Tag Archives: Indology

Linguistic Paradox and Diglossia

Houben, Jan. 2018. Linguistic paradox and diglossia: The emergence of Sanskrit and Sanskritic language in ancient India. Open Linguistics 4(1). 1–18.

What is it about?

“We know that Middle Indian (Middle Indo-Aryan) makes its appearance in epigraphy prior to Sanskrit: this is the great linguistic paradox of India.” In these words Louis Renou (1956: 84) referred to a problem in Sanskrit studies for which so far no satisfactory solution had been found. I will here propose that the perceived “paradox” derives from the lack of acknowledgement of certain parameters in the linguistic situation of Ancient India which were insufficiently appreciated in Renou’s time, but which are at present open to systematic exploration with the help of by now well established sociolinguistic concepts, notably the concept of “diglossia”. Three issues will here be addressed in the light of references to ancient and classical Indian texts, Sanskrit and Sanskritic. A simple genetic model is indadequate, especially when the ‘linguistic area’ applies also to what can be reconstructed for earlier periods. The so-called Sanskrit “Hybrids” in the first millennium CE, including the Prakrits and Epics, are rather to be regarded as emerging “Ausbau” languages of Indo-Aryan with hardly any significant mutual “Abstand” before they will be succesfully “roofed,” in the second half of the first millennium CE, by “classical” Sanskrit.

Why is it important?

The history of (classical) Sanskrit, of Prakrit, of the so-called “hybrid” Sanskrits, of Vedic poetry and prose, and of the related Avestan and old Persian languages is of central importance for the cultural history of ancient India, ancient Iran and Asia.

Studies in honour of Stephanie Jamison

Gunkel, Dieter, Joshua Katz, Brent Vine & Michael Weiss (eds.). 2016. Sahasram Ati Srajas. Indo-Iranian and Indo-European studies in honor of Stephanie W. Jamison. Beech Stave Press.

The renowned Indologist and Indo-Europeanist Stephanie W. Jamison has now been honored with this extensive collection of essays by colleagues and students from around the world. The contributors represent a virtual who’s-who of Indo-Iranian and Indo-European scholarship and have produced contributions on everything from Vedic (e.g., Joel Brereton, George Cardona, Paul Kiparsky, Thomas Oberlies) to later Sanskrit (e.g. James Fitzgerald, Hans Henrich Hock, Ted Proferes) to Iranian (e.g. Mark Hale, P. Oktor Skjærvø) to other Indo-European languages (e.g. Dieter Gunkel, Martin Joachim Kümmel, Alan Nussbaum, Don Ringe, Michael Weiss). The volume also includes posthumously published articles by Lisi Oliver and Martin West. In all, these scholars have provided a worthy and rich tribute to a scholar whose own rich scholarship has been so vital to numerous subfields of linguistics, literary, religious, and cultural studies.

A table of contents is available here.

Hindu ritual and its significance for ritual theory

The following monograph does not directly relate to Iranian Studies, but promises to be an important book and will be of interest to scholars of religion and Iranian Studies for its content and methodological approach:

Michaels, Axel. 2015. Homo Ritualis: Hindu ritual and its significance for ritual theory (Oxford Ritual Studies). Oxford University Press.

Drawing on extensive textual studies and fieldwork in Nepal and India, Axel Michaels demonstrates how the characteristic structure of Hindu rituals employs the Brahmanic-Sanskritic sacrifice as a model, and how this structure is one of the distinguishing features of Hinduism more generally. Many religions tend over time to develop less ritualized or more open forms of belief, but Brahmanical Hinduism has internalized ritual behavior to the extent that it has become its most important and distinctive feature, permeating social and personal life alike. The religion can thus be seen as a particular case in the history of religions in which ritual form dominates belief and develops a sweeping autonomy of ritual behavior.

Read more here.

Axel Michaels is Director of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe” and Professor of Classical Indology at the South Asia Institute at the University of Heidelberg.



A good indological problem

Not strictly related to Iranian Studies, but this article by Dominik Wujastyk contains an insightful discussion of what constitutes a good indological problem:

Wujastyk, Dominik. 2014. How to choose a good indological problem. In Joe Pellegrino (ed.), Open pages in South Asian studies, 173–192. California: South Asian Studies Association.

Read the article here.