Prakrit's evolution/relation with Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit

Oct 2015
582
India
#31
It is difficult to related Sanskrit with Prakrits. They are like two streams flowing in parallel to each other and we don't know whether one is tributary of other at some point of time in their journey. One reasons is that we have a longer history of Sanskrit (Proto-European onward) but much shorter of Prakrits (from time of Mahaveer & Buddha).

Sanskrit:

Sanskrit has two main divisions - Vedic and Classical. The dividing line is somewhere around c. 300 BCE when Panini lived. All Sanskrit compositions prior to Panini are classified as "Vedic Sanskrit" and those which follow his rules of grammar as "Classical Sanskrit".

Thus Vedic Sanskrit thus existed from at least 1500 BCE till c. 300 BCE. But it was not a static language in those 1200 years. It kept evolving. Witzel discerns five layers of Vedic Sanskrit but finally for sake of simplicity he accepts three layers as identified by Mylius (1970):

"In conclusion, following Mylius (1970), I divide the various texts into 3 broad layers: Old Vedic, (Rgveda), Middle Vedic, (Mantra texts, Yajurveda Samhitås, Bråhmanas, old Upanishads), and Late Vedic (Sūtras)" [1]

Classical Sanskrit, begins with Panini's Grammar (Ashta-adhyayi). Classical Sanskrit, in contrast to Vedic Sanskrit, was a static language from around 300 BCE till 1200 CE when its usage declined due to loss of political patronage. There was no change in grammar rules in these 1500 years since Panini's grammar was followed, though other changes like vocabulary occurred.

In short, we have the evolutionary framework of Sanskrit over 2700 years (1500 BCE - 1200 CE). Now how do Prakrits, which are known for relatively shorter period, fit in to it?

Prakrits:

First thing to note is that Prakrit is not a single language but a group of languages. It is the common name given by ancient Indian linguists to spoken languages of their time. These were all spoken Indo-Aryan languages.

Phase-1:

We do not know anything about the Prakrit(s) that existed parallel to first 1000 years (1500-1000 BCE) of Vedic Sanskrit.

Phase-2:

The oldest Prakrits known / preserved are from c. 500 BCE. We have Ardha-Magadhi language in which Mahaveer preached his teachings on Jainism. We have is Pali language in which Buddha preached Buddhism. Teachings of these two religions are preserved till date in respective Prakrits. Moreover, there are grammars of these Prakrit languages, so they were formal languages - similar to but different from Sanskrit. These two Prakrits existed in pre-Panini days and should have existed at same time as' Middle Vedic' Sanskrit.

Phase-3:

Pali language was also used in Emperor Ashoka's inscriptions around c. 250 BCE. This is the time writing began to be used and it encoded Pali (not Sanskrit). Inscriptions in Sanskrit began 3 to 4 centuries later.

Phase-4:

Some texts of Prakrit languages are preserved within texts of subsequent Sanskrit dramas. The three most important ones are Shauraseni, Magadhi, and Maharashtri languages. In Sanskrit dramas there were conventions on using different languages. Learned Brahmins & Kings spoke Classical Sanskrit. Shauraseni was spoken by "the heroine and her female friends", and Avanti was spoken by "cheats and rogues." The use of Prakrit languages by lower-ranking people suggests that these were languages of daily use. These three Prakrit languages should have been parallel with Classical Sanskrit after Panini.

Conclusion:

Thus we see that Sanskrit and Prakrit co-existed in parallel. There is no eviddence to suggest that one "evolved" from the other.

1500-500 BCE: We know only about existence of Vedic Sanskrit.

500-300 BCE: Vedic Sanskrit (possibly Middle Vedic) co-existed with at least two Prakrit languages - Ardha-Magadhi and Pali. These Prakrit languages had works composed in them as well as had grammars.

300 BCE onward: Classical Sanskrit co-existed with at least three more Prakrit languages - Shauraseni, Magadhi, and Maharashtri. In due course of time many more languages developed which are also classified as Prakrit.

