Posted on 06/09/2013

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David Crystal
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Samskrata ~ Sanskrit

Samskrata ~ Sanskrit

Evidence of a common origin for groups of languages was readily available in Europe, in that French, Spanish, Italian, and other Romance languages were clearly descended from Latin – which in this case is known to have existed. The same reasoning was applied to larger groups of languages, and by the beginning of the 19th century there was convincing evidence to support the hypothesis that there was once a language from which many of the languages of Eurasia have derived. In 1786 William Jones (1746-94), a British Orientalist and jurist, gave a presidential address to the Bengal Asiatic Society. It contained the following observation, generally quoted as the first clear statement asserting the existence of this earlier language, now generally referred to as Proto-Indo-European:

“The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs, and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly been produced by accident: so strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists”

The resemblances between European languages and Sanskrit, the oldest-attested language of the Indian subcontinent, had been noted as early as the 16th century, but the explanation advocated was that Sanskrit was the parent of the European languages. During the 19th century, the procedures of ‘comparative philology’ validated the common-source hypothesis beyond question. Minutely detailed investigation of all the major European languages, and several of their dialects, were carried out by such scholars as Franz Bopp, Jakob Grimm, and August Schleicher, and their work established Germany as the centre of comparative philology. ~ Pages 364/365
5 years ago.