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 "Probably in no other single sphere have Western scholars been so indebted to traditional India as in that of grammar. "

According to Sir Monier-Williams (Eng. Sanskrit scholar 1819-1899):

"The Panini grammar reflects the wondrous capacity of the human brain, which till today no other country has been able to produce except India."

(source: Hindu Superiority - By Har Bilas Sarda p. 229).

Sir William Wilson Hunter has observed:

"The grammar of Panini stands supreme among the grammars of the world, alike for its precision of statement, and for its thorough analysis of the roots of the language and of the formative principles of words. By employing an algebraic terminology it attains a sharp succinctness unrivalled in brevity, but at times enigmatical. It arranges, in logical harmony, the whole phenomena which the Sanskrit language presents, and stands forth as one of the most splendid achievements of human invention and industry. So elaborate is the structure, that doubts have arisen whether its complex rules of formation and phonetic change, its polysyllabic derivatives, its ten conjugations with their multiform aorists and long array of tenses, could ever have been the spoken language of a people."

(source: The Indian Empire - By Sir William Wilson Hunter p. 142). For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor

Panini, the legendary Sanskrit grammarian of 5th century BC, is the world's first computational grammarian! Panini's work, Ashtadhyayi (the Eight-Chaptered book), is considered to be the most comprehensive scientific grammar ever written for any language.

"The Panini grammar reflects the wondrous capacity of the human brain, which till today no other country has been able to produce except India."


The science of linguistics owes much to the brilliant ancient Sanskrit grammarian Panini, whose 4th century B.C. Ashtadhyayi ("Eight Chapters") was the first scientific analysis of any alphabet.

Leonard Bloomfield (1887-1949) American linguist and author of Language, published in 1933) characterization of Panini's Astadhyayi ("The Eight Books")

"as one of the greatest monuments of human intelligence is by no means an exaggeration; no one who has had even a small acquaintance with that most remarkable book could fail to agree. In some four thousand sutras or aphorisms - some of them no more than a single syllable in length - Panini sums up the grammar not only of his own spoken language, but of that of the Vedic period as well. The work is the more remarkable when we consider that the author did not write it down but rather worked it all out of his head, as it were. Panini's disciples committed the work to memory and in turn passed it on in the same manner to their disciples; and though the Astadhayayi has long since been committed to writing, rote memorization of the work, with several of the more important commentaries, is still the approved method of studying grammar in India today, as indeed is true of most learning of the traditional culture."

While in the classical world scholars were dealing with language in a somewhat metaphysical way, the Indians were telling us what their language actually was, how it worked, and how it was put together. The methods and techniques for describing the structure of Sanskrit which we find in Panini have not been substantially bettered to this day in modern linguistic theory and practice. We today employ many devices in describing languages that were already known to Panini's first two commentators. The concept of "zero" which in mathematics is attributed to India, finds its place also in linguistics.

"It was in India, however, that there rose a body of knowledge which was destined to revolutionize European ideas about language. The Hindu grammar taught Europeans to analyze speech forms; when one compared the constituent parts, the resemblances, which hitherto had been vaguely recognized, could be set forth with certainty and precision."

(source: Traditional India - edited by O. L. Chavarria-Aguilar refer to chapter on Grammar - By Leonard Bloomfield Hall - Place of Publication: Englewood Cliffs, NJ Date of Publication: 1964 p. 109-113).

Ancient Indian work on grammar was not only objective, systematic, and brilliant than that done in Greece or Rome but is illustrative of their scientific methods of analysis. Although the date of Panini's grammar, the Ashtadhyayi, ("Eight Chapters"), which comprises about four thousand sutras or aphorisitic rules, is uncertain, it is the earliest extant scientific grammar in the world, having written no later than the fourth century B.C. But prior grammatical analysis is clearly evidenced by the fact that Panini himself mentions over sixty predecessors in the field. For example, the sounds represented by the letters of the alphabet had been properly arranged, vowels and diphthongs separated from mutes, semivowels, and sibilants, and the sounds had been grouped into guttturals, palatals, cerebrals, dentals, and labials.

Panini and other grammarians, especially Katyayana and Patanjali, carried the work much further, and by the middle of the second century B.C. Sanskrit had attained a stereotyped form which remained unaltered for centuries. Whilst Greek grammar tended to be logical, philosophical and syntactical, Indian grammar was the result of an empirical investigation of language done with the objectivity of an anatomist dissecting a body.

