Classical Greek vs. Sanskrit

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Re: Classical Greek vs. Sanskrit

Post by Scribo » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:40 am

jdhomrighausen wrote:I have not studied Sanskrit, but given my interest in Buddhism it'll be on the radar at some point. Is the Sanskrit of Indian Buddhist texts (aka "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit") much different from the Sanskrit of the Vedas or other ancient Hindu texts? Easier or harder?
It depends on how difficult you find linguistic differences to be honest. The material itself is certainly easier than the Vedas, but then to be fair there is very little poetry which comes near them. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit (BHSkr) isn't that different from Classical all said and done, and when it differs it tends to do so along the same lines as Pali, which is the main language you're going to want to learn for Buddhist stuff anyway.
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Re: Classical Greek vs. Sanskrit

Post by Taracandra » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:56 am

Thank you for the clarifications Scribo. It is always wonderful to have a critique.

The Vedic people actually referred to themselves as "the people of the sapta sindhu", or seven rivers. Sindhu being a generic term for 'river', rather than the Indus river specifically. But a great diasphora had occured by the time of Alexander, so it is doubtful that the people would have still used that reference to a river system.

In India, the label for Panini's language period is called "late Vedic", but one might better say "very late Vedic". That is to say; from rig veda through brahmanas and 'Upanishadic', up to including the sutras. Panini mentions his concern that the ancient forms of the language, Rig Veda, were no longer understandable by most people... people most likely not referring to the 'common folk' who always spoke, we presume, Prakṛts. That is his justification for attempting to 'freeze' the language, which was indeed accomplished, but created a stilted, artificial form of it now called 'classical'. Panini mentions the word 'yauvana', which we use to firm up a date for him, but it can mean also simply 'youthful' or 'youth'.

The Aśokan pillars use two scripts: 1) Kharoṣṭhi, a Greek-Aramaic hybrid, probably trade language, that was in use for about six hundred years in a vast area to the west and north of India, which shows every evidence of coming from Aramaic. 2) Brahmī, an indiginous script that is increasingly favored to be from the Indus Valley Ideograms. This is a hotly debated issue, but recent satellite imagery has located the ¨Sapta Sindu River System¨ between India and Pakistan flowing into the ocean at the ¨Ran of Kutch¨, which is mostly in Gujarat. The central river of this culture was the ´Sarasvatī´, which ceased to flow about five thousand years ago, and has been located by shorelines in satellite imagery. This is good science, and about 1200 habitation sites have been located along the dry river banks. The official Indian government position is that the Sarasvatī river has been located leaving the Himalaya just above Candigarh in the Punjab. The Goddess Sarasvatī, mythologically, was married to the creator aspect Brahma, thus her name in Sanskrit would have been Brahmī, to mean ´wife of´, but could have meant also ´daughter of´. My personal theory, since no one else agrees with me, is that ´Brahmī´ script refers to the Vedic culture of the Sarasvati river... the ´Sarasvatī Script´ if you will. This all has vast implications concerning the ¨Aryan Invasion¨ theory, which has stood now for a few centuries, but in India it is overwhelmingly rejected. I seriously doubt that there was no written language and every detail of the entire Vedic tradition was simply memorized, which is an established position amongst scholars in India, and left alone atleast by those of use on the outside.

Concerning the word ´mḷeccha´, it most directly defines ¨a language incomprehensible to the Arya¨, but of course includes the people along with it as ¨those who do not perform the Vedic rituals¨. One might presume that the common soldiers of Alexander´s army were indeed very ´mḷecch worthy´, if they were like most of the modern soldiers that we now experience. Of note: Many Greek soldiers deserted, being far from home, and ran off into the mountains to settle, making a life with local women, and leaving a generous contribution to the local genepool, as well as culture. One can see this even today in, for example, the costumes of Swat Valley people, or their very Greek appearance.

What I find most maddening about ancient India is the absolute lack of a sense of history. We must mostly use Greek, and later Chinese sources, and hope to glean out a date from that source. Any mention of an Indian person of note, allows us to establish a terminal date, which is like finding a ruby in the earth. The word in Sanskrit for history is ´itihasa´, which comes close to meaning ¨Once upon a time¨.

And thank you again, Scribo, for the kind welcome. I do hope to establish ´common ground´ between Sanskrit and Greek, as well as Latin, at the level of ´roots´, which I consider ¨not verb, nor noun, nor both, nor not both¨, and would hope to use the most abstract grammatical form in Indo-European to describe. More on that will surely come along. Hopefully, my proper use of Greek words will also improve.

