Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Sanskrit language is an old Indo-Aryan language from the Indian Subcontinent

Sanskrit Language

The Sanskrit language is an old Indo-Aryan language from the Indian Subcontinent, the classical literary language of the Hindus of India[1], a liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and one of the 23 official languages of India.Its position in the cultures of South and Southeast Asia is akin to that of Latin and Greek in Europe. It is based on a dialect of northwestern India, dates from as early as 1800 BC[2] and appears (in the Vedas) in pre-Classical form as Vedic Sanskrit, with the language of the Rigveda being the oldest and most archaic stage preserved, thus making it one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family; it is considered a base language of many modern-day Asian languages.

The corpus of Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and religious texts. Today, Sanskrit continues to be widely used as a ceremonial language in Hindu religious rituals in the forms of hymns and mantras. Spoken Sanskrit is still in use in a few traditional institutions in India, and there are some attempts at revival.HistoryDevimahatmya manuscript on palm-leaf, in an early Bhujimol script, Bihar or Nepal, 11th century.The adjective saṃskṛta- means "refined, consecrated, sanctified". The language referred to as saṃskṛtā vāk "the refined language" has by definition always been a "high" language, used for religious and learned discourse and contrasted with the languages spoken by the people. It is also called deva-bhāṣā meaning "language of the gods". The oldest surviving Sanskrit grammar is Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī ("Eight-Chapter Grammar") dating to ca. the 5th century BC.

It is essentially a prescriptive grammar, i.e., an authority that defines (rather than describes) correct Sanskrit, although it contains descriptive parts, mostly to account for Vedic forms that had already passed out of use in Panini's time.Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-Aryan sub-family of the Indo-European family of languages. Together with the Iranian languages it belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch and as such is part of the Satem group of Indo-European languages, which also includes the Balto-Slavic branch.When the term arose in India, "Sanskrit" was not thought of as a specific language set apart from other languages, but rather as a particularly refined or perfected manner of speaking. Knowledge of Sanskrit was a marker of social class and educational attainment and the language was taught mainly to members of the higher castes, through close analysis of Sanskrit grammarians such as Pāṇini.

Sanskrit as the learned language of Ancient India thus existed alongside the Prakrits (vernaculars), which evolved into the modern Indo-Aryan languages (Hindi, Urdu, Bengali etc.). Most of the Dravidian languages of India, despite being a separate linguistic family in their own right, are highly influenced by Sanskrit, especially in terms of loanwords. Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam have the highest incidence of loans while Tamil has the lowest. This influence of Sanskrit on these languages is recognized by the notions of Tat Sama (equivalent) and Tat Bhava (rooted in). Sanskrit itself has also been exposed to Dravidian substratum influence since very ancient times.

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