[INDOLOGY] FYI: Spoken Sanskrit blog entry plus discussion at "Language Log"

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at umich.edu
Sun Jan 10 12:02:18 UTC 2016

Thanks, Birgit.  What a wonderful blog by Victor Mair.  Spoken Sanskrit in
its many varieties has always been alive in India, though only recently
being taken seriously as a subject of academic study in the West.  From the
stories of Kielhorn studying the Mahābhāṣya with Ananta Shastri Pendharkar
at the Deccan College in Pune to Ingalls studying Sanskrit texts with young
S.D. Joshi (before S.D. Joshi became his student at Harvard), there were
accounts of a few western scholars going to India and studying Sanskrit
with pandits using Sanskrit as the medium of instruction.  I have heard
from George Cardona the story of a Sanskrit pandit being woken up in the
middle of the night by his rivals for a debate in Banaras. Long before the
emergence of the movement of Samskrita Bharati, there was encouragement to
spoken Sanskrit in Pune when Ashok Aklujkar, Saroja Bhate and myself were
students at institutions like the Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapitha and Sanskrit
Pathashala.  While colloquial forms of Sanskrit can be seen and heard in
meetings of Samskrita Bharati and All India Radio, perfectly fluent
Shastric Sanskrit can be experienced at forums like the Ganapati Vakyartha
Sabha organized by the Shankara monastery annually.  Now many of the audio
and video recordings of these sessions of Shastric debates in Sanskrit are
becoming available through YouTube.  Last year, at a workshop on Sanskrit
grammar organized by Jan Houben at Pondichery, I participated in
discussions that were held in Sanskrit.  Having some exposure to spoken
Sanskrit makes the experience of reading Sanskrit texts qualitatively
different, because in many texts like the Mahābhāṣya of Patañjali, Śabara's
Mīmāṃsāsūtrabhāṣya or Śaṅkara's Brahmasūtrabhāṣya, we almost have
recordings of spoken debates.  Having participated in Sanskrit dramas on
stage in Pune, I remember how my understanding of those dramas changed when
I had to verbalize them on stage, and how different intonations of the same
sentence might bring out different nuances. Some years ago, I was thrilled
to have the opportunity to give a talk in Sanskrit at Heidelberg during
their summer course in spoken Sanskrit. I am glad to see a serious interest
emerging in spoken Sanskrit within western academics.  Best,

Madhav Deshpande

On Sun, Jan 10, 2016 at 5:59 AM, Birgit Kellner <birgit.kellner at oeaw.ac.at>

> FYI: Victor Mair posted an interesting entry on Spoken Sanskrit on the
> weblog "Language Log" (that some of you might already follow):
> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=23412
> It's related to a recent workshop in Jerusalem ("A Lasting Vision:
> Dandin’s Mirror in the World of Asian Letters"), and also includes
> reports and reflections by some of the workshop participants.
> With best regards,
> Birgit Kellner
> -------
> Prof. Dr. Birgit Kellner
> Director
> Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
> Austrian Academy of Sciences
> Apostelgasse 23
> A-1030 Vienna / Austria
> Phone: (+43-1) 51581 / 6420
> Fax: (+43-1) 51581 / 6410
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Madhav M. Deshpande
Professor of Sanskrit and Linguistics
Department of Asian Languages and Cultures
202 South Thayer Street, Suite 6111
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1608, USA

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