Posts Tagged ‘Spoken Sanskrit Class’

Email invitation to the Sanskrit mailing list at work

26 April, 2013


Closing Function of the 4th Spoken Sanskrit Class at TI

Friday, 26 April, 5-7pm, Jack Kilby Auditorium

Chief Guest: Dr P. Ramanujam, Group Co-ordinator, Indian Heritage Group, C-DAC

The 4th Spoken Sanskrit Class held at TI is coming to a close and you are invited to the final day function. This 10-day class familiarises beginners with the basics of Sanskrit language through a well-evolved format developed by Samskrita Bharati over 30 years.

Wait a second, did I say beginners? The fact is that none of the participants of the class is really a beginner, including those who filled ‘no prior exposure to Sanskrit’ in the class survey. Knowing the demographic of this mailing list, I can say that all of you already possess a fair amount of knowledge of Sanskrit, enough to classify you as at least ‘intermediate’. Let me explain how.

The learning of any language involves the study of its phonology (sounds of the language), morphology (formation of words), syntax (formation of sentences) and vocabulary (set of words), whether we know them by these names or not.

Most Indian languages have similar phonological repertoires, which sets them apart from the rest of the world’s languages. By being able to speak an Indian language, you are already almost a master of Sanskrit phonology. Of course your native language does influence your accent in Sanskrit, but you are far ahead of the rest of the world. You may not know the meaning but try saying वार्द्धक्यम् and then imagine an Arab or Chinese or European trying to pronounce it. You have already crossed the first hurdle.

Morphology is where most of our focus is when we learn Sanskrit, and for good reason. Sanskrit has a complex inflectional paradigm. Many of you who have studied Sanskrit in school or elsewhere can surely recollect struggling to memorise the 8X3 declension tables for nouns and 3X3 conjugation tables for verbs. Sanskrit also has a more transparent etymology than most languages and a rich tradition of using compound words, which gives it the ability to convey a message in very few words. What is formulated as clauses or adjectival phrases in English can be compacted into single-word adjectives in Sanskrit. Two examples:

The businessman who had arrived in town last nightगतरात्रनगरागतः वणिक्

The tree with the broken top branch. – भग्नाग्रशाखः वृक्षः

Syntax or sentence structure is relatively easy in Sanskrit because most of the complexity burden is taken by the word structure. Notice in the following example how the sentence has to undergo a contortion to covert into a question in English but not so in Sanskrit –

You will have lunch here today.

Where will you have lunch today?

भवान् अद्य अत्र भोजनं करिष्यति।

भवान् अद्य कुत्र भोजनं करिष्यति?

Notice also that the word order in Sanskrit is similar to most other Indian languages, but the English word order is quite different. So here again, we have a head start.

भवान् अद्य कुत्र भोजनं करिष्यति?
आप आज कहाँ भोजन करेंगे?
ನೀವು ಇವತ್ತು ಎಲ್ಲಿ ಊಟ ಮಾಡುತ್ತೀರಿ?
You today where lunch will have?

Vocabulary is another area where we cannot be considered beginners. Most major Indian languages have borrowed or inherited a large number of words from Sanskrit. Sometimes they may be disguised, for example இதயம்-हृदयम्, खेत-क्षेत्रम्, ಹಕ್ಕಿ-पक्षी, پروسنا-परिवेषणम्, ਵੇਖਨਾ-वीक्षणम्. In fact words borrowed from Sanskrit serve to bring Indian languages closer to each other. As a learner of Kannada, I can understand Kannada news on TV better than Kannada movie dialogues because of the higher Sanskrit content.

I mentioned transparent etymology earlier. That’s another factor that makes learning Sanskrit words easier. Most words in other languages are independent entries in our mental dictionaries, but in Sanskrit because of its more transparent etymology, with a little practice you can often guess the meaning of an unfamiliar word by breaking it down. Once you identify that the root of the word वार्द्धक्यम् is वृध्, you know that it has something to do with growing.

To put my arguments to test, do come to the closing function and see for yourself with how little effort you are able to follow and enjoy the speeches, songs and short plays that will be presented by the “beginner” students. If you go back not believing that ‘Sanskrit is a difficult language to learn’ then the efforts of the instructor and the students would have paid off. Dr Ramanujam from C-DAC will be the chief guest and he will speak on learning Sanskrit using modern technology.