The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of vyākaraṇa (Devanagari व्याकरण) is
one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic
India, and includes the famous work, Adhyādhyāyī, of Pānini (ca. 4th
The impetus for linguistic analysis and grammar in India originates in
the need to be able to obtain a strict interpretation for the Vedic
The work of the very early Indian grammarians has been lost; for
example, the work of Sakatayana (roughly 8th c. BCE) is known only from
cryptic references by Yaska (ca. 6th-5th c. BCE) and Pāṇini. One of the
views of Sakatayana that was to prove controversial in coming centuries
was that most nouns are etymologically derivable from verbs.
In his monumental work on etymology, Nirukta, Yaska supported this claim
based on the large number of nouns that were derived from verbs through
a derivation process that became known as krit-pratyaya; this relates to
the nature of the root morphemes.
Yaska also provided the seeds for another debate, whether textual
meaning inheres in the word (Yaska's view) or in the sentence (see
Pāṇini, and later grammarians such as Prabhakara or Bhartrihari). This
debate continued into the 14th and 15th c. CE, and has echoes in the
present day in current debates about semantic compositionality.
Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi, which is said to have eclipsed all other
contemporary schools of grammar, mentions the names of eleven schools of
Sanskrit grammar that preceded it. The scholars representative of these
* Āpiśali (Pan. 6.1.92)
* Gālava (Nir. 4.3)
* Kāśyapa (Pan. 8.4.67)
* Senaka (Pan. 5.4.112)
* Sphoāyana (Pan. 6.1.123)
* Kuaravāava (Pan. 3.2.14; 7.3.1)
There is no surviving evidence of any of these schools that predates
Pāṇini except for Yāska's Nirukta. Yāska was a grammarian in the
tradition of Śākanāyana who may have predated Pānini by about a century.
In Yāska's time, nirukta "etymology" was in fact a school which gave
information of formation of words. The etymological derivation of words.
According to the nairuktas or "etymologists", all nouns are derived from
s verbal root. Yāska defends this view and attributes it to Śākanāyana.
While others believed that there are some words which are "Rudhi Words".
'Rudhi" means custom. Meaning they are a part of language due to custom,
and a correspondence between the word and the thing if it be a noun or
correspondence between an act and the word if it be a verbroot. Such
word can not be derived from verbal roots. Yāska also reports the view
of Gārgya, who opposed Śākaṭāyana who held that certain nominal stems
were 'atomic' and not to be derived from verbal roots.
Of the remaining schools, we know only what Yaska, Pānini and later
authors attribute to them, their original works being lost. Śākalya is
held to be the author of the padapatha of the Rigveda (a word-by-word
analysis of the mantra text).
Pāṇini's extensive analysis of the processes of phonology, morphology
and syntax, the Anadhyāyī, laid down the basis for centuries of
commentaries and expositions by following Sanskrit grammarians. Pānini's
approach was amazingly formal; his production rules for deriving complex
structures and sentences represent modern finite state machines. Indeed
many of the developments in Indian Mathematics, especially the place
value notational system may have originated from Pāninian analysis.
Pānini's grammar consists of four parts:
* Śivasūtra: phonology (notations for phonemes specified in 14 lines)
* Aṣṭadhyāyī: morphology (construction rules for complexes)
* Dhātupāṭha: list of roots (classes of verbal roots)
* Gaṇapāṭha: lists classes of primitive nominal stems
Commentators on Pāṇini and some of their views:
* Kātyāyana (linguist and mathematician, 3rd c. BCE): that the
word-meaning relation is siddha, i.e. given and non-decomposable, an
idea that the Sanskriticist Ferdinand de Saussure called arbitrary. Word
meanings refer to universals that are inherent in the word itself (close
to a nominalist position).
* Patanjali (linguist and yoga sutras, 2nd c. BCE) - author of
Mahabhashya. The notion of shabdapramânah - that the evidentiary value
of words is inherent in them, and not derived externally. Not to be
confused with the founder of the Yoga system.
* The Nyaya school, close to the realist position (as in Plato).
Considers the word-meaning relation as created through human convention.
Sentence meaning is principally determined by the main noun. uddyotkara,
Vachaspati (sound-universals or phonemes)
* The Mimamsa school. E.g. sentence meaning relies mostly on the verb
(corresponds to the modern notion of linguistic head). Kumarila Bhatta
(7th c.), prabhakara (7th c. CE).
* Bhartṛhari (c. 6th c. CE) that meaning is determined by larger
contextual units than the word alone (holism).
* Kāśikāvṛttī (7th century)
* Bhaṭṭi (c. 7th c. CE) exemplified Pāṇini's rules in his courtly epic
* The Buddhist school, including Nagarjuna (logic/philosophy, c. 150 CE)
Dignaga (semantics and logic, c. 5th c. CE), Dharmakirti.
The earliest external historical accounts of Indian grammatical
tradition is from Chinese Buddhist pilgrims to India from the 7th
* Xuanzang (602-664)
* I Ching (634-713)
* Fazang (643-712)
The Indica of Al-Biruni (973-1048), dating to ca. 1030 contains detailed
descriptions of all branches of Hindu science.
Early Modern (Mughal period, 17th century) Indian linguists who revived
Pāṇini's school include Bhattoji Dikshita and Varadaraja.
Similar to the Chinese Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhism aroused interest in
India among its followers. Taranatha (born 1573) in his treatise of the
history of Buddhism in India (completed around 1608) speaks about Pāṇini
and provides some information about grammars, but not in the manner of a
person familiar with their content.
Gaudiya Vaishnava Sanskrit grammar is outlined by Jiva Goswami in his
Modern Sanskrit grammarians
Beginning of Western scholarship
* Jean François Pons
* Henry Thomas Colebrooke
* August Wilhelm von Schlegel
* Wilhelm von Humboldt
* Dimitrios Galanos
* Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar
* Franz Kielhorn
* William Dwight Whitney
* Bruno Liebich
* Otto Boehtlingk
* Georg Bühler
* Franz Bopp
* Jacob Wackernagel, Altindische Grammatik
20th century to present
* Leonard Bloomfield
* Paul Thieme
* Karl Hoffmann
* Louis Renou
* Bimal Krishna Matilal
* Johannes Bronkhorst
* George Cardona
* Paul Kiparsky
* Frits Staal
* Michael Witzel
* Kshetresa Chandra Chattopadhyaya
* Vagish Shastri