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Re: Classical Greek vs. Sanskrit

Post by Taracandra » Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:57 pm

"jdhomrighausen wrote:
I have not studied Sanskrit, but given my interest in Buddhism it'll be on the radar at some point. Is the Sanskrit of Indian Buddhist texts (aka "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit") much different from the Sanskrit of the Vedas or other ancient Hindu texts? Easier or harder?"

Acārya Śāntarakṣita was an esteemed professor at Nalanda University, as also a minor prince from a small kingdom in what is now Bengal. His sister had married Padmasambhava ̧another professor at Nalanda, and a rather notorious character. The king of Tibet had a request of Śāntarakṣita, that he might introduce Buddhism into Tibet. At first attempt this was roundly defeated by the local shamans, called Bonpo, and Śantarakṣita retreated to Nepal for safety. A second plan ensued to send Padmasambhava to Tibet for the establishment of Buddhism on more esoteric foundations. With this being successful, Śantarakṣita returned, and Buddhism was established in Tibet. A variation called Vajrayana Mahayana Buddhism was introduced. The full teachings of Nalanda and other universities, in Sanskrit, were translated into Tibetan, and indeed are mostly the only sample of these texts to now exist, excluding a collection in nepalese Nevari Sanskrit. This monumental event took place in the year 748 and onward for a few generations. This is all terribly simplified, but the key point is to introduce a sample of Buddhist Sanskrit.

So, here is first a sample of a text from Śantarakṣita, transposed into Roman script, but keeping the full use of Brahmi, which serves no useful purpose but to make life difficult for the reader.

Tattvasiddhiḥ

etasmin vajramahāyāne ye kecid anupacita­kuśala­vāsanāsantānāḥ,samāropita bhāvabhāvanāḥ,svavikalpānilapreyamāṇa­matayaḥ,sakala­kalikālakalaṅkapaṅkapaṭala­ malīmasa­mānasāḥ,asamadhigata­ saṁsārasāgarataraṇopāyāḥ,svavikalpānalpasaṅkalpitadhiyaḥ,viṣamagranthisthānadainyapat itāḥ,durbodhagrahāveśavaśākulitacetaso'nupāsitācāryāḥ,paramārthabhāvanopadeśarahitāḥ,ś rīmanmahāsukhavajrasattvatvam,analpakalpāsaṁkhyenāpi mārgāntareṇādhigamyaṁ vajrayānopāyayuktānām ihaiva janmani anāyāsasādhyasthira­sarvabhāva [svabhāvam],anādinidha[na]m,anālayam,akhilasattvasantānaṁ,svasaṁvedyasvabhāvam,ma hāpuṇyahetum,adhigamalakṣaṇaṁ,tadupāyabhū(taṁ)ca mahāvajrayānaṁ samastayānottamamāgamaṁ lakṣaṇaṁ na pratipadyante,teṣām ajñānatimirapaṭalavinivṛttaye yuktyāgamābhyām abhidhīyate kiñcit ||

·

And again with full sandhi, but some seperation for clarity. Compound words marked but seperated, and consonants not clustered together, as happens in various Indic scripts.

Tattvasiddhiḥ

etasmin vajra.mahāyāne ye kecid anupacita.kuśala.vāsanā.santānāḥ, samāropita bhāva.bhāvanāḥ,svavikalpā.nila.preya.māṇa-matayaḥ,sakala-kalikāla.kalaṅka.paṅka.paṭala-malīmasa-mānasāḥ,asamadhigata-saṁsāra.sāgara.taraṇa.upāyāḥ,svavikalpān alpa.saṅkalpita.dhiyaḥ,viṣama.granthi.sthā.nadainya patitāḥ,durbodha.grahā.veśa.vaśā.kulita cetasas anupāsitācāryāḥ, paramārtha.bhāvana upadeśarahitāḥ, śrīman.mahāsukha.vajrasattva tvam, analpa.kalpā.saṁkhyena api mārga.antareṇa adhigamyaṁ vajrayāna.upāya.yuktānām iha eva janmani anāyāsa.sādhya.sthira-sarva.bhāva [svabhāvam], anādi.nidha[na]m, anālayam, akhila.sattva.santānaṁ, svasaṁvedya.svabhāvam, mahāpuṇyahetum, adhigama.lakṣaṇaṁ, tad upāyabhū(taṁ) ca mahāvajrayānaṁ samastaya.anuttamam āgamaṁ lakṣaṇaṁ na pratipadyante, teṣām ajñā.nati.mira.paṭala.vini.vṛttaye yuktya āgamābhyām abhidhīyate kiñcit ||

·

If we want to have full clarity, but take a larger amount of space, which is an irrelevant concept in the digital format, we have:

