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Sanskrit (; , Sanskrit: संस्कृतम्) is a language of ancient India with a documented oral and later written history of over 3,000 years. It is the primary of ; the predominant language of most works of as well as some of the principal texts of and . Sanskrit, in its various variants and dialects, was the of . In the early 1st millennium CE, along with and , Sanskrit migrated to , parts of

(2018). 9789004184916, BRILL Academic. .
(1992). 9788170172895, Abhinav Publications. .
and , emerging as a language of and of local ruling elites in these regions.

Sanskrit is an Old Indo-Aryan language. As one of the oldest documented members of the Indo-European family of languages, Sanskrit holds a prominent position in Indo-European studies. It is related to Greek and Latin, as well as , , and many other extinct languages with historical significance to Europe, West Asia and Central Asia. It traces its linguistic ancestry to the Proto-Indo-Aryan language, Proto-Indo-Iranian and the Proto-Indo-European languages.

Sanskrit is traceable to the 2nd millennium BCE in a form known as the , with the as the earliest surviving text. A more refined and an exact grammatical form called the Classical Sanskrit emerged in mid-1st millennium BCE with the Aṣṭādhyāyī treatise of Pāṇini. Sanskrit, though not necessarily Classical Sanskrit, is the root language of many Prakrit languages.

(1986). 9788120801899, Motilal Banarsidass. .
, Quote:"If in 'Sanskrit' we include the Vedic language and all dialects of the Old Indian period, then it is true to say that all the Prakrits are derived from Sanskrit. If on the other hand 'Sanskrit' is used more strictly of the Panini-Patanjali language or 'Classical Sanskrit,' then it is untrue to say that any Prakrit is derived from Sanskrit, except that Sauraseni, the Midland Prakrit, is derived from the Old Indian dialect of the Madhyadesa on which Classical Sanskrit was mainly based." Examples include numerous modern daughter Northern Indian subcontinental languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi and Nepali.
(2018). 9783110863116, Walter De Gruyter. .
(2018). 9781137519610, Palgrave Macmillan UK. .
(2018). 9780822981022, University of Pittsburgh Press. .

The body of Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of and texts, as well as , , , scientific, technical and . In the ancient era, Sanskrit compositions were by methods of memorisation of exceptional complexity, rigour and fidelity. The earliest known inscriptions in Sanskrit are from the 1st-century BCE, such as the few discovered in and Ghosundi-Hathibada (Chittorgarh). Sanskrit texts dated to the 1st millennium CE were written in the , the Nāgarī script, the historic South Indian scripts and their derivative scripts.

(2018). 9783447045049, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. .
(2018). 9781135797119, Routledge. .
Pārameśvaratantra (MS Add.1049.1) with images , Puṣkarapārameśvaratantra, University of Cambridge (2015), Quote: "One of the oldest known dated Sanskrit manuscripts from South Asia, this specimen transmits a substantial portion of the Pārameśvaratantra, a scripture of the Śaiva Siddhānta, one of the Tantric theological schools that taught the worship of Śiva as "Supreme Lord" (the literal meaning of Parameśvara). ... According to the colophon, it was copied in the year 252, which some scholars judge to be of the era established by the Nepalese king Aṃśuvarman (also known as Mānadeva), therefore corresponding to 828 CE." - a Palm Leaf manuscript at the Cambridge University Library in Late Gupta in black ink, MS Add.1049.1 Sanskrit is one of the 22 languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. It continues to be widely used as a ceremonial and ritual language in Hinduism and some Buddhist practices such as and .

Etymology and nomenclature
The Sanskrit verbal adjective is a compound word consisting of sams (together, good, well, perfected) and krta- (made, formed, work). It connotes a work that has been "well prepared, pure and perfect, polished, sacred".
(2018). 9788120831056, Motilal Banarsidass. .
According to Biderman, the perfection contextually being referred to in the etymological origins of the word is its tonal qualities, rather than semantic. Sound and oral transmission were highly valued quality in ancient India, and its sages refined the alphabet, the structure of words and its exacting grammar into a "collection of sounds, a kind of sublime musical mold", states Biderman, as an integral language they called Sanskrit. From late Vedic period onwards, state Annette Wilke and Oliver Moebus, resonating sound and its musical foundations attracted an "exceptionally large amount of linguistic, philosophical and religious literature" in India. The sound was visualized as "pervading all creation", another representation of the world itself, the "mysterious magnum" of the Hindu thought. The search for perfection in thought and of salvation was one of the dimensions of sacred sound, and the common thread to weave all ideas and inspirations became the quest for what the ancient Indians believed to be a perfect language, the "phonocentric episteme" of Sanskrit.
(2018). 9783110240030, Walter de Gruyter. .

Sanskrit as a language competed with numerous less exact vernacular Indian languages called Prakritic languages ( ). The term prakrta literally means "original, natural, normal, artless", states Franklin Southworth. The relationship between Prakrit and Sanskrit is found in the Indian texts dated to the 1st millennium CE. Patanjali acknowledged that Prakrit is the first language, one instinctively adopted by every child with all its imperfections and later leads to the problems of interpretation and misunderstanding. The purifying structure of the Sanskrit language removes these imperfections. The early Sanskrit grammarian Dandin states, for example, that much in the Prakrit languages is etymologically rooted in Sanskrit but involve "loss of sounds" and corruptions that result from a "disregard of the grammar". Dandin acknowledged that there are words and confusing structures in Prakrit that thrive independent of Sanskrit. This view is found in the writing of Bharata Muni, the author of the ancient text. The early Jain scholar Namisadhu acknowledged the difference, but disagreed that the Prakrit language was a corruption of Sanskrit. Namisadhu stated that the Prakrit language was the purvam (came before, origin) and they came naturally to women and children, that Sanskrit was a refinement of the Prakrit through a "purification by grammar".

