Is Sanskrit the ‘Mother’ of Indian Languages As Tejasvi Claims?
Tejasvi Surya, the MP-elect for Lok Sabha Constituency from Bengaluru South and the chief of BJP’s youth wing in Karnataka, recently put out a series of tweets regarding the National Education Policy. He stated that apart from the three-language formula mentioned in the policy, students should also learn Sanskrit in Classes 1 to 6.
“I specify Sanskrit as it's the mother of all Indian langs (languages),” Surya stated in another tweet.
However, despite the common perception, experts are divided on whether Sanskrit can be regarded as the “mother” of all Indian languages.
Several Twitter users also pointed the same.
Are Most Indian Languages Related to Sanskrit?
The Quint spoke to Shoaib Daniyal, a journalist at Scroll.in, who earlier wrote an article refuting that Indians or Hindus are the first speakers of Sanskrit. He claims that the first speakers were, in fact, Syrians.
While tracing the history of languages in India, Daniyal found that India has broadly around four different language families. The Indo-Aryan language family includes North Indian languages like Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, and others like Marathi and Bengali.
In fact, the immediate ancestral language for Hindi would be Shauraseni, which also gave rise to Urdu. Other Modern Indo-Aryan languages like Bhojpuri, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, etc. were derived from the language Magadhan, also known as Pali.
Another broad Indian language family is Dravidian, which includes Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam that have no relation to Sanskrit.
The other two language families include the Tibeto-Burman family that gave rise to northeastern languages, and the Munda family that gave rise to Adivasis languages, especially in eastern India. Both these groups also have no relation to Sanskrit.
Daniyal, thus, concludes that out of the four language groups in India, three are not even related to Sanskrit or each other, and exist independently.
“A large number of Indians speak languages that are not even derived from Sanskrit,” he added.
Indian Languages May Have Inherited from Sanskrit
However, on the other end of the spectrum, experts believe that Indian languages could have evolved out of Sanskrit.
Dr Ashutosh Dayal Mathur, Associate Professor for the Sanskrit Department at St Stephens College, stated that Sanskrit happens to be among the oldest-surviving members of the Indo-European group of languages. Thus, it can be assumed that Indian languages have inherited a lot from Sanskrit.
“This is true for most Indian languages, however, there may be exceptions,” said Mathur.
While stating that he wouldn’t fully endorse the statement that Sanskrit is the “mother” of all languages, he suggested, “When someone says Sanskrit is the mother of all Indian languages, they can mean two things: Sanskrit is much older than all these languages and that it has a close connection with these languages.”
“I believe that most Indian languages have a close connection with Sanskrit in terms of phonetics, semantics, syntax, content of literature and the value system that they propagate,” Mathur added.
No Single Source of Languages
The Quint also spoke to Dr Mohammad Jahangeer Warsi, Associate Professor at the Linguistics Department of Aligarh Muslim University, who stated that the trouble with addressing Sanskrit as the “mother” is attributing a single source to languages.
He pointed that over time, every language has developed according to the region it belongs to and the community that speaks it. Indian languages have several sources apart from the Indo-European language family (to which Sanskrit belongs), such as Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Indo-Asian and so on.
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