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Extant bark manuscript of Panini's Sutras

Pāṇini (fl. 4th century BCE) (Sanskrit: पाणिनि, IPA: [pɑːɳin̪i]; a patronymic meaning "descendant of Paṇi"), or Panini, was a Sanskrit grammarian from ancient India. He was born in Pushkalavati, w:GandharGandhara - on the outskirts of modern-day Charsadda - a city in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Pāṇini is known for his Sanskrit grammar, particularly for his formulation of the 3,959 rules of Sanskrit morphology, syntax and semantics in the grammar known as Ashtadhyayi (अष्टाध्यायी Aṣṭādhyāyī, meaning "eight chapters"), the foundational text of the grammatical branch of the Vedanga, the auxiliary scholarly disciplines of Vedic religion (Hinduism).


  • Ashtadhyayi distinguishes between usage in the spoken language and usage that is proper to the language of the sacred texts. The Ashtadhyayi is generative as well as descriptive. With its complex use of metarules, transformations, and recursions, the grammar in Ashtadhyayi has been likened to the Turing machine, an idealized mathematical model that reduces the logical structure of any computing device to its essentials.
  • Grammars (vyākaraṇas) concern the description of speech forms (śabda) considered to be correct (sādhu) through derivation and thereby serve to make understood the usage found in the Vedas. The grammar that was granted the status of a Vedāṅga is that of Pāṇini. This work is referred to in toto as a śabdānuśāsana (means of instruction of correct speech forms); since the core of Pāṇini’s work comprises the eight chapters of sūtras that serve to describe both the current language of his time and features particular to Vedic, it also bears the name Aṣṭādhyāyī (“Collection of Eight Chapters”).
  • The accepted cultivated speech of the contemporary language that Pāṇini describes in his Aṣṭādhyāyī must have coexisted with more vernacular varieties of speech in which there were features belonging to the Middle Indo-Aryan division of the language group. Several facts support this view.
  • The Pāṇinian commentator Kātyāyana (c. 3rd–4th century BCE) knew of the coexistence of Middle Indic forms with earlier ones. There is a Pāṇinian rule that provides that verb bases listed in an appendix to the Aṣṭādhyāyī have the class name dhātu (verbal base, root). Kātyāyana discusses whether one could define verbal bases semantically and thereby possibly do without the verb list. He remarks that even if one defines a verbal base as denoting an action, the roots must be listed in order to preclude the possibility that constituents of terms such as āṇapayati/āṇavayati ‘commands’ be assigned the class name in question; āṇapayati/āṇavayati is a Middle Indic counterpart of Sanskrit ājñāpayati.
  • The current language Pāṇini describes is very close in structure to the late Vedic found in certain Brāhmaṇa texts. As noted earlier, scholars have recognized other varieties of Sanskrit. Epic Sanskrit is so called because it is represented principally in the two epics, Mahābhārata (“Great Epic of the Bhārata Dynasty”) and Rāmāyaṇa (“Romance of Rāma”). In the latter the term saṃskṛta ‘adorned, cultivated, purified (by grammar)’ is encountered, possibly for the first time with reference to the language. The date of composition for the core of early Epic Sanskrit is considered to be in the centuries just preceding the Common Era.
  • Panini’s grammar is the earliest scientific grammar in the world, the earliest extant grammar of any language, and one of the greatest ever written. It was the discovery of Sanskrit by the West, at the end of the 18th century, and the study of Indian methods of analyzing language that revolutionized our study of language and grammar, and gave rise to our science of comparative philology … The study of language in India was much more objective and scientific than in Greece or Rome. The interest was in empirical investigation of language, rather than philosophical and syntactical. Indian study of language was as objective as the dissection of a body by an anatomist.
    • —Walter Eugene Clark ,.Quoted from Gewali, Salil (2013). Great Minds on India. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.
  • The grammar of Panini stands supreme among the grammars of the world, alike for its precision of statement, and for its thorough analysis of the roots of the language and of the formative principles of words. By employing an algebraic terminology, it attains a sharp succinctness unrivalled in brevity, but at times enigmatical. It arranges, in logical harmony, the whole phenomena which the Sanskrit language presents, and stands forth as one of the most splendid achievements of human invention and industry. So elaborate is the structure, that doubts have arisen whether its complex rules of formation and phonetic change, its polysyllabic derivatives, its ten conjugations with their multiform aorists and long array of tenses, could ever have been the spoken language of a people.
    • —Sir William Wilson Hunter, .Quoted from Gewali, Salil (2013). Great Minds on India. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.
  • The author of the oldest extant Sanskrit grammar was Panini, a native of extreme north-west India, ... His work consists of nearly 4000 aphorisms, each of which owing to the extreme conciseness of the style, generally consists of not more than two or three words. Hence, the whole grammar could be printed within the compass of about thirty-five octavo pages. Yet it describes the entire Sanskrit language with a completeness which has never been equalled elsewhere. Thus it is at once the shortest and the fullest grammar in the world.
  • The most interesting non-Western grammatical tradition—and the most original and independent—is that of India, which dates back at least two and one-half millennia and which culminates with the grammar of Panini, of the 5th century BCE. There are three major ways in which the Sanskrit tradition has had an impact on modern linguistic scholarship.
  • Roman alphabet:
    siṃho vyākaraṇasya kartur aharat prāṇān priyān pāṇineḥ
  • English translation:
    A lion took the dear life of Panini, author of the grammatical treatise.
  • His teacher was Varsa, and he was a contemporary of Katyayana, Vyadi, and Indradatta. Panini is said to have secured the favour of Shiva and obtained from him the alphabet in the form of fourteen pratyadhara sutras.
  • Pingala was the brother of Panini.
    • Vedarthadipika in: "History of Indian Literature".
  • There is in the rules or definitions (sutras) of Panini a remarkably subtle and penetrating account of Sanskrit grammar. The construction of sentences, compound nouns, and the like is explained through ordered rules operating on underlying structures in a manner strikingly similar in part to modes of modern theory. As might be imagined, this perceptive Indian grammatical work held great fascination for 20th-century theoretical linguists. A study of Indian logic in relation to Paninian grammar alongside AristotleAristotelian]] and Western logic in relation to Greek grammar and its successors could bring illuminating insights.
  • The issue of theism vis-à-vis atheism, in the ordinary senses of the English words, played an important role in Indian thought. The ancient Indian tradition, however, classified the classical systems (darshanas) into orthodox (astika) and unorthodox (nastika). Astika does not mean “theistic,” nor does nastika mean “atheistic.” Panini, a 5th-century-BCE grammarian, stated that the former is one who believes in a transcendent world (asti paralokah) and the latter is one who does not believe in it (nasti paralokah).
  • The grammar of Panini is one of the most remarkable literary works that the world has ever seen, and no other country can produce any grammatical system at all comparable to it, either for originality of plan or analytical subtlety.