Not discussed here: Was Sanskrit ever a spoken language? Technically yes. Because Vedic Sanskrit in Samhitas was sung at Yajnas and prose in Bramnanas recited. Moreover, Classical Sanskrit dramas were enacted in Courts of Kings.

Long & sounds complicated? Yes it is.

References:

[1] Witzel, M., Early Indian history: Linguistic and textual parameters, 2001, 1997a, 257-345

[2] Prakrit - Wikipedia

[3] Dramatic Prakrit - Wikipedia

[4] Prakrit languages
 

Aatreya

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
2,984
USA
#32
It is difficult to related Sanskrit with Prakrits. They are like two streams flowing in parallel to each other and we don't know whether one is tributary of other at some point of time in their journey. One reasons is that we have a longer history of Sanskrit (Proto-European onward) but much shorter of Prakrits (from time of Mahaveer & Buddha).

Sanskrit:

Sanskrit has two main divisions - Vedic and Classical. The dividing line is somewhere around c. 300 BCE when Panini lived. All Sanskrit compositions prior to Panini are classified as "Vedic Sanskrit" and those which follow his rules of grammar as "Classical Sanskrit".

Thus Vedic Sanskrit thus existed from at least 1500 BCE till c. 300 BCE. But it was not a static language in those 1200 years. It kept evolving. Witzel discerns five layers of Vedic Sanskrit but finally for sake of simplicity he accepts three layers as identified by Mylius (1970):

"In conclusion, following Mylius (1970), I divide the various texts into 3 broad layers: Old Vedic, (Rgveda), Middle Vedic, (Mantra texts, Yajurveda Samhitås, Bråhmanas, old Upanishads), and Late Vedic (Sūtras)" [1]

Classical Sanskrit, begins with Panini's Grammar (Ashta-adhyayi). Classical Sanskrit, in contrast to Vedic Sanskrit, was a static language from around 300 BCE till 1200 CE when its usage declined due to loss of political patronage. There was no change in grammar rules in these 1500 years since Panini's grammar was followed, though other changes like vocabulary occurred.

In short, we have the evolutionary framework of Sanskrit over 2700 years (1500 BCE - 1200 CE). Now how do Prakrits, which are known for relatively shorter period, fit in to it?

Prakrits:

First thing to note is that Prakrit is not a single language but a group of languages. It is the common name given by ancient Indian linguists to spoken languages of their time. These were all spoken Indo-Aryan languages.

Phase-1:

We do not know anything about the Prakrit(s) that existed parallel to first 1000 years (1500-1000 BCE) of Vedic Sanskrit.

Phase-2:

The oldest Prakrits known / preserved are from c. 500 BCE. We have Ardha-Magadhi language in which Mahaveer preached his teachings on Jainism. We have is Pali language in which Buddha preached Buddhism. Teachings of these two religions are preserved till date in respective Prakrits. Moreover, there are grammars of these Prakrit languages, so they were formal languages - similar to but different from Sanskrit. These two Prakrits existed in pre-Panini days and should have existed at same time as' Middle Vedic' Sanskrit.

Phase-3:

Pali language was also used in Emperor Ashoka's inscriptions around c. 250 BCE. This is the time writing began to be used and it encoded Pali (not Sanskrit). Inscriptions in Sanskrit began 3 to 4 centuries later.

Phase-4:

Some texts of Prakrit languages are preserved within texts of subsequent Sanskrit dramas. The three most important ones are Shauraseni, Magadhi, and Maharashtri languages. In Sanskrit dramas there were conventions on using different languages. Learned Brahmins & Kings spoke Classical Sanskrit. Shauraseni was spoken by "the heroine and her female friends", and Avanti was spoken by "cheats and rogues." The use of Prakrit languages by lower-ranking people suggests that these were languages of daily use. These three Prakrit languages should have been parallel with Classical Sanskrit after Panini.