(2018). 9783110261288, Walter De Gruyter. .


Origin and development
Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. It is one of the three ancient documented languages that likely arose from a common root language now referred to as the Proto-Indo-European language:
(2018). 9781134921874, Routledge. .
  • (c. 1500 – 500 BCE).
  • (c. 1450 BCE) and (c. 750 – 400 BC). Mycenaean Greek is the older recorded form of Greek, but the limited material that has survived has a highly ambiguous writing system. More important to the Indo-European studies is Ancient Greek, documented extensively beginning with the two (the and the , c. 750 BC).
  • (c. 1750 – 1200 BCE). This is the earliest-recorded of all Indo-European languages, distinguishable into Old Hittite, Middle Hittite and Neo-Hittite. It is divergent from the others likely due to its early separation. Discovered on clay tablets of central Turkey in cuneiform script, it possesses some highly archaic features found only fragmentarily, if at all, in other languages. At the same time, however, it appears to have undergone a large number of early phonological and grammatical changes along with the ambiguities of its writing system.

Other Indo-European languages related to Sanskrit include archaic and classical (c. 600 BCE – 100 CE, old Italian), (archaic Germanic language, c. 350 CE), (c. 200 CE and after), (c. late 2nd millennium BCE

(2011). 9781441122360, Bloomsbury Publishing. .
) and (c. 900 BCE).
(2018). 9783110461756, De Gruyter. .
The closest ancient relatives of Vedic Sanskrit in the Indo-European languages are the Nuristani language found in the remote region of the northeastern Afghanistan and northwestern Himalayas,
(1999). 9788120814073, Motilal Banarsidass. .
as well as the extinct and – both Iranian languages.
(2018). 9781317887638, Routledge. .

Colonial era scholars familiar with Latin and Greek were struck by the resemblance of the Sanskrit language, both its vocabulary and grammar, to the classical languages of Europe. It suggested a common root and historical links between some of the major distant ancient languages of the world. William Jones remarked:

In order to explain the common features shared by Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages, the Indo-Aryan migration theory states that the original speakers of what became Sanskrit arrived in the Indian subcontinent from the north-west sometime during the early second millennium BCE. Evidence for such a theory includes the close relationship between the Indo-Iranian tongues and the and , vocabulary exchange with the non-Indo-European , and the nature of the attested Indo-European words for flora and fauna. The pre-history of Indo-Aryan languages which preceded Vedic Sanskrit is unclear and various hypotheses place it over a fairly wide limit. According to Thomas Burrow, based on the relationship between various Indo-European languages, the origin of all these languages may possibly be in what is now Central or Eastern Europe, while the Indo-Iranian group possibly arose in Central Russia. The Iranian and Indo-Aryan branches separated quite early. It is the Indo-Aryan branch that moved into eastern Iran and the south into the Indian subcontinent in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE. Once in ancient India, the Indo-Aryan language underwent rapid linguistic change and morphed into the Vedic Sanskrit language.

Vedic Sanskrit
The pre-Classical form of Sanskrit is known as . The earliest attested Sanskrit text is the , a Hindu scripture, from the mid-to-late second millennium BCE. No written records from such an early period survive if they ever existed. However, scholars are confident that the oral transmission of the texts is reliable: they were ceremonial literature where the exact phonetic expression and its preservation were a part of the historic tradition.
(2018). 9783110174335, Walter de Gruyter. .
(1993). 9788120811003, Motilal Banarsidass Publishe. .

The Rigveda is a collection of books, created by multiple authors from distant parts of ancient India. These authors represented different generations, and the mandalas 2 to 7 are the oldest while the mandalas 1 and 10 are relatively the youngest. Yet, the Vedic Sanskrit in these books of the Rigveda "hardly presents any dialectical diversity", states – an Indologist known for his scholarship of the Sanskrit literature and the Rigveda in particular. According to Renou, this implies that the Vedic Sanskrit language had a "set linguistic pattern" by the second half of the 2nd-millennium BCE. Beyond the Rigveda, the ancient literature in Vedic Sanskrit that has survived into the modern age include the Samaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda along with the embedded and layered Vedic texts such as the , and the early . These Vedic documents reflect the dialects of Sanskrit found in the various parts of the northwestern, northern and eastern Indian subcontinent.

Vedic Sanskrit was both a spoken and literary language of ancient India. According to Michael Witzel, Vedic Sanskrit was a spoken language of the semi-nomadic Aryas who temporarily settled in one place, maintained cattle herds, practiced limited agriculture and after some time moved by wagon train they called grama. The Vedic Sanskrit language or a closely related Indo-European variant was recognized beyond ancient India as evidenced by the " Treaty" between the ancient Hittite and Mitanni people, carved into a rock, in a region that are now parts of Syria and Turkey.

(2018). 9781317636960, Taylor & Francis. .
Parts of this treaty such as the names of the Mitannian princes and technical terms related to horse training, for reasons not understood, are in early forms of Vedic Sanskrit. The treaty also invokes the gods Varuna, Mitra, Indra and Nasatya found in the earliest layers of the Vedic literature.
(2018). 9780500771952, Thames & Hudson. .

