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Some Problems of Historical Linguistics in Indo-Aryan (An Old and Rare Book)

Item Code: NAM071
Author: S. M. Katre
Publisher: Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute
Language: English
Edition: 1965
Pages: 192
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 230 gm
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Book Description

On the 15th of October 1964 the Deccan College celebrates the centenary of its main Building, and curiously enough this period coincides with the Silver Jubilee of the Postgraduate and Research Institute which, as successor to the Deccan College, started functioning from 17th August 1939 when members of the teaching faculty reported on duty. When I suggested to members of our faculty the novel idea that the centenary should be celebrated by the publication of a hundred monographs representing the research carried on under the auspices of the Deccan College in its several departments they readily accepted the suggestion. These contributions are from present and past faculty members and research scholars of the Deccan College, giving a cross-section of the manifold research that it has sponsored during the past twentyfive years. From small beginnings in 1939 the Deccan College has now grown into a well developed and developing Research Institute and become a national centre in so far as Linguistics, Archaeology and Ancient Indian History, and Anthropology and Sociology are concerned. Its international status is attested by the location of the Indian Institute of German Studies (jointly sponsored by Deccan College and the Goethe Institute of Munich), the American Institute of Indian Studies and a branch of the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient in the campus of the Deccan College. The century of monographs not only symbolises the centenary of the original building and the silver jubilee of the Research Institute, but also the new spirit of critical enquiry and the promise of more to come.


The lectures which are reprinted here were originally delivered in Bombay under the Wilson Philological Lectureship on 25th, 26th and 27th February and 3rd, 4th and 5th March 1941 in the University of Bombay, and were first published in 1944. Within ten years the limited edition of 500 copies was sold out and constant demands were made on the author for bringing out a reprint. That it has taken ten more years to reprint the lectures is another story which bears re- telling.

In his Foreword to the first edition Sri Rustom Masani remarked:

“In order that the immense work that lies ahead may be systematically carried out Dr. KATRE pleads for encouragement from our Universities. It is certainly in the power of the Universities to assist in the preparation of the critical edition of texts, as the working basis of all research work which has got to be done, and the indices verborum and lexicons and other aids to linguistic studies without which no scientific work worth the name could be accomplished in historical linguistics. But while I whole-heartedly support the appeal made to the Universities by Dr. KATRE, I should like to point out that the resources of our Universities are limited whereas their obligations and commitments are practically unlimited. No University can give adequate encouragement to research work such as that outlined by Dr. KATRE in this book without princely donations from patrons of pure knowledge.”

In 1944 when these lectures were published by the University of Bombay there was only a single University in India which fostered the study of Linguistics; within five years the University of Poona was formally inaugurated, recognizing the department of Linguistics at the Deccan College as an ex officio department of the University, and set up a Board of Studies in Linguistics. In 1953 the Deccan College organised a conference of Linguists and Educationists under the chairmanship of Sir Ralph Turner, Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, which opened the way to the setting up of a Language Project for the training of Indian Linguists in Modern Linguistics with a princely grant from the Rockefeller Foundation of New York. The Language Project came into operation from July 1954 and continued for five years. Early in 1958 at a Conference of Vice Chancellors and Linguists organised jointly by the Poona University, Deccan College and the Linguistic Society of India, and inaugurated by the Chairman of the University Grants Commission certain important resolutions were adopted for giving a more central position to linguistic studies in Universities and the Linguistic Society of India was requested to constitute a Blue Print Committee for preparing a blue print of development of linguistics in the light of these resolutions. The subsequent history of linguistic development in University departments is well known. From a single university in 1944 to more than fifteen universities in the country by 1958 is a phenomenal development witnessed during this brief period. Linguistics has been given a special status during the third Plan Period by the University Grants Commission, and two advanced centres have been located at the universities of Annamalai (Dravidian Linguistics) and Poona at Deccan College (General Linguistics, with special emphasis on Applied Linguistics).

It is indeed significant that within the last ten years a great deal of progress has been made in linguistic studies in this country. Over 1500 scholars have taken advantage of the Summer and Autumn Institutes of Linguistics organised by the Deccan College (1954-59) and by the different Universities jointly with Deccan College and the Linguistic Society of India under the auspices of the U.G.C. since 1960. Over 50 scholars have directly or indirectly been enabled to go abroad for further specialisation in modern linguistic tools and techniques, and many visiting scholars from abroad have participated in the instructional and research programmes.