Conclusion:

Thus we see that Sanskrit and Prakrit co-existed in parallel. There is no eviddence to suggest that one "evolved" from the other.

1500-500 BCE: We know only about existence of Vedic Sanskrit.

500-300 BCE: Vedic Sanskrit (possibly Middle Vedic) co-existed with at least two Prakrit languages - Ardha-Magadhi and Pali. These Prakrit languages had works composed in them as well as had grammars.

300 BCE onward: Classical Sanskrit co-existed with at least three more Prakrit languages - Shauraseni, Magadhi, and Maharashtri. In due course of time many more languages developed which are also classified as Prakrit.

Not discussed here: Was Sanskrit ever a spoken language? Technically yes. Because Vedic Sanskrit in Samhitas was sung at Yajnas and prose in Bramnanas recited. Moreover, Classical Sanskrit dramas were enacted in Courts of Kings.

Long & sounds complicated? Yes it is.

References:

[1] Witzel, M., Early Indian history: Linguistic and textual parameters, 2001, 1997a, 257-345

[2] Prakrit - Wikipedia

[3] Dramatic Prakrit - Wikipedia

[4] Prakrit languages

What a flawed logic! Just because you do not have evidence for existence or non-existence of Prakrit when Vedic language existed, does not automatically make it co-exist with Vedic language (it could have but those dates and guesses do not make any conclusive evidence).

One has to examine the way words are formed and then decide which is ancient and which has evolved from the other.
 
Oct 2015
582
India
#33
What a flawed logic! Just because you do not have evidence for existence or non-existence of Prakrit when Vedic language existed, does not automatically make it co-exist with Vedic language (it could have but those dates and guesses do not make any conclusive evidence).

One has to examine the way words are formed and then decide which is ancient and which has evolved from the other.
Dear Aatreya,

please post your logic (way words are formed) and elaborate which is ancient and which evolved from which.

If you have already posted somewhere else, please be good enough to post the link here.

regards

Rajeev
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
6,532
#34
The Sanskrit word Dharma has its root in "Dhr" meaning "that which houses" or "that which protects". The evolution of the word Dharma from that root seems obvious for you see that the sound "ar" is present. See what happens when the word becomes "Dhamma", the sound "arma" is reduced to "amma". How is it possible for Prakrit and Sanskrit to be siblings? It is very obvious (for people who can see and understand) that Sanskrit is the older form.

It does not matter what an intellectually impoverished Wendy Doniger says about this.

Then why are the oldest writings in India not Sanskrit, but Prakrit? This is exactly the opposite of what we find in the far better historically documented case of Latin and the post Latin based languages.
The use of Sanskrit does not show up in the written records until after other languages. This is not at all what we would expect, we have historical documentation thst show how a daily languages evolves from one language evolves into another, and Sanskrit and Prakrit relationship doesn't conform to this.

Your arguments don't justify your claims. Alternative explanations are equally valid. People can create entire languages for special purposes. There are more speakers of Klingon many Native North American language, yet Klingon was never the daily speech of any one. There is nothing in what you say that disproves the idea that Sanskrit was originally a special language of priest and shaman. Indeed, the very grammatical complexity of Sanskrit argues against it being a daily language. The trend of Indo-European languages had been a simplification in grammar - Latin is not as complex as proto IE, and French and other modern Latin derived languages are grammatically simpler. The archaic and complex grammatical structure of Sanskrit is best explained by its not being a daily spoken language, or at least, not s daily spoken language for a very long time, before the time of Ashoka.

If Prakit did evolve from Sanskrit, then it did so long before the reappearance of writing, well before the time of Ashoka, otherwise we would see a lot more use of Sanskrit by Ashoka than we do. Many more of Ashoka's Edicts would have been in Sanskrit than we have. I have never seen the case where a daughter language was being used side by side with the original language, except for special restricted religious communities, like the Vatican's use of Latin along with modern Italian.
 
