Panini was a Sanskrit grammarian who gave a comprehensive and scientific theory of phonetics, phonology, and morphology.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- The dates given for Panini are pure guesses.
- We will say a little more below about how historians have gone about trying to pinpoint the date when Panini lived.
- Panini was a Sanskrit grammarian who gave a comprehensive and scientific theory of phonetics, phonology, and morphology.
- Sanskrit was the classical literary language of the Indian Hindus and Panini is considered the founder of the language and literature.
- A treatise called Astadhyayi (or Astaka ) is Panini's major work.
- In this work Panini distinguishes between the language of sacred texts and the usual language of communication.
- Panini gives formal production rules and definitions to describe Sanskrit grammar.
- In many ways Panini's constructions are similar to the way that a mathematical function is defined today.
- An indirect consequence of Panini's efforts to increase the linguistic facility of Sanskrit soon became apparent in the character of scientific and mathematical literature.
- Panini should be thought of as the forerunner of the modern formal language theory used to specify computer languages.
- The Backus Normal Form was discovered independently by John Backus in 1959, but Panini's notation is equivalent in its power to that of Backus and has many similar properties.
- At the beginning of this article we mentioned that certain concepts had been attributed to Panini by certain historians which others dispute.
- Then he put the finishing touches to the theory by suggesting that Panini in the eighth century BC (earlier than most historians place Panini) was the first to come up with the idea of using letters of the alphabet to represent numbers.
- Even if one accepts the link between the numerals and the letters, making Panini the originator of this idea would seem to have no more behind it than knowing that Panini was one of the most innovative geniuses that world has known so it is not unreasonable to believe that he might have made this step too.
- There are other works which are closely associated with the Astadhyayi which some historians attribute to Panini, others attribute to authors before Panini, others attribute to authors after Panini.
- We also promised to return to a discussion of Panini's dates.
- One can use this technique and see whom Panini mentions.
- There are ten scholars mentioned by Panini and we must assume from the context that these ten have all contributed to the study of Sanskrit grammar.
- This in itself, of course, indicates that Panini was not a solitary genius but, like Newton, had "stood on the shoulders of giants".
- Panini must have lived later than these ten but this is absolutely no help in providing dates since we have absolutely no knowledge of when any of these ten lived.
- Well of course Panini uses many phrases to illustrate his grammar any these have been examined meticulously to see if anything is contained there to indicate a date.
- Another angle is to examine a reference Panini makes to nuns.
- A nice argument but there is a counter argument which says that there were Jaina nuns before the time of Buddha and Panini's reference could equally well be to them.
- There are references by others to Panini.
- However it would appear that the Panini to whom most refer is a poet and although some argue that these are the same person, most historians agree that the linguist and the poet are two different people.
Born about 520 BC, Shalatula (near Attock), now Pakistan. Died about 460 BC, India.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Ancient Indian, Origin Pakistan
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive