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Introduction to Sanskrit, levels 1 & 2 – Amandine Wattelier-Bricout (CNRS-CESAH, Aubervilliers)

Sanskrit (glottocode: sans1269) is an Indo-European language of the Indo-Iranian branch. It has been attested since 2000 to 1500 BCE on the Indian subcontinent, and its oldest form is preserved in the Vedic hymns. This form of Sanskrit, known as Vedic, would later give way to Classical Sanskrit, which was spoken in India from the middle of the first millennium BCE.

Classical Sanskrit was codified very early on by the grammar rules of Pāṇini (fourth century BCE) and was used extensively in scholarly and academic literature. Pāṇini’s work contributed to solidifying the language and turning it into a lingua franca.

Initially reserved for rituals, Sanskrit eventually became the language of administration, diplomacy, princes, scholars, and writers. Like Latin in Europe, Sanskrit was considered both a vehicular language and a liturgical language, as well as the language of the elites. According to Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat (Le sanskrit, p. 3, PUF, 2010), the exceptional character of this language lies in its longevity, stability and sacredness. The influence of Sanskrit extended far beyond the borders of India and produced an impressive mass of literature over the centuries. Learning Classical Sanskrit provides access to the numerous treasures that constitute its vast literature, and opens a window onto all of Asia: religious hymns, philosophical, astronomical or mathematical treatises, panegyrics of kings engraved on stone, poetic works, and theatrical and philosophical treatises.

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