One thing I'd like to point out is that far from an extinct form, there are Sanskrit poets even today who can compose verses subject to such constraints, and at least two of them even do it “live” on stage—compose with any of the classical constraints, on any given topic!—without pen and paper, as part of a performance interleaved with many other interruptions.
Edit: About the verse in the title, just now found a Facebook post that points out it's part of at least 10 such two-consonant verses in that chapter (which also has verses subject to various other constraints).
: I was not the original creator (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shishupala_Vadha&...), but added most of the content (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shishupala_Vadha&...): 90% according to the “Who Wrote That” extension.
: Shatavadhani Ganesh https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shatavadhani_Gane... and Shankar Rajaraman
: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Avadhanam&oldid=9... – excerpts from a recording of such a performance are at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3GnorRNjXE though it's best experienced live!
* I found the description on the 'drum' pattern difficult to understand, that might be a word understood in a particular way in your culture/region?
* The introduction mentions the verse that can mean both apology or declaration of war, would be great to have this mentioned/translated too as one of the examples.
Thanks for an interesting article!
* For Latin, Wikipedia gives a list of “ages” (Old Latin, Classical Latin, Late Latin, Medieval Latin, Renaissance Latin, New Latin, Contemporary Latin), with "Vulgar Latin" (Latin as spoken by the common non-elite people) and Ecclesiastical Latin (Latin as used in the Church) on the side. The main point is that, when Latin was still a spoken language within living memory, the speech of the people had already started to diverge, and that is Vulgar Latin. But when say Newton or Gauss or Erasmus or Spinoza wrote in Latin, or when George I spoke in Latin to his prime minister Robert Walpole (according to Wikipedia), they were using not Vulgar Latin but "correct" Latin; they had just learned it as part of their education. In a parallel to that, "spoken Sanskrit" of the common people evolved into various Prakrit languages and into many modern Indian languages, just as Latin evolved into the Romance languages. But the families where Sanskrit is spoken (usually as just one language among many) all involve "correct" Sanskrit; it's just that the parents have learned it and teach it to their children.
* Yes the "drum" pattern does not look like a drum to me either; it's just what the constraint is called :-) It's based on the strings around a certain kind of drum (possibly mṛdanga = mridangam); I've uploaded a few illustrations here https://imgur.com/a/8c6Sxet — they're from books/blogs; will try uploading one of them to Wikipedia under a fair-use license.
* About the chapter with two meanings: I didn't have a reference then, but I found one now and have added an example to the article! https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shishupala_Vadha&...
Are you aware of free and open source recording of shlokas that a beginner can hear and learn to recite?
(1) Recital by Malola Kannan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj4sWsHC6Ck
(2) Follow the recital starting at shloka 911 here http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ebooks/vdesikan/rps/92.html
(3) See the artistry of the shlokas here http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ebooks/vdesikan/rps/chitra.h...
(4) The Knight's Tour solution here http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ebooks/vdesikan/rps/knight.h...
So, for your intended use case, I'd suggest saying 'maha' instead of 'mahakavya' since that is closer in semantics to your intention.
EDIT: Nvm, I was unfamiliar with the Scrum term.
I'd say that was the intended usage.
"moon" becomes "round airy-light on dark" or "pale-orange-of-the-sky".
Because of this structure, it was possible to create poems in the language that consisted of a single long word.
"We want you to write a poem in an obsolete/mostly dead language. And oh, you may only have two consonants per stanza, no more."
"Write and maintain web-based applications in 2020 but do not stray outside of the list of approved languages (Ruby and PL/SQL), no modern advancements such as containers or CI/CD are supported, also, remote debuggers are right out."
It was a better analogy in my head, before I wrote it down.
But I speak pretty similarly to the poetry, gramatically, lexically, phonetically, and in a few hundred or thousand years' time nobody will comprehend those written works the same way I do, just as many Shakespearian puns and jokes don't work well with current accents even though we are all speaking "Modern English".
Also, tangentially, I don't know Sanskrit or the modern languages of South Asia at all. However, given what I know about linguistics and other old languages I can guarantee you that no modern speaker of Sanksrit understands it in exactly the same way as the dead authors of those old written works.
