The Sanskrit Language

445 Pages · 2009 · 19.2 MB · English

  • The Sanskrit Language


    The discovery of the Sanskrit language by European scholars

    at the end of the eighteenth century was the starting point from

    which developed the study of the comparative philology of the

    Indo-European languages and eventually the whole science of

    modern! linguistics. In spite of this there does not exist in

    English :~ny book presenting a systematic account of Sanskrit

    in its relation to the other Indo-European languages. One may

    even go further and say that there is no work in any language

    which adequately fulfils this purpose. Wackernagel's great

    work, begun sixty years ago, still remains to be completed,

    although, with the recent appearance of a further instalment,

    its completion has been brought nearer. Thumb's Handbuch

    des Sanskrit which was of service to manygenerations of students

    is now very much dated, and always fell between the two

    stools of trying to be an elementary text-book of Sanskrit and

    a treatise on its comparative grammar at the same time.

    On account of its antiquity and well-preserved structure

    Sanskrit is of unique importance for the study of Indo-European,

    and an up-to-date account of its comparative grammar is

    necessary, not only to students of Sanskrit itself, but also to

    those interested in any branch of Indo-European philology.

    Consequently when I was asked to contribute a book on

    Sanskrit to the series The Great Languages, it ¥Vas clear that by

    concentrating on the study of Sanskrit from this point of view

    the greatest need would be met. This is particularly true since

    for the history of Indo-Aryan inside India, from Sanskrit down

    to modern times, students already have at their disposal the

    excellent work of Jules Bloch.

    Providing a reliable account of Sanskrit in its relation to

    Indo-European is at the present moment not altogether a simple

    matter. Forty years ago there existed a generally agreed docxad

    trine of Indo-European theory wpich had been systematically

    presented in the early years of the century in Brugmann's

    Grundriss. At that time it would merely have been a question

    v vi PREFACE

    of adopting this corpus of agreed doctrine to the needs of the

    student and general reader. and of the particular language

    described. Since then theJiiscovery of Hittite has revolutionxad

    ised Indo-European studies and a considerable part of the older

    theory has been unable to stand up to the new evidence.

    Consequently Indo-European studies can now be said to be in

    a state of flux. New theories have appeared, and are clearly

    necessary but the process is not yet completed. There IS no


    generally received body of doctrine replacing the old. and many

    of the fundamental points at issue remain disputed. Furtherxad

    more attention has tended to be largely concentrated on

    phonetic questions raised by Hittite, and matters of morphoxad

    logy. on which its evidence is also of fundamental importance.

    have been less exhaustively studied.

    In th/.:se circumstances I have attempted to present a reasonxad

    ably consistent account of the comparative grammar of Sanskrit

    based on the evaluation of the new evidence. A work like this

    is not the .place to enter into discussion of the various conflicting

    theories that are in the field. if only for reasons of space. and

    bibliographical references have been systematically omitted.

    What has been written in recent years on these problems has

    been taken into account, and such theories as appear acceptable

    are incorporated in this exposition. It is hoped that it will go

    some way to providing ,an up-to-date synthesis of a subject

    which in its present state is hardly accessible outside the widely

    scattered specialist literature.

    The study of Sanskrit has advanced recently in another direcxad

    tion also. Investigation of the influence of the pre-Aryan

    languages of India on Sanskrit and on Indo-Aryan in its later

    stages, has shown that this is considerable and solid results

    have been achieved. As far as the structure of the language is

    concerned, particularly in its early stage, which is the only one

    relevant to the comparative study of Indo-European. this influxad

    ence hardly counts at alL On the other hand in the field of

    vocabulary it is very important that the Indo-European and

    non-Indo-European elements should be separated. The last

    chapter of the book contains a summary of the main findings

    on the part of the subject so far as established at the present

    stage. Future work will no doubt add more.

    T. BURROW ~


    A number of alterations to the text of the The Sanskrit Language

    have been made in this edition, the principal ones being as

    follows. In Chapter I the latter part of Section 6 has been

    rewritten to conform with the now prevailing opinion that the

    Aryan vestiges of the ancient Near East are to be connected

    specifically with Indo-Aryan. Also rewritten are Section II and

    t, (in part) Section 17 of Chapter III to take account of the

    conclusions reached on those topics in the articles of mine which

    are quoted in the Appendix. Chapter VIII has been renamed

    Loanwords in Sanskrit, so that loanwords from Greek and

    Iranian (Section 2) can be dealt with in it as well as loanwords

    from AustIo-Asiatic and Dravidian (Section I). The list of

    loanwords from Dravidian in this chapter has been shortened by

    the omission of some items now considered to. be false or


    At the'.end an Appendix has been added containing references

    to the rrla~t important contributions to the subject which have

    appeared since 1955, and also some supplementary notes.

    September I972 T. BURROW

    ". #

    vii .r.


    PREFACE page v








    vn. THE VERB 289




    INDEX 402


    ix CHAPTER I




    In the greater part of India today languages are spoken which


    are derived from a single form of speech which was introduced

    into India by invaders from the north-west more than three

    thousand years ago. The invading peoples were known in their

    own language as iirya-, a word which is also commonly used as

    an adjective meaning' noble, honourable '. Behind them in

    Central Asia remained kindred peoples who eventually occupied

    the plateau of Iran, as well as large tracts of Central Asia.

