language change


Three is a word of difference between the Vedic language and the Classical Sanskrit of the epics, sastras, kavyas….. At times the meaning of a word may undergo a sea change !


The word sachí for instance, is used in the classical Sanskrit for ‘lndra`s wife’, whereas in the Vedic Lexicon Nighantu, it is en-joined for ‘speech, wisdom, action’ (vide Nigh.)-


The words vrtra, asum are used in Sanskrit as the name of a Raksasa (and for ‘raksasa‘ in general), but in Vedic they are two epithets, usually, of ‘cloud’-


The word ‘ahí‘ is used in Sanskrit for serpent, while in Vedic, it stands for cloud again. ahi

The word adri, parvata, giri are used in Sanskrit for mountain, but in Vedic they again denote cloud- adri

The word ghrta is used in Sanskrit for clarified butter, in Vedic for water-



In Sanskrit, the word visa is used for poison but, according to the Vedic Nighantu, it is one of the many names ofwater-


ln Sanskrit, the Word varaha is used for ‘boar’, but in Vedic it is given for cloud-


In Sankrit asman and gravan are used for stone, but in Vedic they are shown as denoting cloud-


The word dhara is used in Sanskrit for flow or current but in Vedic it is used for speech-


The word ghrtací is used in Sanskrit for dancing girl, but in Vedic it denotes night-


The word gaya is used in Sanskrit for a particular place where oblations are offered, but in the Vedic Nighantu, gaya means progency, wealth, home.



On the score of grammar, Vedic naturally differs from Classical Sanskrit in extension as well as in depth. Panini’s Astadhyayi refers to this vedic freedom of scope through aphorisms like.



bahulam 1

Quite a few among Western linguists and philosophers hold that there has always been a growth, a development and an evolution in language :

T. Burrow, for instance, says in Sanskrit Language, “Many [of the changes of meaning] occured in the natural growth of the language.”

F. Bopp, in Comparative Grammar 0f Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and Other Languages, vol. l, has used the word ‘development’, in this connection; “[Of] language in its Stages of being and march of development.

” A.B. Keith has also opted for the view ‘development’, saying: “From the language of the Rigveda one can trace a steady development to Classical Sanskrit.” (History of Sanskrit Literature.)

Some Indian philologists, too, who have followed Western Writers, have held the same view. For instance : “From the cry and onomatopoeia with their various combinations, by means of association and metaphor, we arrive at a Vocabulary, sufficient for the purpose of the primitive man”…”The small original stock is improved upon and added to by manipulation of various kinds, based upon the association of various kinds, and on metaphor”.

But, when we compare the most ancient Vedic language with the modem Classical Sanskrit, we find that, instead of ‘growth’ or ‘development’, there has been ‘decay’.

For instance : (1) in the Vedic Lexicon Nighantu, at 1.2 we find 57 synonyms of vac (speech) like-

shlok 1


shlok 2

Very few of them have survived in classical Sanskrit : Amara Kosa, for instance, gives only the following-


lt is growth or decay ? Let the reader on his own decide.

To give yet another illustration, in Vedic 101 names are listed for ‘water’, including-


But in the Amara Kosa only 27 remain ;


There are 37 names of megha (cloud) in Nighantu, in the Amara Kosa only 15-


Among the 26 names of karma (action, work), including-


-only 2 (karma and karyam) are found in the Amara Kosa.


Many more examples could be given to show how, down the centuries, it has not been a case of growth or development, but rather one of decay in language.

lt is gratifying to note that some distinguished western linguists also are opposed to this theory of growth or evolution in language. We cite four of them :

V. VENDRYES in his book Language observes : ‘Certainly, modern languages, such as English and French, rejoice in an extreme suppleness, ease and flexibility; but [accordingly] can we maintain that the classical tongues, like Greek or Latin, are inferior to [any of these] ? It [Greek] is a language whose very essence is godlike.. If we have once acquired the taste for it, all other languages seem harsh after it… The outward form of the Greek language is itself a delight to the soul. Never was a more beautiful instrument fashioned to express human thought.

WILLIAM JONES : ‘The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure-more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin, and more exquisitely refined than French or Spanish.’

MAX MULLER : says they have reduced the rich and powerful idiom of the poets of Veda to the meagre and impure jargon of the modem sepoy’.