Tattvasiddhi:

etasmin vajramahāyāne ye kecit anupacita kuśala·vāsanā·santānās,

samāropita bhāva·bhāvanās,

svavikalpā·nila·preyamāṇa-matayas,

sakala·kalikālaka·laṅka·paṅka·paṭala-malīmasa-mānasās,

asamadhi·gata-saṁsāra·sāgara·taraṇa͡·upāyās,

svavikalpāt alpa·saṅkalpita dhiyas,

viṣama·granthi·sthā nadainya patitās,

durbodha·grahā·veśa·vaśā·kulita·cetasas anupāsita acāryās,

param·ārtha·bhāvanā ͡·upadeśa·rahitās,

śrīmat mahāsukha vajrasattva tvam,

analpa·kalpā·saṁkhyena api mārga͡ antareṇa adhigamyam vajrayāna͡·upāya·yuktānām iha iva janmani anāyāsa·sādhya·sthira-sarva·bhāva [svabhāvam],

anādinidha[na]m,

anālayam,

akhila·sattva·santānam,

svasamvedya·svabhāvam,

mahā·puṇya·hetum,

adhigama·lakṣaṇam,

tat upāya·bhū(taṁ) ca mahā vajrayānam samastayāna͡·uttamam āgamam lakṣaṇam na pratipadyante,

teṣām ajñānatimira·paṭala·vinivṛttaye yuktyā gamābhyām abhidhīyate kiñcit ||

What we see here is over a thousand years after Panini and his grammar. Please observe the extensive use of compound words. Something Panini did not anticipate, and which eventually will choke Sanskrit into incomprehensability. Śāntarakṣita was a logician and an excellent teacher of Sanskrit. Buddhism moved out of the Prakṛt languages over some centuries at an earlier stage than we see here. The process was slow and at first very prakṛtik, but that is not to say it was a unique form of Sanskrit. Our sample here is quite mature, showing only some double consonants, which was the style of Sanskrit in the 8th century.

My hope is that this will inspire you to pursue your Buddhistic studies. Vast amounts of old texts are already translated, by the way, and you can be quite busy with those for a long time. It is said that Pali can be learned in two weeks if one knows Sanskrit already, as it simply is learning rules of transposing letters. I can not attest to this fact, but it is also claimed of prehomeric Greek and Vedic. Lets see!

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Re: Classical Greek vs. Sanskrit

Post by Markos » Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:35 pm

Taracandra wrote:
It is said that Pali can be learned in two weeks if one knows Sanskrit already, as it simply is learning rules of transposing letters. I can not attest to this fact, but it is also claimed of prehomeric Greek and Vedic.
χαῖρε τε καί Namaste!

Since the only extant pre-Homeric Greek is linear-B, I question this claim. It would take one more than two weeks, I would think, to learn the syllabary and the ideograms.

It's a nice thought, though.

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Re: Classical Greek vs. Sanskrit

Post by Scribo » Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:45 pm

Markos wrote:Taracandra wrote:
It is said that Pali can be learned in two weeks if one knows Sanskrit already, as it simply is learning rules of transposing letters. I can not attest to this fact, but it is also claimed of prehomeric Greek and Vedic.
χαῖρε τε καί Namaste!

Since the only extant pre-Homeric Greek is linear-B, I question this claim. It would take one more than two weeks, I would think, to learn the syllabary and the ideograms.

It's a nice thought, though.
Yep. Well, I mean there are reconstructable archaisms in Homer which are post Mycenaean but still old, but that's not the same. I don't know if it took me much longer than two weeks, but it was hardly easy to master the syllabary since they looked A LOT different on paper than in actual physical form. As to what degree we know Linear B Greek....well the corpus is studied increasing less by philologists and more by archaeologists. I'm not going to comment on their work. I'm going to smile, weep, and hug my Homer OCTs close...don't worry Homer...one day....one day the bad people will stop hurting you....one day...

And it certainly takes longer than two weeks to learn Pali. One can read bits straight away in places but hardly "read". The phonological contractions a lone are a bitch, at least the vocabulary is slightly easier in most places. The usual program is a term or so on grammar and phonology and the rest of the year on reading.

I'll answer the other stuff on Sanskrit later since it's so huge.
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Re: Classical Greek vs. Sanskrit

Post by cristianovalois » Tue Oct 08, 2013 8:51 pm

I think the best thing you can do for yourself before digging into Greek or Sanskrit is learning the sandhi looks. Greek laws for vocalic encounters are quite simple and they save enormous time and energy when you begin studying verbs or declensions: you will notice that the apparent irregularities and different paradigms can be easily be understood as application of those rules, therefore, instead of learning several tables of consonant or vowel rooted stemmed verbs and nouns, you will only have the trouble of "assimilating" one or two sets of endings (I don't even say memorizing, because you will simply get used to them with practice). As for Sanskrit, it may be putting-off taking a look at those unending and seemingly arbitrary rules but, unless you are willing to memorize at least three stems for each verb and noun, do yourself a favor and take the fast track of those ignoble sanddhi rules. It is, again, a matter of getting accustomed to them. Read them so you get the flair of the system, then go back every time you come across a sanddhied cluster, with time they will seem only too natural. Of course haste goes against perfection. You will not learn Sanskrit or Greek in a one-year time, set realistic goals and learn some minutes every day ir every other day. It really works.

