Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Engineered Language of Sanskrit

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In continuation with the thoughts from this article.


Sanskrit is the language which is seen to be used by all post Paninian composers. Prior to codification of grammar by Panini, there were similar languages prevalent in subcontinent. The vedic language and the many forms of Prakrit languages were extent in the subcontinent and beyond. The new language which emerged after its coding by Panini, managed to incorporated and created following things..

1. alphabets which accommodated the linguistic patterns and requirements of many of the contemporary languages spoken (including Vedic "Vaak"). 

2. it created a means to use many of the customized Prakrit words in context one wished to use for describing an emotion OR a phenomenon OR an idea. Few syllables were omitted, few vowels were omitted which were not utilized by bulk of Indian populace. It is similar to way we twist and bend English language today to put in whatever words we wish to use. The Indian OR the Mumbaiyya English is an example of that "tendency" of human beings. I feel similar tendency existed then, although not as mundane as mumbaiyya. I know it is a clumsy metaphor but nonetheless..

Thus there was a language which was partially "engineered" and not completely evolved by random process of natural selection as is the case with Prakrit language (the very word Prakrit says that it is naturally evolved language). Since this language was engineered, it belonged to no one and everyone who understood it. It could be used with extreme flexibility and accommodation for describing very complex emotions and ideas which otherwise would have remained abstract and "asphuta (unspoken)". 

Sanskrit was not to be used by sabziwalas.. when chanakya's mother went to buy commodities in market of Patliputra, she must have conversed with the merchants in Ardha Maagadhi language. Even chanakya spoke with his disciples and public in similar local languages. But he had Sanskrit available to write his "arthashastra". This Sanskrit could be accessed  and understood perfectly by that class of society which was trained in grasping this knowledge. It was duty of this class of society to "download", translate and simplify whatever knowledge was "uploaded" on Sanskrit to his local language and disperse it amongst his audience and pupils. Thus, Sanskrit was a common platform where everyone "uploaded" the fruits of their deliberations. And this is what is the primary function of this language. Much similar to today's computer languages like COBOL and C++ etc...

The fact that a particular database is accessible to all who can use it, is easy to compose poetry in and hence easy to memorize, easy to write (extremely phonetic) and easy to speak marks the features of this common linguistic platform. 

The question "what was" or rather "who was" being linked is very important and pertinent one. What is the purpose and motive behind "linking" people OR certain set of people from different "Jaatis"?

As I said in previous paragraph, those who could understand this language flawlessly were linked. It takes 6 years to learn and understand Sanskrit grammar with all its complexities. Hence "Vyaakarana" is one of the most important domains of knowledge in Indian system. There was a large pool of individuals who had taken this intensive training in this language present all over India. This pool was networked by means of their schools, universities and laboratories. Whilst I do not much know whether the technology too was uploaded on Sanskrit platform, the presence of books like "Vaimanika Shastra" give us the hint that it was so. But we do not have much of the technological literature available in Sanskrit which was uploaded by the technologists (mostly from various trade guilds categorized as Vaishya and Shudra varna) then. But then we have also the record of millions of manuscripts burnt down when our temples and libraries were destroyed in medieval era. The contemporary people chose what to save and what not to save based on their ability, capacity and inclination. But that is different matter altogether.

Pool of individuals is made up of individuals and individuals are born in Kula/gotra/family belonging to particular group. This group is what we call as "Jaati". When a particular member of a particular "Jaati" get connected to this "Sanskrit platform", it is natural his immediate family will be connected too. it is also logical to expect that the member will teach the language to his progeny, if progeny is interested. Hence the progeny might "think" of connecting to the network by following the foot-steps of his/her father. Once this becomes widespread, there arises a new "Jaati" of those who has access to this database. 

