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Why those mocking Sanskrit as a language are fools themselves

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One is not sure whether one is to cry or laugh at the statements made by Indian politicians, when it comes to the language issue. If it were one idiot saying the Language debate was futile because Computer’s spoke “0’s and 1’s” [1], now it’s another [2] alluding that C++/Javascript are “English”.

This is not surprising, given that many of these idiots haven’t the slightest grounding in the theory of languages – all they care for is to establish the pre-eminence of their Anglical tongues. Such दिघ्भ्रम is not just the domain of our Anglical – ‘Socialist/Liberal/Progressive/…’ – masters, but also of our nouveau-riche Engineers, many of whom have had the privilege of a CS education. This is tragic: not only do we have insipid politicians, our Universities are stamping out idiots at a rapid rate too!

Most computer languages use English-derived terms like “if – then – else”, “while”… in their syntax to make the semantics accessible to a wide audience. These ‘terms’ – which our anglical masters are so proud of – are called alphabets in the Formal language theory. Why you ask ? Well, if you replace these terms with Tamil words which mean something similar, you don’t change the language.

Indeed, this change is so simple that doing this wouldn’t take a half-literate programmer more than a day. In a globalized world, however, such projects are unlikely to gain much traction for production use, and quite pointless anyway (as the USSR found out) [3] [4].

On a theoretical level, a language is essentially a set of strings on an alphabet. Formal languages based on strict constructs like Context Free Grammar (CFG) are concrete examples, which are used for parsing & compiling programming languages. Changing the alphabet does not change the language, much as the script one uses to write संस्कृतं in, be it Harvard-Kyoto, Nagari, or Siddham (日本ご人ですか ?) , or Malayalam …, means nothing as far as संस्कृतं the language is concerned. You could encode them with knots like the Incas and they’ll remain the same!

Had these windbags seen the vast amount of local documentation for C++/Javascript/SQL, they’d have thought twice before making these statements. Indeed that the alphabet set means nothing is vindicated by the numerous brilliant Tech-companies started by the Israelis, Germans, Russians, French, Japanese & Chinese, none of whom are cursed to suffer the trauma of having their tongues cut out to satisfy the ruling colonial hegemon.

Computer languages in any case are extremely inflexible and barely expressive compared to our messy world of Natural languages – had it been otherwise, most of us would’ve had no jobs. संस्कृतं stands out alone in this world as being an wonderfully structured language.

पाणिनी’s अष्टाद्यायि lists out rules that rigidly fixes संस्कृतं, and this is the reason why a student of Sanskrit can live simultaneously in the vast period of time from 2nd century B.C to current day literature, without feeling the slightest bit of linguistic dissonance. देववाणि सनातनवाणि च।

Sanskrit is indeed so structured, that a NASA scientist wrote in AI Magazine that the language is well-suited for Knowledge-Representation [5]. That’s not saying much, but it is interesting considering that, much of modern day Linguistics has its genesis around Max Muller and many of his acquaintances.

The influence of पाणिनी, on phonetics to linguistics, it is apparent, had been brushed aside to suit European appropriation of Indic knowledge systems. So deep had the stream of Orientalism run, that P. Joshi, a retired Sanskrit scholar, had this to say during the 3rd Sanskrit Computational Linguistics conference [6],

Reading statements about information coding in which Pān.ini is hailed as an early language code information scientist, I am reminded of the situation in the early sixties, after Chomsky had published his book on Syntactic Structures in 1957. Here Chomsky introduced a type of grammar called transformational generative grammar. It earned him a great of applause, globally, I may say. Then it dawned on linguists that Pān.ini had also composed a generative grammar. So Pān.ini was hailed as the fore-runner of generative grammar. That earned him a lot of interest among linguists. Many linguists, foreign as well as Indian, joined the bandwagon, and posed as experts in Pān.inian grammar on Chomskyan terms. Somewhat later, after Chomsky had drastically revised his ideas, and after the enthusiasm for Chomsky had subsided, it became clear that the idea of transformation is alien to Pān.ini, and that the As.t.ādhyāyı̄ is not a generative grammar in the Chomskyan sense. Now a new type of linguistics has come up, called Sanskrit Computational Linguistics with three capital letters. Although Chomsky is out, Pān.ini is still there, ready to be acclaimed as the fore-runner of Sanskrit Computational Linguistics. I am, of course, grateful for the interest shown in Pān.ini.

Computer science in many ways owes its existence to Sanskrit. This is a matter of deep irony that escapes the many wind bags this country likes to cultivate. Had these anglical eminences not spent as much time mugging up the English dictionary (probably for TOEFL or some such thing), they’d not end up in as brain dead a state to make such statements, despite having lived – and ruled – in India.


References:

[1] Manish Tewari, “The Language Debate – Hindi Hain Hum?”, NDTV, July 20 2014.
[2] Manish Sisodia, Twitter:
“One should understand Sanskrit is the only language which can compete with C++, Java, SOL, Python, Javascript…1/2”
“All computers in India using languages like C+, Java, SOL, Python..should b declared antinational once IITians learn working in sanskrit.2/2”.
[3] They are however useful for pedagogical purposes and are used in schools.
[4] APL eschews even eschews words in favour of mathematical symbology.
[5] Rick Briggs, Knowledge Representation in Sanskrit and Artificial Intelligence, AI Magazine, Vol 6. Number 1, 1985
[6] S D Joshi, Background of the अष्टाध्यायि, Proc. of the 3rd International Symposium on Sanskrit Computational Linguistics, Springer

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