In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Sanskrit Grammar and Related Sciences

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews

Hinduism Sanskrit Grammar and Related Sciences
George Cardona
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0080


Grammar associated with Sanskrit (saṁskṛta) has a long history in the Indian subcontinent. Its sources can be traced to the earliest Indian literary sources, the Vedas, which already show evidence of a keen interest in language. The study and maintenance of the Vedas involved six ancillaries (vedāṅga), of which four are closely related to language: phonetics (śikṣā), grammar (vyākaraṇa), etymological explanation (nirukta, nirvacana), and metrics (chandas). The continuously recited (saṁhitāpāṭha) Vedic texts were analyzed into constituent words, along with certain breaks made within words, in texts called padapāṭha. These represent the earliest extensive examples of grammatical analysis in the Indian traditions. The pinnacle of grammar was reached in the work of Pāṇini (c. 500 BCE), whose grammar served as the basis for later discussions concerning grammar, which have a history lasting into the 18th century and even later. In the course of these discussions, grammarians interacted with scholars of ritual exegesis (mīmāṁsā), the school of logic and disputation known as nyāya, and various Buddhist schools of thought, particularly with respect to issues of semantics and ontology. Nor was the influence of Indian grammarians restricted to the Indian subcontinent. There is a rich grammatical literature in Tibet, influenced by Indian grammars, as well as in Southeast Asia. This survey is limited to work on grammar and related formal areas relative to Sanskrit and within the subcontinent. As a result this article will not deal with works that treat Middle Indic or the numerous treatises on semantics and philosophy of language, nor will this article deal with Mīmāṁsā, Nyāya, or Buddhist philosophical works.

General Overviews

Several outlines of the history of Indian grammatical thought are available in different modern languages. English: Belvalkar 1976, Scharfe 1977, Cardona 1994; Hindi: Mīmāṁsaka 1984; Bangla: Haldar 1943; Gujarati: Shukla 1975. There is also a volume with summaries of major works in Sanskrit grammar: Coward and Raja 1990. Critical bibliographic surveys are found in Cardona 1976 and Cardona 1999. Staal 1972 is a fairly informative anthology of work on Sanskrit grammar, though no work in any Indian language is included.

  • Belvalkar, Shripad Krishna. An Account of the Different Existing Systems of Sanskrit Grammar, Being the Vishwanath Narayan Mandlik Gold Medal Prize-Essay for 1909. 2d ed. Delhi: Bharatiya Vidya Prakashan, 1976.

    This was originally self-published in 1915. A concise but rich survey of the evidence available at the time, with sober conclusions.

  • Cardona, George. Pāṇini, A Survey of Research. Vol. 6, Trends in Linguistics, State-of-the-Art Reports. Edited by W. Winter. The Hague, Paris: Mouton, 1976.

    Covers studies from the beginning of modern scholarship to the mid-1970s. A fairly comprehensive bibliography is followed by a description of texts, translations, and studies in which controversial issues are presented. Wherever possible, conclusions to be accepted or rejected on the basis of the evidence are presented along with arguments.

  • Cardona, George. “Indian Linguistics.” In History of Linguistics, Volume 1: The Eastern Traditions of Linguistics. Edited by Giulio Lepschy, 25–60. London and New York: Longman, 1994.

    Description of the assumptions and procedures in phonetics, grammar, and related areas.

  • Cardona, George. Recent Research in Pāṇinian Studies. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999.

    A complement to Cardona 1976. The second volume follows the same format, although the bibliographic coverage is less extensive, for work done between the late 1970s to the middle of the last decade of the 20th century.

  • Coward, Harold G., and K. Kunjunni Raja. The Philosophy of the Grammarians: Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 5. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

    Summaries of important works in Sanskrit grammar preceded by a long introduction with a historical résumé and brief treatments of major topics.

  • Haldar, Śrīgurupada. Vyākaraṇa Darśaner Itihāsa. Vol. 1. Calcutta: Śrī Bhāratīvikāśa Haldar, 1943.

    A rich and detailed presentation of materials with textual references.

  • Mīmāṁsaka, Yudhiṣṭhira. Saṁskṛt Vyākaraṇ-śāstr kā Itihās. 4th ed. Bahalgarh (Sonipa-Haryana), India: Ram Lal Kapur Trust, 1984.

    The richest treatment available of the history of Sanskrit grammar, in three volumes: Volume 2, third edition, 1984; Volume 3, first edition, 1973. The third volume includes appendixes with editions of some texts. The dates assigned to some major authors are subject to doubt.

  • Scharfe, Hartmut. Grammatical Literature: Vol. 5, A History of Indian Literature. Edited by Jan Gonda. Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrassowitz, 1977.

    A sweeping outline treating pre-Pāṇinian thought, Pāṇini, Yāska, prātiśākhyas, and post-Pāṇinian grammarians, including works on Dravidian languages and Persian. Unfortunately, the work is often superficial.

  • Shukla, Jayadevbhai M. Pāṇinīya saṁskrta vyākaraṇaśāstraparaṁparāno itihāsa. Ahmedabad, India: University Publications Board, 1975.

    Clear presentation of the subject, from pre-Pāṇinian grammarians to the late 17th century (Nāgeśa), including works on semantics and philosophy of language.

  • Staal, J. F. A Reader on the Sanskrit Grammarians. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1972.

    An anthology of forty-four articles distributed among seven sections: early accounts, the foundations of Western scholarship, the romantic period, the golden days, the skeptics and their critics, the transition, and the modern period. The seven selections for the early accounts begin with two short excerpts from the works of Hsüan Tsang (602–664 CE) and end with two short pieces from the work of Tārānātha (16th–17th centuries). Selections are in English, French, and German. The last author represented, with four selections, is Louis Renou (1896–1966). The editor supplies background information for sections and selections.

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