailto:glhart at>> wrote:
> I remember years ago when I was studying Sanskrit Ingalls mentioned that Monier Williams had apparently copied from Boethlingk-Roth without attribution. He said that Boethlingk was able to adduce entries in Monier Williams that had the same mistakes originally made on the SP Lexicon. Plus ça change…. George Hart
> ​The relationship of the MW and PW dictionaries was carefully evaluated in the 1988 article,
> Ladislav Zgusta, "Copying in Lexicography. Monier-Williams' Sanskrit Dictionary and Other Cases (Dvaikośyam)" Lexicographica, 1988, 4, 145-164.
> <>
> It's a complex and nuanced relationship, that Zgusta describes very well, developing seven defined categories of textual dependence (A-G).  It's worth reading the whole article, which is careful and illuminating.  Zgusta says, p.161,
> To sum up: MONIER-WILLIAMS is completely independent of PW in respect to the general
> plan of the arrangement of his dictionary, or its macrostructure (category E, p. 157); and
> in respect to his semantics, or the way in which he handles the description of meaning by
> English equivalents (cat. G, p. 159). Yet some alleged cases of copying remain unclear
> (cat. D, p. 156).
> However, there is no doubt that MONIER-WILLIAMS copied some data from PW (cat.
> B, p. 154) although sometimes it is clear that while he copied without checking in
> the original sources, he gave the material thus gained some thought of his own (cat. C, p.
> 155). The data which he acquired in this way are mostly of peripheral importance; one
> can easily imagine that he tried to save time in this unorthodox way. There is. however,
> one block, or set of highly important data which he completely took over, or copied from
> PW, namely the indications of Vedic morphological forms (cat. F, p. 158).
> It can even be shown that MW contains not only facts or data of language from PW,
> but also interpretations conceived by BÖHTLINGK and ROTH (cat. A, p. 154).
> There is no defense as far as category A is concerned. As for category F (p. 158),
> it would seem that a more explicit acknowledgement in the preface to MW would be
> necessary, but also sufficient: it is against the cumulative spirit of scientific discovery,
> against the synchronic and diachronic cooperation of scholars, to repeat some already
> well done research in all its minutiae; and also, if there are myriads of bits of information
> thus obtained spread throughout a dictionary, it would be difficult to acknowledge each
> and every single piece. MONIER-WILLIAMS ought to have been more explicit in the pre-
> face; but had he been more open on the subject, this ought to have sufficed.
> The same can be said mutatis mutandis about categories B and C. One simply cannot
> expect a Sanskrit lexicographer working after the publication of PW not to use the wealth
> of data published in it and re-do all the excerption himself. As in the case of the preced-
> ing category, MONIER-WILLIAMS ought to have been more explicit in his preface. In
> addition to this, he ought to have checked all second-hand date in the primary sources to
> eliminate PW's misprints and errors, which he neglected to do. (Although the second
> Ought to' perhaps may have to be reworded as 'should' in this real, non-ideal world of
> ours.)
> Both in the case of categories F, and B and C, MONIER-WILLIAMS' sins are rather those
> of omission than of commission; only category A comprises a sin of commission.
> Zgusta also says, p.160,
> In sum, it is not possible fully to condemn MONIER-WILLIAMS, just as it is not possible
> fully to exonerate him.  ... 
> MONIER-WILLIAMS and his dictionary have
> been taken seriously; e.g., when G. BÜHLER in his 'Lexicographic Notes'21 (p. 90) men-
> tions "the three great modern Sanskrit dictionaries, compiled by Europeans", it is clear
> that he puts MW into the same category as PW and pw. The same scholar also discusses
> (ibid., p. 86) a case where MONIER-WILLIAMS indicated his doubt about a translational
> equivalent given in PW and was right in his skepsis. It must also be mentioned that not
> only did MONIER-WILLIAMS get an honorary PhD degree from the University of Göttin-
> gen, but also that such serious scholars as E. LEUMANN (Strassburg) and C. CAPELLER
> (Jena) did not hesitate to cooperate with him on the second edition of MW.
> Best,
> Dominik Wujastyk
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