Anyway, about the tangent: both modern speakers and the dead author of this old written work are from centuries after something like Sanskrit was the spoken language of the street, and both learned Sanskrit by reading many of the same authors and aspiring to adhere to the same (very comprehensive) grammar, so the difference is not as much as one may think: I cannot enumerate any point of difference as far as the language goes (grammatically, phonetically, etc), except for things like quotations from later centuries being more familiar to later authors. This is like: Gauss was writing in Latin about three centuries after Copernicus (say), but both of them understood Latin in pretty much the same way AFAIK. (In the case of Latin the phonology was questionable maybe, but with Sanskrit such things were better documented.) No two people ever understand a language in exactly the same way of course, but when learning a fixed version of a classical language, the differences are relatively minor.
For example it's pretty common to find people who can read Latin well but pretty rare to find people who understand in what time period and circumstance an /m/ would have nasalized the vowel before it. Could they "speak Latin"? It wouldn't really be the same. It's a bit like learning Esperanto.
I think it's quite likely that modern communities speaking Sanskrit are a little blinded to this sort of thing by pride in the cultural heritage and identity that Sanskrit represents.
My larger point is we don't really know what kind of utterance a casual street speaker of Latin or Sanksrit was capable of. It's very possible that something like a palindromic poem is impressive to modern eyes and ears in part because native speakers no longer exist.
Another example in English. You might be surprised at how people without much education can improvise a freestyle rap. How will that look to somebody studying current English in 1000 years? Will someone make comments like yours about the astounding difficulty of execution? I mean, yes, people doing this are clever. Not everyone can pull it off. But it is derived from existing casual speech patterns and recognizable as such.
That was exactly my point, and the reason I picked those examples; I guess I could have been clearer in my previous comment. The author of the poem being discussed in this thread, whose name was Māgha, lived in the 7th century. It is hard to be sure exactly when Sanskrit stopped evolving as a spoken language and became "frozen" into its classical form (or rather, the naturally evolving language stopped being called Sanskrit), but one date conventionally taken is that of Pāṇini, who lived in possibly the 4th or 5th century BCE. So at the time Māgha was born, Sanskrit was a “dead” language (in that sense) for about a thousand years, give or take a few centuries. He would have learned the language not as his primary spoken tongue of everyday life, but more as the language of education and scholarship, somewhat similar to the way Gauss or Copernicus would have learned Latin, and the way we learn Sanskrit today. That's what I meant in my previous comment by:
> both modern speakers and [Māgha] are from centuries after [Sanskrit] was the spoken language of the street […] when learning a fixed version of a classical language, the differences are relatively minor.
Now, we can be very certain that the kinds of constrained poetry we see here are the result of arduous (and masterly) construction and not a product of casual speech patterns, because:
1. On general linguistic grounds: constraints like two-dimensional palindromes and the cakrabandha (where every third syllable of the fourth line matches a specific syllable of the first three lines, and certain annuli spell out something meaningful), are not discernible to the ear (unlike say, rhyme or assonance).
We never see something like it produced in daily speech (in English or any language), and when it is done (see Oulipo and similar), it is with much effort (and the resulting language—e.g. the “Pilish” of Mike Keith, or “A Void” by Adair—can sound slightly stilted, which is the case with several of Māgha's poems too).
In Sanskrit, no one produced such stuff in the centuries when it was a language of daily speech.
2. Even in the centuries before and after Māgha, only very few authors have managed it. Looking at modern speakers (which is a reasonable proxy; see above), it takes a rare skill, and the distance between not speaking Sanskrit and fluently speaking idiomatic Sanskrit is still smaller than the distance between the latter and being able to compose like this.
You have a great point though, which applies to many situations other than this one: for example, I might hear someone today rapping in Old English (the language of Beowulf) and be impressed, but for someone living back then, it may have been (like the "an ordinary job" comment that started this thread) just natural and requiring only slightly above-average competence.
52 letters :)
It is instances like these when I utterly regret my school not having offered Sanskrit back then. Now I highly doubt if I would ever get the opportunity to learn this beautiful language, ever!