He adds : “We are accustomed to call these changes ‘growth’ of language, but it would be more appropriate to call this a process of phonetic change or decay. ”

‘On the whole, the history of all the Aryan languages is nothing but a gradual process of decay.

‘Lecures on the Science of Language, vol.l

And GRAY, lastly, has to say this (Foundations of Language) :

‘In lndo-European, we find 8 distinct case-forms in Sanskrit; Greek and Lithuanian have 7, Hittite and Old Church Slavic 5, Old French and Modem English only 2, Albanian 4. And American and Old English 3. This reduction in the number of case-forms-with  the result that some of them take over the functions of one or more others-gives rise to the linguistic phrase now known as syncretism. The reason for this seems to be phonetic decay of the characteristic case-endings.’

‘the mother of languages’


From the study of many of the historical languages of the world we have been driven to the inevitable conclusion that it is not Classical Sanskrit (which of course is the first daughter of the mother), but Vedic, that is the mother of all languages of the world. A FEW EXAMPLES

1. Vasra-in Vedic and, in its slightly different or corrupt forms, in different languages of the world : The word [vasra] has been used in the Rigveda on the following occasions-vasra 1O.119.4; vasra’iva 1.33.2, 1.28.8; 2.34.15; 7.149.4; 1.37.11, 1.96.6; 6.7.7, 9.1.37, 10.75.4.

In the other Vedas also the word is used frequently. All commentators of Veda are unanimous in holding that the word is derived from V vasr ‘sabde‘ and stands for cow (lowing, ‘making sound’.


Now, it is to be noted that there is no mention of this word in the Amara Kosa, or in any other lexicon of Sanskrit; nor do we find it generally used in the classical literature. Withal, the word is used for `cow’ in the French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian languages in slightly different (corrupt) forms.

ln French it is vache; in Spanish vaen : in Portugese vaca ; and in Italian la vaces. [Also, likewise, in the languages of Europe the words derived from go are used for English cow : Swedish ko ; Danish ko ; Dutch koe ; German kuh].

2. To take another example, we may examine Vedic ‘irman ‘ for ‘arm’.

lt is from this (irman) alone that the word ‘arm’ is derived. With its Swedish, Danish, Dutch and German variants in COD, for Apisali states in his Siksa (as also Bharate in his Natyasatra) that ‘sarva-mukha-sthaniyan a-varnam’ ! agni : ignis (Lat.).

3. Another very common word, which may be mentioned in this connection, is dama. According to Nighantu 3.4, it is a grhanama (home)-


