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History of Lingustics in India

  • Date Submitted: 08/21/2010 12:43 AM
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Linguistics as a study endeavors to describe and explain the human faculty of language.

In ancient civilization, linguistic study was originally motivated by the correct description of classical liturgical language, notably that of Sanskrit grammar by Pāṇini (fl. 4th century BC), or by the development of logic and rhetoric among Greeks. Beginning around the 4th century BC, China also developed its own grammatical traditions and Arabic grammar and Hebrew grammar developed during the Middle Ages.

Modern linguistics began to develop in the 18th century, reaching the "golden age of philology" in the 19th century. The first half of the 20th century was marked by the structuralist school, based on the work of Ferdinand de Saussure in Europe and Edward Sapir and Leonard Bloomfield in the United States. The 1960s saw the rise of many new fields in linguistics, such as Noam Chomsky's generative grammar, William Labov's sociolinguistics and also modern psycholinguistics.


Linguistics in ancient India derives its impetus from the need to correctly recite and interpret the Vedic texts. Already in the oldest Indian text, the Rigveda, vāk ("speech") is deified. By 1200 BCE,[1]   the oral performance of these texts becomes standardized, and treatises on ritual recitation suggest splitting up the Sanskrit compounds into words, stems, and phonetic units, providing an impetus for morphology and phonetics. Over the next few centuries, clarity was reached in the organization of sound units, and the stop consonants were organized in a 5x5 square (c. 800 BCE, Pratisakhyas), eventually leading to a systematic alphabet, Brāhmī, around the 6th century BCE.

In semantics, the early Sanskrit grammarian Śākaṭāyana (before c. 500 BCE) proposes that verbs represent ontologically prior categories, and that all nouns are etymologically derived from actions. The etymologist Yāska (c. 5th century BCE?) posits that meaning inheres in the sentence, and that word meanings are derived...


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