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Proto-Indo-European: The Mother of Languages

All the languages from India to Lithuania with rare exceptions are probably derived from a single unnamed language, whose currently fully known, most refined relative is called Sanskrit. 

Monier-Williams, who compiled a Sanskrit-English dictionary in 1899 writes, " ' the primary object of a Sanskrit dictionary should be to exhibit, by a lucid etymological arrangement, the structure of a language which, as most people know, is not only the elder sister of Greek, but the best guide to the structure of Greek, as well as of every other member of the Indo-European family-a language, in short, which is the very key-stone of the science of comparative philology. 'that the Hindus are perhaps the only nation, except the Greeks, who have investigated, independently and in a truly scientific manner, the general laws which govern the evolution of language." Around 700 B.C. Yaska wrote a book on etymology and in 500 B.C. Panini compiled a grammar. These were not the first, because they give credit to unnamed prior sources. No other known language has older treatises on grammar, philology or etymology.

Take the verb to be. In Sanskrit, I am, is Asmi and they are, is Santi.

English declinations of the verb be are strangely irregular and illogical. I am, he is, we are, she was, they were. None resemble be. Such verbs are irregular and reflect their Indo-European origin. These ancients realized that speech was a uniquely human attribute that separated us from animals and from Vaachaa comes vocal, vocation. Sanskrit was the elaborate or refined language and thus who spoke it had sanskriti or civilization. Those who could not speak it clearly or stammered or spoke incomprehensible tongues were doing Badbadaat and thus were called barbarians.

Take the prefixes "un and a" denoting without or opposite and they are common to Indian and English languages and come from Sanskrit origins. Deva, Dyut, Dhola, Divas all derive from the original meaning bright and thus also day, dios, Zeus. Pitru gives rise to pater, father; Matru to mother; Bhratru to brother and fraternal; Dohitru to daughter. Devapitru ' the godfather becomes Zeuspater and then Jupiter. Timir the darkness is to be feared and gives rise to timid and timorous. Janma, Janani are birth and mother who gives birth and from it stem gene, genesis, generate. Mrut, Mrutyu are dead and death and hence mortis, mortal, mortality. Sarpa is to slide or slither like a snake, so serpent and serpentine. Maans gives rise to old High German maz, Icelandic matr, then to meat meaning edible flesh. Madhu, Madhur are honey and sweet and from them we get mead and mellitus. Gnana is the basis of spelling knowledge with a K, and hence gnosis, Gnostic and ignorant. Agni is fire and hence the English words ignite, ignition, igneous. Raaj is rule and from it come regis, reign, royal, regina, regal, ragnar. Guru is preceptor but also heavy and hence urdu word gurur-pride, but also in English we have grave, gravid, gravity. Sthaan, Sthit, Sthiti meaning position, stable and condition, give rise to stand, stance, state, static. Vijaya becomes vici and then victory and invincible. Yoga, Yukta give yoke and Bandha, Bandhan are the root of bind, bound, boundary, bond and binding. Pada gives root to podia, podiatry, peddle, pedlar. Graha, Grahas meaning hold or planet and crocodile also give grasp. 

Aksha generates ocular and Naas transforms to nose and nasal. Danta is the origin of dental, dentine and dent. Kanthha branches out into cant, chant cantor, canticle. Kapaala most likely changes to Greek kephalos and then cephalic.

Manu the first person gives us man, manual, manhood. Ada morphs to Latin edere, then German essen and to English eat. The relationship is manifest in humanity's faculty of color vision. Palit in Sanskrit is gray and from it comes pale and pallid. Rudra is red and from it comes rubro, ruby and ultimately red. Shweta is white and in Russian Svet is bright and hence Svetlana. 

The interchangeability and derivational history of languages is marked by the mileposts of S metamorphosing to H as in Soma to Homa and J changing to Y and H. The Icelandic and Old English words for white are Hvitr and Hwit derived from the Sanskrit by replacing S by H and ultimately leading to white. Equally good is the origin of the names for numbers. Dwi, Tri, Chatur, Pancha, Shat, Sapta, Ashta, Nava, Dasha become Zwei, Trei etc. and end up as two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten but going through Tetra, Penta, Hexa, Hepta or Septa, Octa, Nano, Deca.

This shows that important and essential primitive means of communication utilized the words, which still persist in transformed languages in spite of the passage of millennia and it was our forefathers and foremothers who did it and make us proud of our heritage. It is not enough to bask in the reflected glory of an illustrious past, we need to live united and amicably in the present and build for a glorious future to bequeath to our progeny, as Sanskrit did to the world. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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