At a very early date India began to trace the roots, history, relations and combinations of words. By the fourth century B.C. she had created for herself the science of grammar, and produced probably the greatest of all known grammarians, Panini. The studies of Panini, Patanjali and Bhartrihari laid the foundations of philology; and that fascinating science of verbal genetics owed almost its life in modern times to the rediscovery of Sanskrit.

It is the discovery of Sanskrit by the West and the study of Indian methods of analysis that revolutionized Western studies of language and laid the foundation of comparative philology. Panini's Sanskrit grammar, produced in about 300 B.C. E. is the shortest and the fullest grammar in the world. Until the mid 19th century, in fact, Panini's great grammar remained the best standard guide to the study of Sanskrit, an inspiration to students of language everywhere. Even Otto Bohtlingk and Rudolf Roth, whose monumental Sanskrit-German Dictionary, called the "St Petersburg Lexicon" because it was published by the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences from 1852 to 1875, owed a great debt to Panini's remarkable "Eight Chapters."

(source: An Introduction to India - By Stanley Wolpert p. 196).

(For more refer to Electronic Panini -
and Sanskrit Learning Tools - and A Software on Sanskrit Grammar based on Panini's Sutras -




'Sanskrt' is not a language but a linguistic process.

A L Basham says that the very science of phonetics arose in Europe only after the discovery' of Sanskrt and its grammar by the West. (Paanini, the seminal thinker, constructed the Ashtaadhyaayee - "the Eight Matters to be Studied" in the 5th cent. BC). His 'structures' constitute a scientific presentation of grammar, phonetics, etymology, linguistics, etc. all rolled into one, not excluding the implied "sociology" of listening to, collecting and statistically evaluating forms of usage in the then spoken language. But, except for scholars like Naom Chomsky, no one working in linguistics overtly acknowledges this debt and Paanini has yet to be admitted to the pantheon of science of which Archimedes, Euclid, Socrates, Plato, Newton, Einstein, the Quantum Mechanicists, etc. are the present members. Paanini's work is of immense importance to modern research in the forms of human speech and, possibly, in the mapping of the spread of families of languages (not just of the Indo-European). Such mapping is being currently carried out in the Americas, very likely without the help of Paanini's ideas, in tracing the waves of migration of people that were to become "Red Indians" towards the end of the last Ice Age, from Northeastern Asia, across the Bering Strait, spreading southwards and across the land as far as Tierra del Fuego (the "Land of Fire"; "tierra" = dharaa, by the way) at the southern tip of South America.

One among the major contributions of the Indian Ancients is the arrangement of letters in the scripts (aksharamalas) of major Indian languages (Urdu excepted). That and the mode of having one unique symbol per syllable (and the mode of formation of compound consonants) whereby, with every letter having a fixed and invariable pronunciation, the script "is adapted to the expression of every gradation of sound" (source: Practical Grammar of the Sanskrit Language - By Sir Monier-Williams 1857).

(source: Whence and Whither of Indian Science - Can we integrate with our past and carry on from there? – Contributed by S. N. Balasubrahmanyam - (Retd) Professor of Organic Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore).
Panini to the rescue

Research team turns to the "world's first computational grammarian!".

Panini, the legendary Sanskrit grammarian of 5th century BC, is the world's first computational grammarian! Panini's work, Ashtadhyayi (the Eight-Chaptered book), is considered to be the most comprehensive scientific grammar ever written for any language.

According to Prof Rajeev Sangal, Director of IIIT (Hyderabad) and an expert on language computation, Panini's epic treatise on grammar came to the rescue of language experts in making English unambiguous. English is more difficult (as far as machine translations are concerned) with a high degree of ambiguity. Some words have different meanings, making the analysis (to facilitate translations) a difficult process. Making it disambiguous is quite a task, where Panini's principles might be of use.

Ashtadhyayi, the earlier work on descriptive linguistics, consists of 3,959 sutras (or principles). These highly systemised and technical principles, some say, marked the rise of classical Sanskrit.

Sampark, the multi-institute effort launched to produce a translation engine, enabling users to translate tests from English to various languages, will use some of the technical aspects enunciated by Panini. "We looked at alternatives before choosing Panini," Prof Sangal says. Incidentally, Prof Sangal co-authored a book, Natural Language Processing - A Panini Perspective, a few years ago.

Besides the technical side, Panini would be of great help to researchers on the translation engine on the language side too. A good number of words in almost all the Indian languages originate from Sanskrit. "That is great because Indian languages are related to each other," Prof Sangal points out.

(source: Panini to the rescue - Refer to chapter on Sanskrit.












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