They again might be proficient in local language, but they might start indulging in marital relations with those families which are similar to them in access to this platform and ideas therein. This is where the varna turns into a new "jaati". If this continues we have network of these newly formed "Jaatis". This defeats the original purpose but still keeps the system vibrant as long as the members of these "Jaatis" are at least proficient at what they are "reputed" of doing. Most of the "brahmin" jaatis were and are unable to speak OR understand Sanskrit in medieval and modern times. This is complete defeat of the very reason why this idea of varna, ashrama and purushartha were propped up. The moment this started happening, Sanskrit stopped "linking" and necessity to engineer and create a new "Sanskrit 2.0" arose. That necessity still has not been met yet.

We need a Panini 2.0 today. I have an idea of "Panini Project". But then it is too big, slightly abstract and will require refinement and inputs in terms of ideas, finance and efforts from many influential players. But time to create a new "Sanskrit 2.0" has come. A new "further refined" language (Pra-sanskarit) which will accommodate the needs of modern India which is trying to rise above the abrahmic shackles of previous millennia. A language which will be as flexible as Panini's sanskrit to accommodate new words, phrases and ideas of Greek, Latin, Germanic, English, Arabic, Persian and Indian origin, complex clauses, poetic and technical flexibility and huge "Bandwidth" to carry the ideas generated by modern day intellectuals. 

This is one of the most important steps towards tackling deracination. We need Maharshi Panini to reincarnate in spirit...

3 comments:

Chirag Patel said...

What a great analysis! I must appreciate the way you brought up idea of Sanskrut 2.0! I had that notion in mind for a long time, but did not have effort to develop the idea into reality. You showed me what that "notion" is and what efforts are needed.

Major.srikanth said...

A superb analysis. I am amazed each time i manage to read your articles. Hats of Brother. But do you think that creation of sanskrit 2.0 will be anything similar to the original sanskrit of panini. It would require herculean effort and needs to be used by one and all. Please let me know if there is anything at all that i can do to help.

Kal_Chiron said...

@Chirag ji and Major Srikanth ji,

Thank you for your gracious comments..

Yes, it would need a herculean effort spanning across many generations.

But there is hope since as computers progress, the need for efficient "oral command" language will arise more and more acutely. The need for a new "Meta-language" which will be extremely logical, flexible and without the system of "spelling" will arise.

Indian languages and sanskrit in particular already fits this criterion. An Indian child can pronounce 14 vowels and 52 consonants by the age of 2. Along with half-letters, an Indian chil can pronounce about 1024 types of different sounds. Just sounds, I am not talking about words and phrases.

Furthermore, the words in sanskrit based languages do not have a system of spelling. We write what we speak. In other words, we have a system which can mimic the spoken language as it is, without any loss in transmission. Fete, feet, fit are pronounced same but mean totally different. But फिट is फिट and cannot be anything else. Thus we have a system of representing "sound" on paper with grammar complex and flexible enough to denote words arising out of the above mentioned 1024 basic sounds.

Thus, there is a platform ready. Instead of building a totally new platform from scratch, it is easier to upgrade the available but slightly outdated platform.

Of course it will require academic, official and popular support. But Raaja is "moola" of "dharma". :-) if Rajas are convinced, with time, more and more intelligent people will start using the sanskrit 2.0 to upload their fruits of deliberations and while at it, refine the language furthermore.

I am not a linguist or a sankrit pandit. So how to do it, can be deliberated by really knowledgeable people on anthropology, compunter science, linguistics, grammar literature and others. This is just a seed which is planted on the free-domain of internet. May be it will take root and become a huge banyan tree in ocming centuries, who knows.. :-) It is just one aspect of Dharma-sansthapana.. many other aspects have to happen simultaneously. And I have a feeling, it will in coming years..

What can we do in our individual capacity? We can start using our mother tongue more on internet. We can start using Indic words to describe the ideas which we usually express and "think" in english. may be, if there are no parallel words for those ideas in our language, we can try and create new words which would mean and convey the idea.

Contrary to history taught to us, Paninian Sanskrit evolved from contemporary Prakrit languages and not vice-versa. Today's prakrit languages (Bengali, gujarati, marathi, telugu, mallu etc)have evolved from Paninian Sanskrit and their prakrit predecessors. So, for Evolution of Sanskrit 2.0, the current prakrit languages have to prosper too..

Kaalaay tasmay namah..