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ARRANGED WITH REFERENCE TO
THE CLASSICAL LANGUAGES OF EUROPE,
FOR THE USE OF
MONIER WILLIAMS, M. A.
PROFESSOR OF SANSKRIT AT THE EAST-INDIA COLLEGE, HAILEYBURY;
FORMERLY BODEN SCHOLAR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.
IN 1846 I published a Grammar of the Sanskțit language, which I entitled “An elementary Grammar, arranged according to a new Theory. This work is now out of print, and a new edition is required. The increasing experience which, during the subsequent ten years, I have derived from my duties as Sanskřit Professor at the East-India College, where every student without exception is compelled by statute to acquire this language, has led me to modify some of the views I expressed in my first Grammar respecting the Indian grammatical system. I have consequently felt myself called upon to re-write the book; and although I have seen no reason to depart materially from the arrangement originally adopted, yet I am confident that the present enlarged and more complete work will be found even better adapted than its predecessor to the practical wants of the European student.
At the best, a grammar is regarded by an European as a necessary evil, only to be tolerated because unavoidable. Especially must it be so in the case of a language confessedly more copious, more elaborate and artificial, than any other language of the world, living or dead. The structure of such a language must of necessity be highly complex. To the native of Hindústán this complexity is a positive recommendation. He views in it an evidence and a pledge of the sacred and unapproachable character of the tongue which he venerates as divine. To him the study of its intricate grammar is an end, complete and satisfying in
itself. He wanders with delight in its perplexing mazes; and values that grammar most which enters most minutely into an abstract analysis of the construction of the language, apart from its practical bearing on the literature or even on the formation of his own vernacular dialect. But the matter-of-fact temperament of an European, or at least of an Englishman, his peculiar mental organization, his hereditary and educational bias, are opposed to all such purely philosophical ideas of grammatical investigation. A Sanskřit grammar intended for his use must be plain, straightforward, practical; not founded on the mere abstract theory of native grammarians, not moulded in servile conformity to Indian authority, but constructed independently from an examination of the literature, and with direct reference to the influence exercised by Sansksit on the spoken dialects of India and the cognate languages of Europe. To the English student, as a general rule, all grammatical study is a disagreeable necessity—a mere means to an end-a troublesome road that must be passed in order that the goal of a sound knowledge of a language may be attained. To meet his requirements the ground must be cleared of needless obstacles, its rough places made smooth, its crooked places straight, and the passage over it facilitated by simplicity and perspicuity of arrangement, by consistency and unity of design, by abundance of example and illustration, by synoptical tables, by copious indices, by the various artifices of typography.
Before directing attention to the main features of the plan adopted in the present volume, and indicating the principal points in which it either differs from or conforms to the Indian system of grammatical tuition, I will endeavour to explain briefly what that system is; on what principles it is based; and in what relation it stands to the literature.
It might have been expected that in Sanskrit, as in
other languages, grammatical works should have been composed in direct subservience to the literature. But without going the length of affirming that the rules were anterior to the practice, or that grammarians in their elaborate precepts aimed at inventing forms of speech which were not established by approved usage, certain it is that in India we have presented to us the curious phenomenon of a vast assemblage of purely grammatical treatises, the professed object of which is not so much to elucidate the existing literature, as to be studied for their own sake, or as ancillary to the study of the more abstruse work of the first great grammarian, Páņini. We have, moreover, two distinct phases of literature; the one, simple and naturalthat is to say, composed independently of grammatical rules, though of course amenable to them; the other, elaborate, artificial, and professedly written to exemplify the theory of grammar. The literary compositions which preceded the appearance of Páņini's aphorisms, probably about the ad century B.C., belong of course to the first of these phases. Such are the Vedas, the code of Manu, and the two epic poems of the Rámáyaņa and Mahá-bhárata * The Vedas, indeed, which are referred back to a period as early as the 12th or 13th century B. C., abound in obsolete and peculiar formations, mixed up with the more recent forms of grammar with so much irregularity as to lead to the inference, that the language at that time was too unsettled and variable to be brought under subjection to a system of strict grammatical rules; while the simplicity of the style in the code of Manu and the two epic poems is a plain indication that a grammar founded on and intended to be a guide to the literature as it then existed, would have
* That Pánini was subsequent to the Mahá-bhárata may be conjectured from the circumstance that in the chapter on patronymics the examples given in the Vártikas or supplementary rules (probably nearly as ancient as the Sútras) seem to be taken from the names of the chiefs and warriors of that poem.