Appendix A History of Sanskrit Literature


Arthur Anthony Macdonell in:Appendix A History of Sanskrit Literature, Wikisource

  • Pāṇini had before him a list of irregularly formed words, which survives, in a somewhat modified form, as the Uṇādi Sūtra. There are also two appendixes to which Pāṇini refers: one is the Dhātupāṭha, "List of Verbal Roots," containing some 2000 roots, of which only about 800 have been found in Sanskrit literature, and from which about fifty Vedic verbs are omitted; the second is the Gaṇapāṭha, or "List of Word-Groups," to which certain rules apply. These gaṇas were metrically arranged in the Gaṇaratna-mahodadhi, composed by Vardhamāna in 1140 A.D.
  • Among the earliest attempts to explain Pāṇini was the formulation of rules of interpretation or paribhāshās; a collection of these was made in the last century by Nāgojibhaṭṭa in his Paribhāshenduçekhara.
  • Next we have the Vārttikas or "Notes" of Kātyāyana (probably third century B.C.) on 1245 of Pāṇini's rules, and, somewhat later, numerous grammatical Kārikās or comments in metrical form: all this critical work was collected by Patanjali in his Mahābhāshya or "Great Commentary," with supplementary comments of his own. He deals with 1713 rules of Pāṇini.
  • The Mahābhāshya was commented on in the seventh century by Bhartṛihari in his Vākyapadīya which is concerned with the philosophy of grammar, and by Kaiyaṭa (probably thirteenth century). About 650 A.D. was composed the first complete commentary on Pāṇini, the Kāçikā Vṛitti or "Benares Commentary," by Jayāditya and Vāmana.
  • In the fifteenth century Rāmachandra, in his Prakriyā-kaumudī, or "Moonlight of Method," endeavoured to make Pāṇini's grammar easier by a more practical arrangement of its matter. Bhaṭṭoji's Siddhānta-kaumudī (seventeenth century) has a similar aim; an abridgment of this work, the Laghu-kaumudī, by Varadarāja is commonly used as an introduction to the native system of grammar. Among non-Pāṇinean grammarians may be mentioned Chandra (about 600 A.D.), the pseudo-Çākaṭāyana (later than the Kāçikā), and, the most important, Hemachandra (12th century), author of a Prākrit grammar.