The Vedic Sanskrit found in the Rigveda is distinctly more archaic than other Vedic texts, and in many respects, the Rigvedic language is notably more similar to those found in the archaic texts of Old Avestan Gathas and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.

(2018). 9780198701361, Oxford University Press. .
According to Stephanie W. Jamison and Joel P. Brereton – Indologists known for their translation of the Rigveda, the Vedic Sanskrit literature "clearly inherited" from Indo-Iranian and Indo-European times, the social structures such as the role of the poet and the priests, the patronage economy, the phrasal equations and some of the poetic meters. While there are similarities, state Jamison and Brereton, there are also differences between Vedic Sanskrit, the Old Avestan, and the Mycenaean Greek literature. For example, unlike the Sanskrit similes in the Rigveda, the Old Avestan Gathas lack simile entirely, and it is rare in the later version of the language. The Homerian Greek, like Rigvedic Sanskrit, deploys simile extensively, but they are structurally very different.

Classical Sanskrit
The early Vedic form of the Sanskrit language was far less homogenous, and it evolved over time into a more structured and homogeneous language, ultimately into the Classical Sanskrit by about the mid-1st-millennium BCE. According to Richard Gombrich – an Indologist and a scholar of Sanskrit Pāli and Buddhist Studies, the archaic Vedic Sanskrit found in the Rigveda had already evolved in the Vedic period, as evidenced in the later Vedic literature. The language in the early Upanishads of Hinduism and the late Vedic literature approaches Classical Sanskrit, while the archaic Vedic Sanskrit had by the 's time become unintelligible to all except ancient Indian sages, states Gombrich.
(2018). 9781134903528, Routledge. .

The formalization of the Sanskrit language is credited to , along with Patanjali's Mahabhasya and Katyayana's commentary that preceded Patanjali's work.

(2018). 9783642001543, Springer. .
Panini composed ("Eight-Chapter Grammar"). The century in which he lived is unclear and debated, but his work is generally accepted to be from sometime between 6th and 4th centuries BCE., Quote: "Ashtadhyayi, Sanskrit Aṣṭādhyāyī (“Eight Chapters”), Sanskrit treatise on grammar written in the 6th to 5th century BCE by the Indian grammarian Panini." (1965), Euclid and Pāṇini, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Apr., 1965), pp. 99-116

The was not the first description of Sanskrit grammar, but it is the earliest that has survived in full. Pāṇini cites ten scholars on the phonological and grammatical aspects of the Sanskrit language before him, as well as the variants in the usage of Sanskrit in different regions of India. The ten Vedic scholars he quotes are Apisali, , Gargya, Galava, Cakravarmana, , Sakatayana, Sakalya, Senaka and Sphotayana.

(1989). 9788120805217, Motilal Banarsidass. .
The of Panini became the foundation of Vyākaraṇa, a . In the , language is observed in a manner that has no parallel among Greek or Latin grammarians. Pāṇini's grammar, according to Renou and Filliozat, defines the linguistic expression and a classic that set the standard for the Sanskrit language.Louis Renou & Jean Filliozat. L'Inde Classique, manuel des etudes indiennes, vol.II pp.86–90, École française d'Extrême-Orient, 1953, reprinted 2000. . Pāṇini made use of a technical metalanguage consisting of a syntax, morphology and lexicon. This metalanguage is organised according to a series of meta-rules, some of which are explicitly stated while others can be deduced.Angot, Michel. L'Inde Classique, pp.213–215. Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 2001.

Pāṇini's comprehensive and scientific theory of grammar is conventionally taken to mark the start of Classical Sanskrit.

(2018). 9789027272157, John Benjamins Publishing Company. .
His systematic treatise inspired and made Sanskrit the preeminent Indian language of learning and literature for two millennia.
(2018). 9780231500043, Columbia University Press. .
It is unclear whether Pāṇini wrote his treatise on Sanskrit language or he orally created the detailed and sophisticated treatise then transmitted it through his students. Modern scholarship generally accepts that he knew of a form of writing, based on references to words such as ("script") and lipikara ("scribe") in section 3.2 of the Aṣṭādhyāyī.
(1998). 9780195356663, Oxford University Press. .
(2018). 9781402081927, Springer. .

The Classical Sanskrit language formalized by Panini, states Renou, is "not an impoverished language", rather it is "a controlled and a restrained language from which archaisms and unnecessary formal alternatives were excluded". The Classical form of the language simplified the sandhi rules but retained various aspects of the Vedic language, while adding rigor and flexibilities, so that it had sufficient means to express thoughts as well as being "capable of responding to the future increasing demands of an infinitely diversified literature", according to Renou. Panini included numerous "optional rules" beyond the Vedic Sanskrit's bahulam framework, to respect liberty and creativity so that individual writers separated by geography or time would have the choice to express facts and their views in their own way, where tradition followed competitive forms of the Sanskrit language.

The phonetic differences between Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit are negligible when compared to the intense change that must have occurred in the pre-Vedic period between Indo-Aryan language and the Vedic Sanskrit. The noticeable differences between the Vedic and the Classical Sanskrit include the much-expanded grammar and grammatical categories as well as the differences in the accent, the semantics and the syntax. There are also some differences between how some of the nouns and verbs end, as well as the sandhi rules, both internal and external. Quite many words found in the early Vedic Sanskrit language are never found in late Vedic Sanskrit or Classical Sanskrit literature, while some words have different and new meanings in Classical Sanskrit when contextually compared to the early Vedic Sanskrit literature.

was among the early colonial era scholars who summarized some of the differences between the Vedic and Classical Sanskrit.

