In the latter half of the 18th century, Sir William Jones concluded
that the classical languages: Greek, Latin and Saunskrut used a similar
grammar and shared a similar vocabulary. Since then tremendous research
has gone into the origin and evolution of languages. This is a brief
report on the evolution of Indian languages.
Evolution of Indian languages
In the Vedic age, Saunskrut was a spoken language. After scripts
were invented, it was discovered that language changed with time.
Horrified by the discovery, attempts were made to fix the language.
Around 500 BCE Panini wrote a grammar for Saunskrut. It is the
shortest, unambiguous grammar, a grammar followed by computer languages
nearly 2500 years after him. His monumental work Ashtadhyayi, freezed
Saunskrut in time. This is the Classical Saunskrut.
The spoken language kept on evolving, deviating more and more from
classical Saunskrut. By the time of Buddha, local versions of Saunskrut
called Prakrut (Magadhi, Pali, Sourseni) languages were in use. The
latter literary works like some Puraanas were written in these Prakrut
languages. Buddha’s teachings were propagated in the Prakrut languages.
Buddha himself probably spoke Magadhi.
Later casteism prevented the lower classes from learning Saunskrut.
Saunskrut was no longer the language of the common man. Still later,
after the Islamic invasions, the royal patronage for Saunskrut stopped.
Veda and Saunskrut teaching universities were destroyed. Saunskrut
language was used only for religious purposes and few odd scholars who
found it fascinating. Though Saunskrut is no longer a mother tongue,
thousands of people are Saunskrut literate. There are several times
more documents preserved in Saunskrut than in Latin and Greek combined.
Saunskrut still enjoys the status of religious language.
The Prakrut languages were used throughout India for nearly fifteen
centuries. Modern languages received the status of official language by
12th century AD. Marathi received the status of official language in
the 12th century, during the Yadav rule. Kannada and Telugu derived
from Tamil, Prakrut and Saunskrut received the status of court language
in Krishnadev Raya's reign. Malayalam derived from Tamil, became a
distinct language somewhere around the 9th century.
Tamil is a very ancient language, probably as old as Saunskrut. It
is believed that Saunskrut and Tamil had a common source. All modern
Indian languages share common words, and grammar structures, including
the retroflex alphabets (the hard Ta, Tha, La , Na etc. A feature not
inherited by the European languages.)
Influence of Saunskrut outside India
The European languages (Greek, Latin, French, German, English,
Russian etc.) are derived from Saunskrut (or proto-Saunskrut?) The
languages of the Middle East (Persian, Pushtu, Kurdish) have words and
structures similar to Saunskrut. Avestan, the classical language of
Zoroastrianism is almost identical to Vedic Saunskrut.
Saunskrut has influenced the languages of the Far East as well.
Sinhalese was derived from Prakrut (Pali) language. According to a
legend, Prince Viajaya of Bengal carried Prakrut to SriLanka @500 BC.
Chinese has many words derived from or transliterated from Saunskrut.
The Philippines language has loan words from Saunskrut that were traded
by Hindu seafarers. The Malayan language has words derived from
Saunskrut like: Bhoomiputra. The Indonesian language is called 'Bahasha
Indonesia' (derived from bhasha). The Indonesian Airways is named
Garuda (meaning Eagle in Saunskrut and Indonesian.). Thailand has
places named like Aranyaprathet (Aranyapradesh). City names like
Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have Saunskrut roots. The name Burma is
derived from its Saunskrut name Bramhadesh.
The earliest known script is the Braahmi. Later Kharoshti and
Devanagari scripts developed from Braahmi script. Today Saunskrut,
Hindi, and Marathi use the Devanagari script. Gujarati, Bengali,
Assamese, Oriya, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam scripts have a
one-to-one correspondence with Devanagari. Though Saunskrut is usually
written in Devanagari script, Saunskrut works have been written using
other scripts as well.
Devanagari script is the source for Burmese, Thai and Cambodian
alphabets. The Javanese Kawi script has been developed from the Pallava
Languages become simpler with time. A language acquires new words as
science advances. But it only adds to the vocabulary, not to
complexity. It is predicted that, local languages will disappear, as
some major languages become standards.
The languages that do not adapt to the new technologies will go out
of use. Malayalam script was reformed in 1981 for better adapting to
keyboards. Reforms might be required for other languages too!
In India, technical education is imparted in English. No Indian
language adapted itself like Japanese or German or Chinese to create
new words for scientific / technical discoveries. Thus almost every
high-educated person thinks in English, rather than his mother-tongue.
Does this ring any warning bells? Will the new generations respond to
Saunskrut roots of Tamil words
||sangam (meeting) |
||fazam (fruit) |
||pushpam (flora) |
Tamil roots of Saunskrut words
Languages spoken in India
Languages spoken in India also include Munda languages and a few
Sino-Tibetian languages. Around 850 languages are in daily use. 15
languages are National / Official languages: Assamese, Bengali,
Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi,
Saunskrut, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and English (associate official
||Hindi, Punjabi, Haryanvi, Kashmiri, Awadhi, Braj Bhasha, Gadhavali, Ladakhi, Urdu, Nepali|
||Assamese, Manipuri, Sikkimese, Naga , Nepali, Tibetan, Bodo|
||Bengali, Oriya, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Chhattisgarhi, Hindi, Magadhi, Maithili, Bundeli.|
||Gujarati, Marathi, Mewari, Hindi, Marwari, Ahirani, Khandesi,
Konkani, Gujari, Kachchi, Koli, Saurashtri, Sindhi, Bareli, Gondi,
Vadari, Malwi, Sindhi|
||Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tulu, Yerukula, Konkani, Kodagu, Badaga, Irula |
- The identity of India - National Council for Science and Technology Communication
- English Words From Saunskrut - Richard Stoney
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition
- Pioneering Study In Linguistics - M Narasimhachary
- Evolution of Andhra language - Etukoori Balaraama Moorti
- In The Beginning: Compelling Evidence For Creation And The Flood. - Dr. Walt Brown.
- Evolution Of The Sinhala Language - Asiff Hussein
- Zarathushtra - Ardeshir Mehta