The Mother of All Languages

In 1783, William Jones, a bright young British Judge, stationed in Calcutta, India, decided to master the ancient Sanskrit language so that he could acquaint himself with the native Indian law codes, most of which were written in the Sanskrit script. Jones was already trained in Greek and Latin. As his lessons in Sanskrit progressed, Jones was stunned by something extraordinary that he stumbled upon. He began noticing the blatant similarities between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin and he began to wonder at the possibility that all the existing as well as extinct languages of the world had sprung out from one common source.  For instance,

English

Sanskrit Latin Greek
God Deva Divus Theos
Mother Matr/ Matuh Mater Mitera
Father Pitr Pater Pateras
Name Naam Nomen Onoma
King Raja Regem Rigas
Three Treyas Tres Tria
Anonymous Anamaka Anonymus Anonymos
New Nava Novus Neos
Medium/Middle Madhyam Medium Metrios
Ten Dasha Decem Deca

At the third annual discourse before the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, Jones delivered his famous speech which marked the beginning of comparative linguistics and Indo-European studies. He said:

“The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined that either, yet bearing to both of them a strong affinity, both in the roots of verbs and forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which perhaps, no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanscrit and the old Persian might be added to the same family.”

Further research revealed some astonishing facts. Linguists found out that Sanskrit had cognates to more than just Latin and Greek words; philologists discovered that Dutch, German, Old Norse, Gothic, Old Slavic and Old Irish had similar patterns of words with Sanskrit. These cognates had a related meaning and they also sounded similar to each other either in terms of vowels or consonants or both. And so was uncovered a lost language- now known as the Proto-Indo-European- an ancient prehistoric language which is the root of all languages in Europe, India, Russia and Middle East.

However, several scholars like Voltaire and Immanuel Kant bestow the esteemed title of “Mother of all Indo-European languages” to Sanskrit. Voltaire, in fact went a step further and wrote that, “I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges”. Friedrich Schlegel, another scholar wrote that India was the source of all languages, thoughts and poems and that “everything” came from India.

Which language or country takes precedence over which is perhaps not what one needs to arrive at, but rather one must behold the undeniable truth that we, the whole of mankind, just like our languages have undoubtedly sprung out from one common source. And perhaps these discoveries atleast which time and again establish our kinship, which prove that we are all born of the same soil, must nurture within us feelings of love, peace and brotherhood.

Vismai Rao

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The Mother of All Languages

In 1783, William Jones, a bright young British Judge, stationed in Calcutta, India, decided to master the ancient Sanskrit language so that he could acquaint himself with the native Indian law codes, most of which were written in the Sanskrit script. Jones was already trained in Greek and Latin. As his lessons in Sanskrit progressed, Jones was stunned by something extraordinary that he stumbled upon. He began noticing the blatant similarities between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin and he began to wonder at the possibility that all the existing as well as extinct languages of the world had sprung out from one common source.  For instance,

English

Sanskrit Latin Greek
God Deva Divus Theos
Mother Matr/ Matuh Mater Mitera
Father Pitr Pater Pateras
Name Naam Nomen Onoma
King Raja Regem Rigas
Three Treyas Tres Tria
Anonymous Anamaka Anonymus Anonymos
New Nava Novus Neos
Medium/Middle Madhyam Medium Metrios
Ten Dasha Decem Deca

At the third annual discourse before the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, Jones delivered his famous speech which marked the beginning of comparative linguistics and Indo-European studies. He said:

“The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined that either, yet bearing to both of them a strong affinity, both in the roots of verbs and forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which perhaps, no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanscrit and the old Persian might be added to the same family.”

Further research revealed some astonishing facts. Linguists found out that Sanskrit had cognates to more than just Latin and Greek words; philologists discovered that Dutch, German, Old Norse, Gothic, Old Slavic and Old Irish had similar patterns of words with Sanskrit. These cognates had a related meaning and they also sounded similar to each other either in terms of vowels or consonants or both. And so was uncovered a lost language- now known as the Proto-Indo-European- an ancient prehistoric language which is the root of all languages in Europe, India, Russia and Middle East.

However, several scholars like Voltaire and Immanuel Kant bestow the esteemed title of “Mother of all Indo-European languages” to Sanskrit. Voltaire, in fact went a step further and wrote that, “I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges”. Friedrich Schlegel, another scholar wrote that India was the source of all languages, thoughts and poems and that “everything” came from India.

Which language or country takes precedence over which is perhaps not what one needs to arrive at, but rather one must behold the undeniable truth that we, the whole of mankind, just like our languages have undoubtedly sprung out from one common source. And perhaps these discoveries atleast which time and again establish our kinship, which prove that we are all born of the same soil, must nurture within us feelings of love, peace and brotherhood.

Vismai Rao

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published.