(1997). 9788120805057, Motilal Banarsidass. .
Louis Renou published in 1956, in French, a more extensive discussion of the similarities, the differences and the evolution of the Vedic Sanskrit within the Vedic period and then to the Classical Sanskrit along with his views on the history. This work has been translated by Jagbans Balbir.

Sanskrit and Prakrit languages
Sanskrit co-existed with numerous other Prakrit languages of ancient India. The Prakrit languages of India also have ancient roots and some Sanskrit scholars have called these Apabhramsa, literally "spoiled".
(1986). 9788120801899, Motilal Banarsidass. .
(1978). 9789004057418, Brill Academic. .
The Vedic literature includes words whose phonetic equivalent are not found in other Indo European languages but which are found in the regional Prakrit languages, which makes it likely that the interaction, the sharing of words and ideas began early in the Indian history. As the Indian thought diversified and challenged earlier beliefs of Hinduism, particularly in the form of Buddhism and Jainism, the Prakrit languages such as Pali in Buddhism and Ardhamagadhi in Jainism competed with Sanskrit in the ancient times.
(1987). 9788120800274, Motilal Banarsidass. .
(1981). 9780700710683, Psychology Press. .
, Quote: "Pali is known mainly as the language of Theravada Buddhism. (...) Very little is known about its origin. We do not know where it was spoken or if it originally was a spoken language at all. The ancient Ceylonese tradition says that the Buddha himself spoke Magadhi and that this language was identical to Pali."
(2018). 9780415266062, Routledge. .
However, states – a scholar of Jainism, these ancient Prakrit languages had "roughly the same relationship to Sanskrit as medieval Italian does to Latin." The Indian tradition states that the Buddha and the Mahavira preferred Prakrit language so that everyone could understand it. However, scholars such as Dundas have questioned this hypothesis. They state that there is no evidence for this and whatever evidence is available suggests that by the start of the common era, hardly anybody other than learned monks had the capacity to understand the old Prakrit languages such as Ardhamagadhi.
Colonial era scholars questioned whether Sanskrit was ever a spoken language, or was it only a literary language? Scholars disagree in their answers. A section of Western scholars state that Sanskrit was never a spoken language, while others and particularly most Indian scholars state the opposite.
(1987). 9788120800274, Motilal Banarsidass. .
Those who affirm Sanskrit to have been a vernacular language point to the necessity of Sanskrit being a spoken language for the that preserved the vast number of Sanskrit manuscripts from ancient India. Secondly, they state that the textual evidence in the works of Yaksa, Panini and Patanajali affirms that the Classical Sanskrit in their era was a language that is spoken ( bhasha) by the cultured and educated. Some expound upon the variant forms of spoken Sanskrit versus written Sanskrit. The 7th-century Chinese Buddhist pilgrim mentioned in his memoir that official philosophical debates in India were held in Sanskrit, not in the vernacular language of that region.

According to Sanskrit linguist Madhav Deshpande, Sanskrit was a spoken language in a colloquial form by the mid 1st millennium BCE which coexisted with a more formal, grammatical correct form of literary Sanskrit. This, states Deshpande, is true for modern languages where colloquial incorrect approximations and dialects of a language are spoken and understood, along with more refined, sophisticated and grammatically accurate forms of the same language being found in the literary works. The Indian tradition, states , has favored the learning and the usage of multiple languages from the ancient times. Sanskrit was a spoken language in the educated and the elite classes, but it was also a language that must have been understood in a more wider circle of society because the widely popular folk epics and stories such as the , the , the , the and many other texts are all in the Sanskrit language.

(1996). 9788120802643, Motilal Banarsidass. .
The Classical Sanskrit with its exacting grammar was thus the language of the Indian scholars and the educated classes, while others communicated with approximate or ungrammatical variants of it as well as other natural Indian languages. Sanskrit, as the learned language of Ancient India, thus existed alongside the vernacular Prakrits. Many indicate that the language coexisted with the vernacular Prakrits. Centres in , , and were centers of classical Sanskrit learning and public debates until the arrival of the colonial era.

According to Étienne Lamotte – an Indologist and Buddhism scholar, Sanskrit became the dominant literary and inscriptional language because of its precision in communication. It was, states Lamotte, an ideal instrument for presenting ideas and as knowledge in Sanskrit multiplied so did its spread and influence.Etinne Lamotte (1976), Histoire du buddhisme indien, des origines à l'ère saka, Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 21 (3):539-541, Louvain-la-Neuve: Université de Louvain, Institut orientaliste Sanskrit was adopted voluntarily as a vehicle of high culture, arts, and profound ideas. Pollock disagrees with Lamotte, but concurs that Sanskrit's influence grew into what he terms as "Sanskrit Cosmopolis" over a region that included all of South Asia and much of southeast Asia. The Sanskrit language cosmopolis thrived beyond India between 300 and 1300 CE.

(1996). 9789004106130, E.J. Brill.

Sanskrit has been the predominant language of encompassing a rich tradition of and texts, as well as , , , scientific, technical and others.
(1987). 9788120800274, Motilal Banarsidass. .
It is the predominant language of one of the largest collection of historic manuscripts. The earliest known inscriptions in Sanskrit are from the 1st-century BCE, such as the Ayodhya Inscription of Dhana and Ghosundi-Hathibada (Chittorgarh).

