[INDOLOGY] sanskrit and computers?

Jean-Luc Chevillard jean-luc.chevillard at univ-paris-diderot.fr
Fri Apr 17 16:01:09 UTC 2020

Dear Patrick,

I suspect that answering your question is a tall order.

(A) On the one hand, you would need feedback from people who have 
FIRST-HAND experience in the writing of grammars at the time of the 1st 
millenium BC

(B) On the other hand, you would need feedback from people who have 
FIRST-HAND experience in the writing of compilers in the 1960-s

And these people would have to be in direct contact, or IDEALLY, to be 
the same people.

Regarding point (B), the pointer given by Dominik this morning, as a 
followup to Harry Spier's reminder, was the starting point of a chain 
continued for instance by
which I remember reading, when going through D.E.Knuth's collection of 
articles, and also when trying, in recent years, to imagine how it was 
to use a computer, at the heroic time when people were inventing 
languages like "ALGOL 60" and were trying to write compilers for them,
which was not easy ....

Regarding point (A), the requirement brought to my mind the "déclic" I 
had felt when I read, long ago, the expression "le regard critique d'un 
rédacteur de grammaire" inside the following sentence, written by my 
EPHE colleague Georges-Jean Pinault, on p.338, inside a section of his 
contribution to the collective volume /Histoire des Idées Linguistiques, 
Tome 1/ [Sylvain Auroux (ed.), Mardaga (pub.), 1989 (ISBN 2-87009-389-6)]

« Parmi les premiers commentateurs, seul Kātyāyana pose des questions 
sur l'organisation générale de l'/Aṣṭādhyāyī/, qu'il considère avec le 
regard critique d'un rédacteur de grammaire »

Therefore, I would like to suggest to you to try YOURSELF your hand on 
those two types of tasks (the writing of compilers and the writing of 
grammars) if you want to get an insider's EMPATHIC view of the reason 
which led someone to write that it was not enough to replace "Backus 
Normal Form" by "Backus Naur Form" as the oralized form of BNF (as Knuth 
had successfully suggested) but that one should go one step further and 
introduce the name of Pāṇini ...

Good luck


-- Jean-Luc (in Müssen, Germany)




On 12/04/2020 11:25, patrick mccartney via INDOLOGY wrote:
> I'm not, necessarily, curious about the intricacies of using technology 
> to understand Sanskrit's grammar or digitize the humanities, but, 
> rather, the aspiration to apply it to other machine learning/AI projects 
> that compete with other conlangs specific to the task of coding. 
> However, what I'm ultimately looking for is cogent discussion of the 
> sociological side of this phenomenon, if it exists.

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