Oct 2015
582
India
#35
Following hypothesis on connection between Prakrit & Sanskrit seems plausible:

1. There was a common Proto-Indo-Iranian spoken language.

2. Some of the hymns of Rig Ved Samhita and Zend Avesta were composed in the above language (because a few hymns with similar pronunciation and meter are found in both).

3. Proto Indo-Iranian separated into (gave birth to) two sister languages - Indic and Iranian.

4. The above Indic is the Original / First Prakrit. With expansion of Indo-Aryans, over period of centuries, it divided and gave birth to many spoken languages or Prakrits.

5. In order to preserve the exact words and their pronunciation of Vedic hymns & other religious compositions - rather than allow change with (get corrupted) due to evolution of Original/First Prakrit - "Sanskrit" as a language was created by Brahmin linguistic scholars.

Thus Sanskrit was a standardized language created out of an Original / First Prakrit to preserve the pronunciation etc of religious hymns.

6. Standardization meant creation of four branches of knowledge. [1] These four are

Shiksha (śikṣā): phonetics, phonology, pronunciation.
[ii] Chandas (chandas): prosody.
[iii] Vyakarana (vyākaraṇa): grammar and linguistic analysis.
[iv] Nirukta (nirukta): etymology, explanation of words, particularly those that are archaic and have ancient uses with unclear meaning.

These four are part of six Vedangas (Auxiliaries of Vedas) essential to understanding the Vedas. The remaining two parts of Vedangas are not connected with language. The two are:

[v] Kalpa (kalpa): ritual instructions.
[vi] Jyotisha (jyotiṣa): Auspicious time for rituals, astrology and astronomy.


6. Over period of time the Sankrit was also revised but in a controlled evolution.


7. The final revision of Sanskrit language happened based on Panini's "Astha-adhyayi" around c. 300 BCE. He laid down 3990 rules of language.

Subsequently, Katyayana composed a "Vartika" on Panini's work. Still later Patanjali composed 'Maha-bhashya' on works of Panini & Katyayana.

All composer of Sanskrit works began following the rules laid down by these three and thus 'Classical Sanskrit' was created.

8. There were several experts on language before Panini who laid down language rules on Sanskrit thus resulting in controlled evolution. They can form the subject of another post.

References:

[1] Vedanga - Wikipedia

[2] Sanskrit grammar - Wikipedia

[3] Sanskrit - Wikipedia:
 
Oct 2015
582
India
#36
Then why are the oldest writings in India not Sanskrit, but Prakrit? This is exactly the opposite of what we find in the far better historically documented case of Latin and the post Latin based languages.
Hi Bart,

The Indo-Aryans were 'anti-writing' if I may call them so. The transmission of Sanskrit was oral from Guru to Shishya (Teacher to Disciple). Even today (5th Nov 2018), the correct form of Rig Ved Samhita is the recited form, not the written one. The recitation has certain way of pronunciation and singing.

Coming to writing. Pali is found in some inscriptions of Ashoka (c. 250 BCE) but those are about 30-40 stones. Oldest Sanskrit inscription is by king Rudradaman-I (Indo-Scythian who adopted Hinduism) dated to c. 150 CE. [1]

While writing is available in a few inscriptions and in few coins as well, but the practice of writing down religion texts was simply not there in Hinduism as well as Buddhism.

Chinese Traveler Faxian: He came to India from China in c. 400 CE. In his travel account he has recorded that written text of Buddhist religious compositions were very rare. He wanted to carry such manuscript back.

Islamic scholar Alberuni: He came to India in c. 1000 CE. In his memoirs he has recorded that Vedas have been transmitted orally and were reduced to writing only "recently" in Kashmir because people have become "lazy" and avoid the hard-work involved in committing texts to memory.

Thus the cultural practices found in Europe and India were diametrically opposite. Perhaps, writing should not form the basis of of concluding which was earlier - Prakrit or Sanskrit. I do agree with your final conclusion that there was a Prakrit language which was standardized to create Sanskrit language.