Though developed and nurtured by scholars of orthodox schools of Hinduism, Sanskrit has been the language for some of the key literary works and theology of heterodox schools of Indian philosophies such as Buddhism and Jainism. The structure and capabilities of the Classical Sanskrit language launched ancient Indian speculations about "the nature and function of language", what is the relationship between words and their meanings in the context of a community of speakers, whether this relationship is objective or subjective, discovered or is created, how individuals learn and relate to the world around them through language, and about the limits of language? They speculated on the role of language, the ontological status of painting word-images through sound, and the need for rules so that it can serve as a means for a community of speakers, separated by geography or time, to share and understand profound ideas from each other.Madhav Deshpande (2010), Language and Testimony in Classical Indian Philosophy, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Source Link These speculations became particularly important to the and the schools of Hindu philosophy, and later to Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism, states – a scholar of Linguistics with a focus on Indian philosophies and Sanskrit.

(1976). 9783110058185, Walter de Gruyter. .
Though written in a number of different scripts, the dominant language of Hindu texts has been Sanskrit. It or a hybrid form of Sanskrit became the preferred language of Mahayana Buddhism scholarship. One of the early and influential Buddhist philosopher (~200 CE), for example, used Classical Sanskrit as the language for his texts.
(1996). 9789004106130, BRILL Academic. .
According to Renou, Sanskrit had a limited role in the Theravada tradition (formerly known as the Hinayana) but the Prakrit works that have survived are of doubtful authenticity. Some of the canonical fragments of the early Buddhist traditions, discovered in the 20th-century, suggest the early Buddhist traditions did use of imperfect and reasonably good Sanskrit, sometimes with a Pali syntax, states Renou. The Mahāsāṃghika and Mahavastu, in their late Hinayana forms, used hybrid Sanskrit for their literature. Sanskrit was also the language of some of the oldest surviving, authoritative and much followed philosophical works of Jainism such as the Tattvartha Sutra by .
(2018). 9780199775071, Oxford University Press. .

The Sanskrit language has been one of the major means for the transmission of knowledge and ideas in Asian history. Indian texts in Sanskrit were already in China by 402 CE, carried by the influential Buddhist pilgrim who translated them into Chinese by 418 CE. , another Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, learnt Sanskrit in India and carried 657 Sanskrit texts to China in the 7th-century where he established a major center of learning and language translation under the patronage of Emperor Taizong.
(2018). 9781440835513, ABC-CLIO. .
(2018). 9781441185044, Bloomsbury Publishing. .
By the early 1st millennium CE, Sanskrit had spread Buddhist and Hindu ideas to , parts of the and the . It was accepted as a language of high culture and the preferred language by some of the local ruling elites in these regions. According to the , the Sanskrit language is a parent language that is at the foundation of many modern languages of India and the one that promoted Indian thought to other distant countries. In Tibetan Buddhism, states the Dalai Lama, Sanskrit language has been a revered one and called legjar lhai-ka or "elegant language of the gods". It has been the means of transmitting the "profound wisdom of Buddhist philosophy" to Tibet.

The Sanskrit language created a pan-Indic accessibility to information and knowledge in the ancient and medieval times, in contrast to the Prakrit languages which were understood just regionally. It created a cultural bond across the subcontinent. As local languages and dialects evolved and diversified, Sanskrit served as the common language. It connected scholars from distant parts of the Indian subcontinent such as Tamil Nadu and Kashmir, states Deshpande, as well as those from different fields of studies, though there must have been differences in its pronunciation given the first language of the respective speakers. The Sanskrit language brought Indic people together, particularly its elite scholars. Some of these scholars of Indian history regionally produced vernacularized Sanskrit to reach wider audiences, as evidenced by texts discovered in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. Once the audience became familiar with the easier to understand vernacularized version of Sanskrit, those interested could graduate from colloquial Sanskrit to the more advanced Classical Sanskrit. Rituals and the rites-of-passage ceremonies have been and continue to be the other occasions where a wide spectrum of people hear Sanskrit, and occasionally join in to speak some Sanskrit words such as "namah".

Classical Sanskrit is the standard register as laid out in the grammar of , around the fourth century BCE.

(1996). 9789004106130, E.J. Brill.
Its position in the cultures of is akin to that of and in Europe. Sanskrit has significantly influenced most modern languages of the Indian subcontinent, particularly the languages of the northern, western, central and eastern Indian subcontinent.

Sanskrit declined starting about and after the 13th-century. This coincides with the beginning of Islamic invasions of the Indian subcontinent to create, thereafter expand the Muslim rule in the form of Sultanates and later the Mughal Empire. With the fall of Kashmir around the 13th-century, a premier center of Sanskrit literary creativity, Sanskrit literature there disappeared, perhaps in the "fires that periodically engulfed the capital of Kashmir" or the "Mongol invasion of 1320" states Sheldon Pollock. The Sanskrit literature which was once widely disseminated out of the northwest regions of the subcontinent, stopped after the 12th-century. As Hindu kingdoms fell in the eastern and the South India, such as the great Vijayanagara Empire, so did Sanskrit. There were exceptions and short periods of imperial support for Sanskrit, mostly concentrated during the reign of the tolerant Mughal emperor .
(2018). 9780231540971, Columbia University Press. .
Muslim rulers patronized the Middle Eastern language and scripts found in Persia and Arabia, and the Indians linguistically adapted to this Persianization to gain employment with the Muslim rulers. Hindu rulers such as Shivaji of the , reversed the process, by re-adopting Sanskrit and re-asserting their socio-linguistic identity.
(1993). 9788120811362, Motilal Banarsidass. .
(1981). 9783447021296, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. .
(2018). 9788170103608, Hemkunt Press. .
After Islamic rule disintegrated in the Indian subcontinent and the colonial rule era began, Sanskrit re-emerged but in the form of a "ghostly existence" in regions such as Bengal. This decline was the result of "political institutions and civic ethos" that did not support the historic Sanskrit literary culture.