The syllabary (in fact abugida) seems complicated, but only because you are not used to it. To memorize it I recommend flash cards. You don't need to buy one, make them yourself in scraps of paper and don't wait until you have mastered all to begin studying the language. Actually the contact with full-formed words will help you get ahead. Take a look at the whole set of ligatures, say, on Wikipedia, and you will notice that you can recognize most of them. Some lose their right vertical bar, others require the conjunct to go top to bottom instead left-to-right. The most confusing are those which seem serial, for example a tiny ball is a v, a tiny ball with an inside bar is a b and a tiny ball which prolongs with an open loop is a k. A straight line to the left ending in a rounded point is an n, if it is made to form a square it is an m and if that square is open on the top you got a bh. After this parsing of the distinctive traits of each consonant without the top vertical line you will be able to see into the whole system and in the end copy down four or five clusters which can't be deduced because they either look too similar (like nn and nr) or have autonomous forms (like tt, ru or and ksh) and put them in your set of cards so that you learn them as independent letters. Just take your time and don't focus on the scripture, begin with the texts straightaway.

Linguists thought Latin was closer to Greek than it is before the "discovery" of Indo-Iranian languages. Today most will put Greek and Italic in different branches. They divide those branches into two groups according to the way the word "hundred" is said in two characteristic languages: the "centum" languages (as in Latin) in which the labiovelars where reduced to velars (qu into k) and the "setam" (avestam), in which the labiovelars were palatized. The first group comprises the western-most tongues, between them Greek and Latin, and the second the eastern, like Slavic and Indian-Iranian languages. This would put Greek closer to Latin than to Sanskrit. Nevertheless it was further concluded that that divide was not sychonical: it first happened a "centumization" which was followed, in certain languages but not in others, by a "satemization". Indo-Arians arrived in northern India about 1.400 B.C., Greek Mycenian Civilization dates back to 1250 B.C., so you can roughly say that Sanskrit and Greek are nearly contemporary. The first inscriptions in Latin are from the 700 B.C., so it had more 700 years to evolve to become a "cultured" language before stabilizing into a solid oral and eventually written tradition. So it may be thar Greek and Italic branches may be closer geographically or from the point of view of their departure form the common stem, but as to their development over time, Greek is closer to Sanskrit than Latin. So is my impression and I am always surprised by unexpected similarities, like the thematic aorist or the sigmatic future, dual pronouns, the coincidental middle and passive voices, whereas in Latin you can find nothing of that genre.

Finally, in my humble opinion, one should start with Greek. Maybe I have a certain penchant, but I cannot help finding it far more interesting than any other classical tongue. Than I would take Latin only to perceive how easy the abundant Latin can be, as campared with Greek. Finally, I would study Sanskrit only to confirm how difficult super-abundant Sanskrit is and how unpractical as a consequence of such complexity. Than you understand why there are so many compounds in Sanskrit: large combined words are only a device to avoid the use of declensions and verb-endings, so subordinate clauses are rare to use. No wonder, it really takes much brain-power to parse through so many redundant inflections. Yet be sure that with patience you can tame the dragon and knowing Greek first spares you much work!

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Re: Classical Greek vs. Sanskrit

Post by Scribo » Tue Oct 08, 2013 11:24 pm

Erm...thanks for that, what an odd thread to revive considering the lack of interest. Some interesting remarks but also, again, some oddities.

I doubt anyone would be brave enough to certainly date the Indo-Aryans, certainly at best we can argue post Sarasvati dry up, but this is not the place for that. Its odd to see the Mycenaean civilisation around 1250...several centuries after any sensible penetration of proto-Greek speakers into the peninsula, around 4 centuries after we can happily discern them archaeologically and around 2 after we have linear B. Likewise with Latin, about a century too early by even generous estimates.

As for the idea that so many forms are somehow redundant, or that compounds were used in order to avoid inflections I don't know how to respond since we're not in the 19th century...

Yes you're right that Greek is closer to Sanskrit than Latin, but only in the genetic sense (shared grammatical features in sigmatic futures, reduplicated perfects, augmented pasts etc; word building), the fact that Greek would exhibit such a strong influence over Latin is much more important in real terms.

Anyway...thanks for that and welcome to textkit.
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