An Analytical Study of 'Sanskrit' and 'Panini' as Foundation of Speech Communication in India and the World


Ratnesh Dwivedi in:An Analytical Study of 'Sanskrit' and 'Panini' as Foundation of Speech Communication in India and the World, Архив электронных ресурсов СФУ (elib.sfu-kras.ru)

  • A treatise called Astadhyayi (or Astaka) is Panini's major work. It consists of eight chapters, each subdivided into quarter chapters. In this work Panini distinguishes between the language of sacred texts and the usual language of communication. Panini gives formal production rules and definitions to describe Sanskrit grammar. Starting with about 1700 basic elements like nouns, verbs, vowels, consonants he put them into classes. The construction of sentences, compound nouns etc., is explained as ordered rules operating on underlying structures in a manner similar to modern theory. In many ways Panini's constructions are similar to the way that a mathematical function is defined today.
  • Sanskrit is a scientific and systematic language. Its grammar is perfect and has attracted scholars worldwide. Sanskrit has a perfect grammar which has been explained to us by the world's greatest grammarian Panini.
  • The most successful, hence most prominent amongst these grammarians was Panini. His grammar, surpassing all others in tightness and precision, became the standard and remained so undisputedly until today. Panini was able to joint the original devanagari language into an exact framework of rules, thus preserving it for the posterity. Since his time, this language is called Sanskrit, “joined together, refined”.
  • Pāṇini's grammar defines Classical Sanskrit, so Pāṇini by definition lived at the end of the Vedic period. He notes a few special rules, marked chandasi ("in the hymns") to account for forms in the Vedic scriptures that had fallen out of use in the spoken language of his time. These indicate that Vedic Sanskrit was already archaic, but still a comprehensible dialect.
  • It is not certain whether Pāṇini used writing for the composition of his work, though it is generally agreed that he knew of a form of writing, based on references to words such as "script" and "scribe" in his Ashtadhyayi. These must have referred to Aramaic or early Kharosthi writing. It is believed by some that a work of such complexity would have been difficult to compile without written notes, though others have argued that he might have composed it with the help of a group of students whose memories served him as 'notepads' (as is typical in Vedic learning). Writing first reappears in India in the form of the Brāhmī script from the 3rd century BC in the Ashokan inscriptions.
  • While Pāṇini's work is purely grammatical and lexicographic, cultural and geographical inferences can be drawn from the vocabulary he uses in examples, and from his references to fellow grammarians, which show he was a northwestern person. New deities referred to in his work include Vasudeva (4.3.98). The concept of dharma is attested in his example sentence dharmam carati "he observes the law" (cf. Taittiriya Upanishad 1.11).

Quotes about panini

  • Pingala and Panini (fifth century BCE) along with the likes of Aryabhata, Bhaskara and Brahmagupta are the pillars of ancient Indian mathematics. Astonishingly, Panini’s immortal fame is not even as a mathematician but as the definitive Sanskrit grammarian. But he also “introduced abstract symbols to denote various subsets of letters and words that would be treated in some common way in some rules; and he produced rewrite rules that were to be applied recursively in a precise order”, notes Mumford, “one could say without exaggeration that he (Panini) anticipated the basic ideas of modern computer science”.
    • ----David Mumford in his review Mathematics in India... Kim Plofker Princeton University Press, 2008 384 pag David Mumford in his review Mathematics in India Kim Plofker Princeton University Press, 2008 384 pag
  • At a very early date India began to trace the roots, history, relations and combinations of words. By the fourth century B.C. she had created for herself the science of grammar, and produced probably the greatest of all known grammarians, Panini. The studies of Panini, Patanjali (ca. 150 A.D.) and Bhartrihari (ca. 650) laid the foundations of philology; and that fascinating science of verbal genetics owed almost its life in modern times to the rediscovery of Sanskrit.
    • Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage : India and Her Neighbors.
  • Linguistics is an Indian science par excellence, and the entire modern discipline of modern linguistics in indebted to the Indian grammarians of the 1st millennium BCE. In India, it has briefly missed out on the recent innovation of comparison between seriously different languages (as opposed to dialectal differences, well-known among Indian scholars). But here too, Indians should take some pride in the official birth of IE linguistics in Kolkata 1786... Linguistics started in Takṣaśĭla university, where Pāṇini taught 26 (or so) centuries ago. Indo-European linguistics started at the feet of Brahmin informers in Kolkata (as shown on a freeze in Oxford showing William Jones learning from Hindu Pandits).
    • Elst, Koenraad (2018). Still no trace of an Aryan invasion: A collection on Indo-European origins.

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