Scholars are divided on whether or when Sanskrit died. Western authors such as John Snelling state that Sanskrit and Pali are both dead Indian languages.

(1991). 9780892813193, Inner Traditions. .
Indian authors such as M Ramakrishnan Nair state that Sanskrit was a dead language by the 1st millennium BCE. states that in some crucial way, "Sanskrit is ". After the 12th-century, the Sanskrit literary works were reduced to "reinscription and restatements" of ideas already explored, and any creativity was restricted to hymns and verses. This contrasted with the previous 1,500 years when "great experiments in moral and aesthetic imagination" marked the Indian scholarship using Classical Sanskrit, states Pollock.

Other scholars state that Sanskrit language did not die, only declined. Hanneder disagrees with Pollock, finding his arguments elegant but "often arbitrary". According to Hanneder, a decline or regional absence of creative and innovative literature constitutes a negative evidence to Pollock's hypothesis, but it is not positive evidence. A closer look at Sanskrit in the Indian history after the 12th-century suggests that Sanskrit survived despite the odds. According to Hanneder,

The Sanskrit language, states , was never a dead language and it is still alive though its prevalence is lesser than ancient and medieval times. Sanskrit remains an integral part of Hindu journals, festivals, Ramlila plays, drama, rituals and the rites-of-passage.

(1996). 9788120802643, Motilal Banarsidass. .
Similarly, Brian Hatcher states that the "metaphors of historical rupture" by Pollock are not valid, that there is ample proof that Sanskrit was very much alive in the narrow confines of surviving Hindu kingdoms between the 13th and 18th-century, and its reverence and tradition continues.

Hanneder states that modern works in Sanskrit are either ignored or their "modernity" contested. According to Robert Goldman and Sally Sutherland, Sanskrit is neither "dead" nor "living" in the conventional sense. It is a special, timeless language that lives in the numerous manuscripts, daily chants and ceremonial recitations, a heritage language that Indians contextually prize and some practice.

When the British introduced English to India in the 19th century, knowledge of Sanskrit and ancient literature continued to flourish as the study of Sanskrit changed from a more traditional style into a form of analytical and comparative scholarship mirroring that of Europe.

(2018). 9780822341055, Duke University Press. .

Modern Indic languages
The relationship of Sanskrit to the Prakrit languages, particularly the modern form of Indian languages, is complex and spans about 3,500 years, states – a linguist specializing in South Asian languages. A part of the difficulty is the lack of sufficient textual, archaeological and epigraphical evidence for the ancient Prakrit languages with rare exceptions such as Pali, leading to a tendency of errors. Sanskrit and Prakrit languages may be divided into Old Indo-Aryan (1500 BCE-600 BCE), Middle Indo-Aryan (600 BCE-1000 CE) and New Indo-Aryan (1000 CE-current), each can further be subdivided in early, middle or second, and late evolutionary substages.

Vedic Sanskrit belongs to the early Old Indo-Aryan while Classical Sanskrit to the later Old Indo-Aryan stage. The evidence for Prakrits such as Pali (Theravada Buddhism) and Ardhamagadhi (Jainism), along with Magadhi, Maharashtri, Sinhala, Sauraseni and Niya (Gandhari), emerge in the Middle Indo-Aryan stage in two versions – archaic and more formalized – that may be placed in early and middle substages of the 600 BCE-1000 CE period. Two literary Indic languages can be traced to the late Middle Indo-Aryan stage and these are Apabhramsa and Elu (a form of literary Sinhalese). Numerous North, Central, Eastern and Western Indian languages, such as Hindi, Gujarati, Sindhi, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Nepali, Braj, Awadhi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Marathi, and others belong to the New Indo-Aryan stage.

There is an extensive overlap in the vocabulary, phonetics and other aspects of these New Indo-Aryan languages with Sanskrit, but it is neither universal nor identical across the languages. They likely emerged from a synthesis of the ancient Sanskrit language traditions and an admixture of various regional dialects. Each language has some unique and regionally creative aspects, with unclear origins. Prakrit languages do have a grammatical structure, but like the Vedic Sanskrit, it is far less rigorous than Classical Sanskrit. The roots of all Prakrit languages may be in the Vedic Sanskrit and ultimately the Indo-Aryan language, their structural details vary from the Classical Sanskrit. It is generally accepted by scholars and widely believed in India that the modern , such as Punjabi, Hindustani, Gujarati and Bengali, are descendants of the Sanskrit language.

(2018). 9781135455224, Routledge. .
Sanskrit, states Burjor Avari, can be described as "the mother language of almost all the languages of north India".
(2018). 9781317236733, Routledge. .