In 1948 the Deccan College inaugurated its special project for a Dictionary of Sanskrit on Historical Principles with international cooperation and this section of the Department of Linguistics has become the central part in the growth of the Institute as well as the Department. Descriptive and Historical studies of Indian linguistic material have been advancing side by side, and the many programmatic suggestions contained in these lectures have since been adopted in different parts of the country. What was a mere dream in 1944 has been realized in some form or other within two decades.

In the recent past, since the new Constitution of India has been adopted, and the problems of modernising the great regional languages of India are occupying the mind of Governments and scholars the scientific approach engendered by Modern Linguistics is being appreciated more and more, and Applied Linguistics is finding a place of honour in the Universities. Problems which were not envisaged within the scope of these lectures are now principally occupying the energies of scholars engaged in the pursuit of linguistics.

It is in this sense, and in this sense alone that these lectures are to be read. They had a limited aim in making linguistic studies more precise and meaningful in this country and attract university men to devote themselves to some extent to this discipline in order to understand our linguistic situation in its historical unfoldment. That they symbolized a massive movement which gathered strength within a space of ten years and achieved a central status within the next ten years is a tribute to the genius of Panini and his spirit which seems to inform by and large this new regeneration of linguistic studies in the country where the science of descriptive linguistics was born.

I am grateful to the University of Bombay for their kind permission to include this reprint in the Building Centenary and Silver Jubilee Series. But I must not forget to mention here the debt linguistics owes to the generous contribution of the Rockefeller Foundation which made the dream come true, and indeed, the assurances which the author made to the Foundation in 1954 when the first grant was made have been more than fulfilled by the developments that took place since 1959 when their financial assistance came to an end. Special thanks are due to Dr. C. D. DESHMUKH who, as Chairman of the University Grants Commission, inaugurated the Conference of Vice Chancellors and Linguists and encouraged the development of linguistics in the Universities and gave shape to the policy which has ultimately led to the establishment of two advanced centres. It may be taken for granted that a vigorous department of linguistics will soon flourish in the University of Delhi where he is presiding as Vice Chancellor. Similarly Dr. D. S. Kothari, the present Chairman of the University Grants Commission, as also of the Standing Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology, has consistently supported this development and advanced it to an international standard. I may be permitted to conclude here with the hope that we may soon have generations of linguists worthy of the great tradition built up by Panini, Patanjali and Bhartrhri and place India rightfully in the front line of scholars specialising in this field.

Introduction to Historical Linguistics

When the Syndicate of the University of Bombay invited me to deliver the Wilson Philological Lectures for the year 1940-41, my thoughts ran back to that august occasion when the great Professor Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, even then the doyen of Sanskritists in India, inaugurated this lectureship sixty-four years ago (in 1877) and incidentally gave shape to the comparative study of Indo-Aryan languages in our country. When I reflected upon the achievements of the Professor (and those of the Rev. Dr. Wilson before him), and the galaxy of scholars who have followed him in the various fields cultivated or opened by him, looking upon him as their Guru, I was reluctant to accept this invitation. It was but natural that one who had not the good fortune of studying under this one who had not the good fortune of studying under this venerable sage of Sangamashram or any of his distinguished epigone, and whose sphere of activities was somewhat removed from the subjects inspired by the Professor, should hesitate in following his footsteps by accepting this lectureship. Three factors alone have guided me in undertaking the responsibilities of this lectureship in spite of my natural disinclination to accept them, namely, an inborn love for the subject which has become a part of myself during the last two decades; a close contact with an Oriental Institute dedicated to the services of Sir Ramkrishna in Poona, and lastly the fact of my being the first occupant of a Chair for Linguistics in the Deccan College Research Institute. They form, to my mind, a very intimate connection with the late Professor.

It is somewhat remarkable that nearly sixty years elapsed before the Government took cognisance of Sir Ramkrishna’s remarks on that first occasion when he said:

“But encouragement and support are essentially needed; and, taught by our ancient tradition, we naturally look upon these, in the first instance, to our Government. Hitherto it has confined its endeavours to the education of its subjects, a thing which was never before done by any India prince, and for which it has the strongest claims on the gratitude of the Indians. But what Indian princes have all along done, viz., the extension of support and patronage to men of learning and thus enabling them to prosecute their studies, has not yet attracted the attention of our Government, probably because they thought the time had not come for it. Next, it is the duty of those of our countrymen, who enjoy princely fortunes, to encourage the growth and advancement of learning among their countrymen. Now the best and most effectual way, in which learning can thus be encouraged and patronized by all who have the means, is by founding University professorships to be held for life.”

