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Sanskrit is far from a dead language: Director of Cervantes Institute at Jaipur Lit Fest

JAIPUR: How do you know if any language is dead? At the ongoing Jaipur Lit Fest, Oscar Pujol, Director of Cervantes Institute in New Delhi, pointed out two aspects: In linguistics, a language is considered dead if there are no native speakers and if the language hasn’t changed at all and is frozen in time.

During the session, titled Sanskrit as a Living Language, Pujol, who recently published the Sanskrit-Catalan dictionary, said, “We can say that Sanskrit has been dead since its origin, i.e. for 2,500 years, as there were no native speakers and Paninian himself wrote the final grammar and froze the structure of the language. However, today, there are seven villages in India where Sanskrit is spoken and its structure has been changing. Also, many Sanskrit textbooks are being reproduced and many recite the Shastra and Gayatri Mantra every day. Hence, the language is very much alive.”

Adding to this, Sanskrit scholar and American Institute of Indian Studies professor Madhura Godbole said, “The very idea that we are having a session on Sanskrit proves that the language isn’t dead. Also, Sanskrit which has contributed a lot in India’s literature, drama, philosophy and culture can’t be dead.”

It is often alleged that Sanskrit’s dominance has never allowed the other languages to develop or flourish. Also, in comparison to other languages that have a large number of native speakers and colloquial vocabulary, Sanskrit has never been alive.

“Sanskrit means refined and many believe that it is the matrix from which many languages emerged. There was definitely a conflict between Sanskrit and other languages in the past when it was associated with a particular community. But that isn’t the case today. People not only in India but even in the western community are learning the language,” pointed out Godbole.

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