[1] Rudradaman I - Wikipedia
 

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
4,352
New Delhi, India
#37
The Indo-Aryans were 'anti-writing' if I may call them so. The transmission of Sanskrit was oral from Guru to Shishya (Teacher to Disciple). Even today (5th Nov 2018), the correct form of Rig Ved Samhita is the recited form, not the written one. The recitation has certain way of pronunciation and singing.
I would not say that. The simple answer is that they were basically herders and did not know any script, so transferred their lore orally. When the initial migration took place, the indigenous people liked Sanskrit and adopted it, speaking it as best as they could do and mixing it with their own words. Later the Pundits/scholars arrived with Vedic Sanskrit. Sure, they were very particular about pronunciation. Panini attempted to harmonize/standardize the Vedic Sanskrit and Prakrit, and I should say succeeded nicely, and came up with modern Sanskrit. Later, the scholarly use of Prakrits declined and Jains and Buddhists too wrote and discoursed in Sanskrit.
 
Sep 2015
375
Sri Lanka
#38
I would not say that. The simple answer is that they were basically herders and did not know any script, so transferred their lore orally. When the initial migration took place, the indigenous people liked Sanskrit and adopted it, speaking it as best as they could do and mixing it with their own words. Later the Pundits/scholars arrived with Vedic Sanskrit. Sure, they were very particular about pronunciation. Panini attempted to harmonize/standardize the Vedic Sanskrit and Prakrit, and I should say succeeded nicely, and came up with modern Sanskrit. Later, the scholarly use of Prakrits declined and Jains and Buddhists too wrote and discoursed in Sanskrit.
What are you saying Aup Ji? After initial migration of Indo-Aryans the Indigenous people liked " Sanskrit" so much and started speaking it mixing with their own language ! ?? Prakrit vernaculars ---Then came the Pundits/Scholars with the Vedic Sanskrit with the particular pronunciation---Later Panini standardized Sanskrit and Prakrit into classic Sanskrit :rolleyes:

If i got it wrong , then where do Prakrit dialects come in relation to Vedic or Classic Sanskrit ??
 
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Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
4,352
New Delhi, India
#39
I am just giving my view. Prakrits have huge similarities in vocabulary and grammar with Sanskrit. They would not have arisen without contact with some form of Sanskrit. You are welcome to comment on my views.
 
Sep 2015
375
Sri Lanka
#40
I am just giving my view. Prakrits have huge similarities in vocabulary and grammar with Sanskrit. They would not have arisen without contact with some form of Sanskrit. You are welcome to comment on my views.
I don't know neither Sanskrit nor any Prakrit languages-hence I have no opinion of my own--But from what i have gathered over the years from Singhala Buddhists are that the Prakrit and Sanskrit both belong to the same family of Indo--Aryan languages but Sanskrit is the language of the Brahmins [ Priests] who used it only for Vedic Rituals never written down at first .But only spoken among themselves like a "code Language" ! ---Prakrit was a literary Language with its various other Dialects. They were spoken daily as a vernacular by the common lay people of Indo-Aryans who lived in the entire North India until 13th century ! However Some dialects are completely died out Eg Paisaci
When the Buddha and Mahavira "revolted " against the Vedic Rituals and Cast Hierarchy Etc---Vedic Brahmins decided to put Sanskrit Language into writing to edge out Buddhism and Jainism -Hence the beginning of the evolution of "Classical Sanskrit" which was completed during Gupta Period -- During the Mayuran kingdom especially under King Asoka Buddhism/Jainism and Prakrit languages was riding high with the royal patronage and protection ---After the Assassination of the last king of their Kingdom ---All the Buddhist Monks and Jains Archaryas came down to South India [ Andra/Kannada/ TN /Kerala] to spread their Religions by building several Temples/Viharas and Publishing many literary works in South Indian local languages and at the same time there was Invasion by Indo--Greeks who were ardent Buddhists during Sunga Dynasty! I am afraid There is no reliable "Source" for this information anywhere in History books like many Genocides really happened all over the world :)
 
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