The closing of the Deccan College in 1934 and its revival in 1939 as a Research Institute specialising in Linguistics and History are too recent to need any mention here, but they are stages in a development envisaged by the first Wilson Philological Lecturer. Events have moved slowly since 1877; but with the Government realizing more and more the need for specialized research which was once patronized by the Indian Rulers themselves, we have today in this province two centres of research in Gujarati and Kannada antiquities respectively in Ahmedabad and Dharwar, financed by the Government. The establishment of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Bombay in 1938 is also a welcome event anticipated by Sir Ramkrishna.

As the first occupant of a chair in Linguistics in an Institute hallowed by the memory of scholars of the eminence of Professors KIELHORN, BHANDARKAR and PATHAK, I am now placing before you the result of my studies, in all humility and with the deepest reverence to those pioneers, as a small offering to their glorious memory.

The comparative study of the family of languages which I propose to call here ‘Indo-Aryan’ and which, according to the terms of the Foundation of this Lectureship, is defined as ‘Sanskrit and the Prakrit languages derived from it’, in an extended sense, first commenced in this province, and for the matter of that for the first time in India among Indians, with the late Prof. R. G. BHANDARKAR, when he inaugurated this very lectureship sixty-four years ago by delivering a course of seven lectures on the origin and development of all the three phases of this family, from the old and middle to the modern stage. Though the lectures were delivered in 1877 they were not printed immediately; the first two were published in the Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society between 1883 and1885, and the next two in the same journal between 1887 and 1889. The complete series was published only in 1914. Prof. BHANDARKAR was, however, not the first in the field so far as India was concerned, for already in 1872 and 1875 the first two volumes of BEAMES’ Comprative Grammar of the Modern Aryan Languages of India: to wit, Hindi, Panjabi, Sindhi, Gujarati, Marathi, Oriya and Bangali, had been published, and the final volume followed in 1879. Similarly HOERNLE’S Comparative Grammar of the Gaudian Languages with special reference to Eastern Hindi appeared in 1880, two years before BHANDARKAR’s lectures appeared in print. TRUMPP’s Grammar of the Sindhi language, following his linguistic disquisition in the ZDMG, appeared in 1872. Thus the last quarter of the nineteenth century saw the beginnings of a scientific attempt at the comparative study of the Indo-Aryan family of languages in India at a time when the comparative grammar of the Indo-European languages was entering a new phase of development with the so-called Junggrammatiker like BRUGMANN, DELBRUCK, OSTHOFF, and PAUL taking the lead. This was indeed pioneer work, when we consider the fact that with the single exception of BHANDARKAR the others were foreigners who had to pass through the painful process of assimilating the living languages of the provinces and country to which they devoted their official life. That they could achieve even this much was indeed a triumph to the scientific method cultivated in the West and practised in the different centres of learning. The case of BHANDARKAR was different; having a traditional mastery over Sanskrit and Indian languages, he had to connect these two, not by merely following the dictates of the Prakrit grammarians or by having a Sanskrit bias in explaining vernacular linguistics, but by assiduous study of the Western approaches to linguistics and adopting them to Indian conditions, strictly satisfying the acid tests of the modern scientific methods. Though this enabled him to explain the Indo-Aryan facts better than his other contemporaries working in the same field, the time was not yet ripe for a complete scientific account of all the Indo-Aryan languages. Much of the facts enumerated by these scholars will have to be recast in the light of later researches; even some of their results may be susceptible to criticism in the light of the scientific methods which they themselves professed; but if we remember that 1870 market the beginning of a new phase in Comparative Grammar in Europe, and that the Indian pioneers could not derive the full benefit of the labours of their European colleagues we can understand the handicaps which beset their first labours.


Introduction of Historical Linguistics1
The Verbal bases of Indo-Aryan-Part I37
The Verbal bases of Indo-Aryan-Part II73
Nominal Stem Formation in Indo-Aryan98
Problems of Historical Linguistics127
Synonymics, Unsolved Problems and Desiderata149
Bibliographical Indications174

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