But in Sanskrit literature and in classical lexicons, like the Amarakosa, dama occurs nowhere in the sense of ‘home’ or ‘wife.’ And so we should not be surprised to find the word, with slight changes, used in several languages of Europe-English, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, German in the sense of ‘lady’ : dame, dane, dem. 4. mira (ocean) ‘submarine fire’ and also vadavagni ! ; German meer ; French la mer ; Spanish and Portugese mar. 5. apa’ ítí-‘karma’-nama (Nighantu. 2.1) ; opus (Latin), operation (English). These five exmples should suffice to show that Vedic is the most ancient-and accordingly, the mother-of all languages.   MULTIPLICATION OF LANGUAGES lf, Vedic is the universal mother (or foster-mother as some would like to call it), the question naturally arises : how these hundreds and thousands of languages and dialects have sprung up from that one source. How to explain their multifurcation ? The answer may be briefly given as follows (taking into consideration what native and foreign scholars have written on the subject) Some probable causes suggested are :   PROBABLE CAUSES (l) Physiological causes– when some people cannot pronounce some difficult sounds on account of some defect in the anatomy; (2) Geographical surroundings-sometimes making it difficult to pronounce words correctly (due to severe cold.); (3) Communication and Correspondence (difficulties)- people of distant lands also sometimes cause pidgin-like change(s) in the language and its pronunciation ; (4) Change of model-e.g., a new king may ascend the throne and his subjects begin copying his style ;   (5) Association-also causes change, Examples     (6) Analogy-is defined (by Vendryes) as “the power of other words in a languages to exempt any special word from the operation of phonetic laws or to compensate it for changes which those laws may press or produce.” 0ne clear instance of this change by analogy is cows. ln Old English it was spelt (inflected) as kine ; but, as table, book, boy and other words are formed by just adding an “s” at the end, so the plural of cow also became cows-(though foot did not become foots such as. (7) Economy of effort-with regular vagaries- (a) varna-viparyaya or ‘metathesis’ :     (b) varna-lopa (dropping out of a letter, usually owing to inadvertence) :       (c) samikarana-(assimilation) :     cf. Edward Sturtivant (Introduction to linguistic Science : “Of great linguistic importance is the assimilation of contiguous consonants” (d) viprakasa-(dissimilation) :     (e) svara-bhakti (hiatus) :     (f) agro’pajana-(prothesis)     (g) sthana-viparyaya-(interchange) :     The following verse, quoted by Durgacarya in his ‘gloss’ on the Nirukta(Ch. 1), gives in brief most of these ‘rules’ :     (1)    pro/epen/post-thesis ; (2) interchange ; (3) distortion ; (1)(4) elision; (5) ‘sense suggesting = engendering another sound!’. (1)In various fonns of P/’akrta and in English, Greek, Latin,Russian and other languages ‘changes’ have taken place according to the above ‘rules’. It is thus that words actually become corrupt and new languages spring up. Defective and imperfect scripts also have helped in the distortion of a ‘pure` language no less : (1)In Tamil (script) there are only k and n ; c and n ; t and n ; t and (1)n ; p and m. [In Arabic script there is no p.] (1)In English there is no provision for t, th, d dh, n ; (1)In French there is no room for t, th, d, dh, n. (1) PASTO & SANSKRIT Pashto is the language spoken by Pathans and allied tribals of the North-Western Frontier. The author learnt from a letter, received from the Vice-Chancellor of Peshawar University, some years back, that “here Sanskrit is compulsory for all students of languages, as it is thought here, said the letter that, abounding in Sanskrit Vocabulary as it is, Pashto cannot be mastered without a good grounding in Sanskrit.” Following is the list of some Sanskrit words, with their Pasto variants, to stress the point :                     Also, for ‘grandfather’ the Pashto is Nikoh-derived from ‘niskrodha’-free from anger and, therefore., loving ; likewise, for grandmother anniya ‘anna-datri“,? But, we are just suggesting ; nothing more.   SANSKRIT & SOUTH INDIAN LANGUAGES There are some words in the South Indian languages, which have their origin in Sanskrit. On studying Kasakrtsna-Dhatupatha-Vrtti with the gloss of Channa-Vira Kavi, we have come to know of these ‘suspected origins’ ever more clearly-ever more surely. It should be borne in mind that Kasakrtsna had been a South-Indian grammarian centuries before Panini, recording some 800 more roots, i.e., in addition to the 2000 found in Panini ! (1) amma / avva, tayi-mother : These are the words used for ‘mother’ in different parts of the country. Of these amma-(1) is considered by some a corruption of ‘amba’ ; but according to Kasakrtsna’s Dhatupathavrtti, it is derived from V amm ‘gatau’ (1.224) ; avva (2) from V avv-bandha-ne-palane (1-226) ;t’yt (3) from V tayr, ‘santana-palanayon’(1.493). [In Tamil the word used for mother, tadar, too appears to have come from the same root] In Marathi, the word used for ‘mother’ is dyt V ay gat au (1.485) (2) appa = pitar (in Kannada, Tulgu and some other South Indian languages) from V app palane ! (3) ammi-putrí from V amm gatau (Kannada). (4) akka ‘elder sister’ (Kan.) from V akk bandane + palane. (5) atta, mother-in-law ; attika, sister-in-law (Kan.) from V at gatau. (6) appa-‘elder brother’ (Kan.) from V ap sabde (1.206). (7) nathi, dog (Kan., Tam.) from V nin ‘prapane’. (8) dana, animal (Kan.) from V dhan ‘calane’. (9) hana = wealth, woman (Kan.) from V han sabde. (niskasya dasamo bhagah.) (10) duddu, money (Kan.) from V duddu dharane. (11) gíni, parrot (Kan.) from V gin sabde. (12) gande, wall (Kan.) from V gadi bandhane. (13) vayí, mouth (K. and Ta.) from V vay gatau. (14) ane, hand (K., Ta.) from V an prapane. (15) avu, cow (Tel.) from V av palane. cf. ava-ni=’gau’ (earth)! (16) nalla, good (Tam.) from V nall palane. (17) ganda-pati, husband (Kan.) from V gadí vadaníkadese (sahayyam karoti)-cheek-by-j owl. (18) guli, bull (Kan.) from V gul bhaksane. (19) gulle, bubble, foam (Kan.) from V gull bhavane(vivarte). (20) hammu, pride (Kan.) from V hammu gatau (brain-wave) (21) pandu, fruit (Tel.) from V padí gatau. (22) jenu, honey (moon face ?), Kan. from V jin sambhaktau ! (23) channa, honey, fair lady (Kan. et al) from V cann sambhaktau! (24) havu, serpent from V havva (ghost) Kan. (25) hedi, coward (Kan) from V hedr calane ?   VEDIC AND THE REST   Comparative lists of words of different European languages clearly establish the affinity of these languages to Sanskrit. The question remains to be answered is : what relationship Sanskrit bears   to the different languages of the world ? Is it Sister/aunt/mother of them? It is here that scholars widely differ. Max Muller : “Sanskrit, no doubt, has an immense advantage over all the other ancient languages of the East. lt is so attractive and has been so widely admired that it almost seems at times to excite a certain amount of feminine jealousy.. We are ourselves lndo-Europeans. In a certain sense we are still speaking and thinking Sanskrit ; or, more correctly, Sanskrit is like a dear aunt to us and [vasudhaiva kutumbakam] she [responsibly] takes the place of a mother who   is no more. [Chips from a German Workshop] vol. 5.   It (Sanskrit) is the most regular language known, and is especially remarkable-as containing the roots of the various languages of Europe-Greek, Latin, German, Slavonic, says Baron Cuvier in Lectures on the Natural Sciences.”   And here is what Adelung has to say in “Sanskrit Language”. “The great number of languages, which are said to owe their origin – or bear a close affinity-to Sanskrit, is truly astonishing and-is yet another proof of the latter’s high antiquity. Rudiger avers it to be the parent of upwards of a hundred languages and dialects among which he enumerates l2 Indian, 7 Median Persic, 2 Austric   Albanian, 7 Greek, 18 Latin, 14 Slavonic, and 6 Celtic Gallic. The various vocabularies, which we now possess as a result of laborious and learned investigations, render it pretty evident that Sanskrit has not only furnished words for all the languages of Europe, but forms a main feature in almost all those of the East. A host of writers have made it the immediate parent of the Greek and Latin and German families of languages [no less]   Bopp in Edinburgh Review, vol. 33, expresses his opinion that “At one time, Sanskrit was the one languages spoken all over the world.”   And lastly, to quote from W.C. Taylor’s “India in Greece” :   It was an astounding discovery that Hindustan possessed a language of unrivalled richness and variety, a language the parent of all those dialects that Europe has fondly called classical-the source alike of the Greek flexibility and the Roman strength, a philosophy compared with which lessons of Pythagoras are but of yesterday [in point of age, in point of enduring speculation], Plato’s boldest efforts [sound] tame and commonplace…a poetry more purely intellectual than any of which we had before any conception, and a system of science whose antiquity baffles all powers of astronomical calculations. This literature, with all its colossal proportions, which can scarcely be described with-out [a] semblance of bombast and exaggeration, claims of course, a place for itself-it stands alone, [has been] able to stand alone. Its literature seems exhaustless. The utmost [of] stretch-of-imagination can scarce comprehend its boundless mythology. Its philosophy, far from shunning, has touched upon every metaphysical difficulty [and has much to contribute on each and every issue].   lt is, thus, clear that many impartial linguists and philologists of the West also admit that Sanskrit is the mother (not sister or aunt) of all the important languages of the world. It is unfortunate that, even in India, not much attention is being paid to the study and spread of Sanskrit either by the people or by the Government. It is high time the study of Sanskrit is made compulsory at schools and in colleges, throughout the country.


  1. I have read you paper.I am of the humble opinion that we should commend and placate the western scholars like Franz Bopp, William Jones and Max Muller They were mercenaries for the British. Both William Jones and Max Muller were on the pay role of the East India Tea Company working. India was the crown jewel for the British and they wanted rule India for a long time. That is why they hired William Jones, Max Muller and others to invent this theory of similarity between Sanskrit, Latin and Greek.

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