    These peoples used the same name of themselves, in Av estan

    airya-. and from the genitive plural of this word the modern

    name Iran is ultimately derived. In conformance with this

    usage the term A ryan is now used as the common name of these

    peoples and their languages; alternatively the term Indoxad

    Iranian is commonly used. To distinguish the Indian branch

    from the Iranian, the term Indo-Aryan has been coined, and as

    applied to language, it covers the totality of languages and

    dialects derived fronl this source from the earliest times to the

    present day. It is practical to distinguish three periods, Old,

    Middle and Modern Indo-Aryan. The classical form of Old

    Indo-Aryan eventually came to be designated by the term

    Sa1JZskrta- meaning · polished, cultivated, correct (according to

    the rules of grammar) " in contradistinction to Priikrta the

    speech of the uneducated masses, which was the same Indoxad

    Aryan in origin, but was subject to a process of steady change

    and evolution. As a term to distinguish Indo-Aryan from the

    non-Aryan languages the adjective arya-· was used in opposition

    to mlecchd- ' barbarian '. In addition we may note that one of

    the terms for' speech', bhiirati (sc. viik) had originally an ethnic

    sense, meaning' language of the Bharatas


    1 At an early period the most prominent of the Indo~Aryan trillf's. whence

    also the indigenous name of India bhiirata(-lIar-?a). 2 SANSKRIT AND INDO-EUROPEAN

    Sanskrit in its narrower sense applies to standard classical

    Sanskrit as regulated by the grammarians but may be conxad

    veniently used'more widely as equivalent to Old Indo-Aryan.

    In this sense it covers both classical Sanskrit and the prexad

    classical or Vedic language. Middle Indo-Aryan, that is Prakrit

    in the widest sense of the term, comprises three successive

    stages of developmen.t: (r) The earliest stage is represented in

    literature by P

    Thera-vada school of Buddhism. This is a language of the cenxad

    turies immediately preceding the Christian era. On the same

    level of development are the various dialects recorded in the

    inscriptions of Asoka (c. 250 B.C.), and also the language of other

    early inscriptions. (2) Prakrit in the narrower sense of the word,

    or Standard Literary Prakrit, represents the stage of developxad

    ment reached some centuries after the Christian era. It is

    found mainly in the Drama and in the religious writings of the

    Jains. The various literary forms of Prakrit were stabilised by

    grammarians at this period and, as a written language, it rexad

    mains essentially unchanged during the succeeding centuries.

    (3) Apabhrarpsa is known from texts of the tenth century A.D.

    but as a literary language it was formed some centuries earlier.

    It represents the final stage of Middle Indo-Aryan, the one

    immediately preceding the emergence of the Modem Indoxad

    Aryan languages. The Modern languages, Bengali, Hindi,

    Gujarati, Marathi, etc., begin to be recorded from about the end

    of the first millennium A.D., and from then their development can

    be followed as they gradually acquire their present-day form.

    Thus we have before us in India three thousand years of

    continuous linguistic history, recorded in literary documents.

    During the course of this period a single, and originally alien

    idiom has spread over the greater part of the country, and,

    evolving by slow degrees, has resulted in the various languages

    now spoken in Northern and Central India. Enormous changes

    have taken place during this time, and the languages we meet

    today are very different indeed frOITl the ancient speech

    spoken by the invading Aryan tribes. Nevertheless the docuxad

    ment:ltion available enables us to follow in detail the various

    intermediate stages of development and to observe how.

    by changes hardly noticeable from generation to generation, an

    original language has altered into descendant languages which

    superficially at any rate, are now barely recognisable as the same. SANSKRIT AND INDO-EUROPEAN 3

    The earliest document of the linguistic history of Indoxad

    Aryan is the lJgveda, which, by rough guess-work, is placed in

    the region of 1000 B.C. The language we find there is the source

    from which all later developments in India have arisen. But

    this language itself had evolved out of a yet earlier form of

    speech, by precisely the same kind of slow change and alteraxad

    tion which caused it to evolve later into something else. This

    earlier evolution is unrecorded by any direct documentation,

    but it can be reconstructed in considerable detail by means of

    comparison with related languages. By this method two stages

    in the prehistory of the language can be established: (1) By

    comparison of early Indo-Aryan with the very closely related

    Iraniallr it is possible to form a fairly accurate idea of the

    original Indo-Iranian or Aryan language from which both have

    evolved. {z} By comparing Indo-Aryan and Iranian with the

    other Indo-European languages (enumerated below) it is P()Sxad

    sible atso togo beyond this, and to reconstruct in general outxad

    line the characteristics of the original language from which all

    these are derived.

    Since Iranian in view of its very close relationship with Indoxad

    Aryan is of the first importance for the study of Indo-Aryan

    philology, a short account of its distribution and documentation

    is desirable. The migration of the Indo-Aryans to India brought

    about, or perhaps was the final stage of, the separation of the

    primitive Aryan community into two distinct divisions which

    henceforth evolved separately in linguistic as in other respects.

    The Iranians left behind in the region of the Ox us valley


    proceeded to expand rapidly in various directions, occupying

    not only the Iranian plateau which remaint;d -their centre of

    gravity, but also large tracts of Central Asia, extending on the

    one hand to the confines of China and on the other hand to the

    plains of South Russia. From an early period Iranian showed a

    much stronger tendency to differentiation into separate dialects

    which soon became independent languages than was the case

    with Indo-Aryan, which for geographical and other reasons

    maintained a comparative unity over most of North India for

    a very long period.

    For the old period Iranian is represented by documents in

    Avestan and Old Persian, and it is these texts which are of

    1 A recollection ofChorasmia as their original home is preserved in the

    traditions of the ancient Iranians.

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