Geographic distribution
The Sanskrit language's historic presence is attested across a wide geography beyond the Indian subcontinent. Inscriptions and literary evidence suggests that Sanskrit language was already being adopted in Southeast Asia and Central Asia in the 1st-millennium CE, through monks, religious pilgrims and merchants.
(1996). 9789004106130, BRILL Academic. .
(2018). 9780199856336, Oxford University Press. .

The Indian subcontinent has been the geographic range of the largest collection of the ancient and pre-18th century Sanskrit manuscripts and inscriptions. Beyond ancient India, significant collections of Sanskrit manuscripts and inscriptions have been found in China (particularly the Tibetan monasteries),

(2018). 9780520273863, University of California Press. .
(1994). 9789004098398, BRILL. .
Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. Sanskrit inscriptions, manuscripts or its remnants, including some of the oldest known Sanskrit written texts, have been discovered in dry high deserts and mountainous terrains such as in Nepal,
(2018). 9781136787164, Routledge. .
(2018). 9780199887750, Oxford University Press. .
Tibet, Afghanistan,
(2018). 9780199775071, Oxford University Press. .
Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan.
(2018). 9788842217558, U. Allemandi. .
Some Sanskrit texts and inscriptions have also been discovered in Korea and Japan.
(2018). 9781139488808, Cambridge University Press. .
(2018). 9780226518060, University of Chicago Press. .

Contemporary distribution
Sanskrit is a studied school subject, but scarcely spoken in contemporary India. In the 2001 Census of India, 14,135 Indians (one out of every 72,800 people) reported Sanskrit to be their . In the 2011 census, 24,821 people reported Sanskrit to be their first language. 10,000 More Sanskrit Speakers in India in 2011 Census, News18 India, July 15 2018

According to the 2011 national census of , 1,669 people use Sanskrit as their first language.

However, investigation has failed to confirm any of these claims.

Official status
In , Sanskrit is among the 22 official languages of India in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. The state of in India lists Sanskrit as its second official language.

Sanskrit shares many Proto-Indo-European language family features. The consonantal system is the same, though it systematically enlarged the inventory of distinct sounds. For example, Sanskrit added a voiceless aspirated "Th", to the voiceless "T", voiced "D" and voiced aspirated "Dh" found in PIE languages.

The most significant and distinctive phonological development in Sanskrit is vowel-merger, states Stephanie Jamison – an Indo-European linguist specializing in Sanskrit literature. The short ∗e, ∗o and *a, all merge as "a" (अ) in Sanskrit, while long ∗ē, ∗ō and *ā, all merge as long "ā" (आ). These mergers occurred very early and significantly impacted Sanskrit's morphological system. Some phonological developments in it mirror those in other PIE languages. For example, the labiovelars merged with the plain velars as in other satem languages. However, the secondary palatalization of the resulting segments is more thorough and systematic within Sanskrit, states Jamison. A series of retroflex dental stops were innovated in Sanskrit to more thoroughly articulate sounds for clarity. For example, unlike the loss of the morphological clarity from vowel contraction that is found in early Greek and related southeast European languages, Sanskrit deployed ∗y, ∗w, and ∗s intervocalically to provide morphological clarity.

The cardinal vowels ( svaras) i (इ), u (उ), a (अ) distinguish length in Sanskrit, states Jamison. The short a (अ) in Sanskrit is a closer vowel than ā, equivalent to schwa. The mid vowels ē (ए) and ō (ओ) in Sanskrit are monophthongizations of the Indo-Iranian diphthongs ∗ai and ∗au. The Old Iranian language preserved *ai and ∗au. In contrast, in Sanskrit, they are inherently long. The vocalic liquid *r̥ in Sanskrit is a merger of PIE ∗r̥ and ∗l̥. The long r̥ is an innovation and it is used in a few analogically generated morphological categories.

+Sanskrit vowels in the Devanagari script
(note: Sanskrit is written in many scripts)
Sounds in grey are not phonemic.

According to Masica, Sanskrit has four traditional semivowels, with which were classed, "for morphophonemic reasons, the liquids: y, r, l, and v; that is, as y and v were the non-syllabics corresponding to i, u, so were r, l in relation to r̥ and l̥". The northwestern, the central and the eastern Sanskrit dialects have had a historic confusion between "r" and "l". The Paninian system that followed the central dialect preserved the distinction, likely out of reverence for the Vedic Sanskrit that distinguished the "r" and "l". However, the northwestern dialect only had "r", while the eastern dialect probably only had "l", states Masica. Thus literary works from different parts of ancient India appear inconsistent in their use of "r" and "l", resulting in doublets that is occasionally semantically differentiated.

Sanskrit possesses a symmetric consonantal phoneme structure based on how the sound is articulated, though the actual usage of these sounds conceals the lack of parallelism in the apparent symmetry possibly from historical changes within the language. The glides and liquids regularly alternate with vowels in Sanskrit, for example, i ≈ y; u ≈ v (w); r̥ ≈ r ; l̥ ≈ l, states Jamison.

+Sanskrit consonants in the Devanagari script
(note: Sanskrit is written in many scripts)
Consonants in grey are not phonemic.

Sanskrit had a series of retroflex stops. All the retroflexes in Sanskrit are in "origin conditioned alternants of dentals, though from the beginning of the language they have a qualified independence", states Jamison.

The palatals are affricates in Sanskrit, not stops. The palatal nasal is a conditioned variant of n occurring next to palatal obstruents. The anusvara that Sanskrit deploys is a conditioned alternant of postvocalic nasals, under certain sandhi conditions. Its visarga is a word-final or morpheme-final conditioned alternant of s and r under certain sandhi conditions.

The voiceless aspirated series is also an innovation in Sanskrit but is significantly rarer than the other three series.

While Panini invented and organized sounds for expression beyond those found in the PIE language, Sanskrit retained many features found in the Iranian and Balto-Slavic languages. An example of a similar process in all three, states Jamison, is the retroflex sibilant .s being the automatic product of dental s following i, u, r, and k (mnemonically “ruki”).

Phonological alternations, sandhi rules
Sanskrit deploys extensive phonological alternations on different linguistic levels through sandhi rules (literally, the rules of "putting together, union, connection, alliance"). This is similar to the English alteration of "going to" as gonna, states Jamison. The Sanskrit language accepts such alterations within it, but offers formal rules for the sandhi of any two words next to each other in the same sentence or linking two sentences. The external sandhi rules state that similar short vowels coalesce into a single long vowel, while dissimilar vowels form glides or undergo diphthongization. Among the consonants, most external sandhi rules recommend regressive assimilation for clarity when they are voiced. According to Jamison, these rules ordinarily apply at compound seams and morpheme boundaries. In Vedic Sanskrit, the external sandhi rules are more variable than in Classical Sanskrit.

The internal sandhi rules are more intricate and account for the root and the canonical structure of the Sanskrit word. These rules anticipate what are now known as the Bartholomae's law and Grassmann's law. For example, states Jamison, the "voiceless, voiced, and voiced aspirated obstruents of a positional series regularly alternate with each other (p ≈ b ≈ bh; t ≈ d ≈ dh, etc.; note, however, c ≈ j ≈ h), such that, for example, a morpheme with an underlying voiced aspirate final may show alternants with all three stops under differing internal sandhi conditions". The velar series (k, g, gh) alternate with the palatal series (c, j, h), while the structural position of the palatal series is modified into a retroflex cluster when followed by dental. This rule create two morphophonemically distinct series from a single palatal series.

Vocalic alternations in the Sanskrit morphological system is termed "strengthening", and called guna and vriddhi in the preconsonantal versions. There is an equivalence to terms deployed in Indo-European descriptive grammars, wherein Sanskrit's unstrengthened state is same as the zero-grade, guna corresponds to normal-grade, while vriddhi is same as the lengthened-state. The qualitative ablaut is not found in Sanskrit just like it is absent in Iranian, but Sanskrit retains quantitative ablaut through vowel strengthening. The transformations between unstrengthened to guna is prominent in the morphological system, states Jamison, while vriddhi is a particularly significant rule when adjectives of origin and appurtenance are derived. The manner in which this is done slightly differs between the Vedic and the Classical Sanskrit.

Sanskrit grants a very flexible syllable structure, where they may begin or end with vowels, be single consonants or clusters. Similarly, the syllable may have an internal vowel of any weight. The Vedic Sanskrit shows traces of following the Sievers-Edgerton Law, but Classical Sanskrit doesn't. Vedic Sanskrit has a pitch accent system, states Jamison, which were acknowledged by Panini, but in his Classical Sanskrit the accents disappear. Most Vedic Sanskrit words have one accent. However, this accent is not phonologically predictable, states Jamison. It can fall anywhere in the word and its position often conveys morphological and syntactic information. According to Masica, the presence of an accent system in Vedic Sanskrit is evidenced from the markings in the Vedic texts. This is important because of Sanskrit's connection to the PIE languages and comparative Indo-European linguistics.

Sanskrit, like most early Indo-European languages, lost the so-called "laryngeal consonants (cover-symbol ∗H) present in the Proto-Indo-European", states Jamison. This significantly impacted the evolutionary path of the Sanskrit phonology and morphology, particularly in the variant forms of roots.

The basis of Sanskrit morphology is the root, states Jamison, "a morpheme bearing lexical meaning". The verbal and nominal stems of Sanskrit words are derived from this root through the phonological vowel-gradation processes, the addition of affixes, verbal and nominal stems. It then adds an ending to establish the grammatical and syntactic identity of the stem. According to Jamison, the "three major formal elements of the morphology are (i) root, (ii) affix, and (iii) ending; and they are roughly responsible for (i) lexical meaning, (ii) derivation, and (iii) inflection respectively".

A Sanskrit word has the following canonical structure:

Root + Affix + Ending

The root structure has certain phonological constraints. Two of the most important constraints of a "root" is that it does not end in a short "a" (अ) and that it is monosyllabic. In contrast, the affixes and endings commonly do. The affixes in Sanskrit are almost always suffixes, with exceptions such as the augment "a-" added as prefix to past tense verb forms and the "-na/n-" infix in single verbal present class, states Jamison.

A verb in Sanskrit has the following canonical structure:

Root + Suffix + Suffix + Ending

According to Ruppel, verbs in Sanskrit express the same information as other Indo-European languages such as English. Sanskrit verbs describe an action or occurrence or state, its embedded morphology informs as to "who is doing it" (person or persons), "when it is done" (tense) and "how it is done" (mood, voice). The Indo-European languages differ in the detail. For example, the Sanskrit language attaches the affixes and ending to the verb root, while the English language adds small independent words before the verb. In Sanskrit, these elements co-exist within the word.

(2018). 9781107088283, Cambridge University Press. .

+Word morphology in Sanskrit, A. M. Ruppel
you carrybharasiभरन्ति
you will carrybhariṣyasi