Fun fact → In the '80s, a NASA engineer discovered that Sanskrit can be a more viable language in NLP than any formally defined programming language courtesy its constrained grammatical states (to coin a phrase)
Aside, just remembered: there's a talk on this Navya-nyāya tradition that I listened to recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRiv7uv_C90&feature=youtu.be... (covers Navya-nyāya in the 2nd half, but may be hard to follow if you're not familiar with the Sanskrit tradition). For a Western audience, these ideas may be easier to understand via the papers I mentioned at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14295285, or something like the “History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps” podcast, which is good in general (but which covers only the older nyāya and not navya-nyāya so far, in its 62 episodes https://historyofphilosophy.net/india).
(I think I already mentioned this paper being a “dead end” etc in my comments, even in my first comment on this topic from 3 years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14295285. BTW it did lead to something more: excitement over the paper led to a conference the next year in India—see the only other paper of Rick Briggs listed in DBLP—though that too fizzled out and led nowhere... I haven't even been able to find any record of its proceedings being published anywhere. Anyway, telling people about all this creates a mystery and raises questions—if a lot of people putting their minds together couldn't produce anything useful for AI from it, maybe it's not so useful for AI after all?—and invites them to reconsider their position, and generally leads to better outcomes than quick debunking and denial of false claims, IMO.)
<Fun fact: X, imperfectly stated> → <NASA engineer says Sanskrit can be used for knowledge representation> → <NASA endorses Sanskrit for AI> → <Sanskrit is good for AI> → <Sanskrit is the best language for computers> → <claims of superiority> → <Y: the thing you might be actually worried about>.
In any such chain X→…→Y, I think it's possible that worry about Y can hinder ability to appreciate X on its own terms as an intellectual delight, so it requires some conscious mental effort of stepping back or “depoliticization”, to do so. Then, for “calling out abuse” (as you said, they're not complementary), one again has a choice of form. A shooting-down approach, especially one where one debunks something actually further ahead in the chain, has its advantages — it is strong, and plays well to third parties and to those already on one's side. But it can be polarizing, and poor at convincing the person who was saying X. It seems preferable to me to start by agreeing with X (in this case X too was imperfectly stated so actually one would have to reach back and agree with the correct W), then add a cautionary note about the next steps in the chain that are not true. But this is ultimately a matter of preference no doubt. After all, those who react strongly seem to be more successful in most outcomes other than convincing the person they're reacting to. :-)
Anyway I guess it is a bit pointless and too meta to be talking about talking, so I'll end here; will just for concreteness repeat the correct (AFAIK) version of the “fun fact”: there existed/exists an interesting and sophisticated special-purpose usage of (a subset of) Sanskrit that was used to avoid (reduce?) the ambiguity that is common all natural languages, and Sanskrit in particular, and this was (roughly) pointed out in a paper in the 80s that caught some interest because of the author's employer (NASA) and publication venue (AI Magazine), though there are much better sources, and though it is not actually any more useful for AI than the typical approaches used (even at that time) for knowledge-representation.
I did not even bring up any other naturally spoken language. The author wants to say that we have a subset in Sanskrit using which can be much better than a formally defined language. There wasn’t even an attempt to bring any other naturally spoken language in the picture.
As for the other part, consider what this NN language was designed for: to give precise definitions and statements, for use in debate, dialectic, etc. While it is plausible that some of these properties could make it suitable for similar purposes on a computer too, it also had other constraints (designed for humans, had to be grammatical Sanskrit, etc). How likely do you think it is that it can be much better than anything that could be designed for computers, without those constraints? Besides, if it were so optimized for computers it would be slightly worse for its actual purpose of human communication in debates. Have you considered the fact that Briggs does not claim so in his paper either?
Did you get in what ways would it be "much better", I didn't quite get that part.
Some of that seems to be true: the paper was indeed written and the contact details of the single author, Rick Brigs, are "RIACS, NASA Ames Research Centeu, Moffet Field, California 94305". That doesn't mean they were a "NASA engineer"- but they probably were a NASA employee.
Besides that, there doesn't seem to be any hint that NASA, as an org, adopted the use of Sanskrit for ... something.
Excellent and fair review BTW. I hope you do some reviewing for AAAI, ICML et al
I am hopeful that the time is ripe for ILP or a merger of logic and probability.
And I'm always a bit skeptical of those Sanskrit NLP claims, but it's interesting nonetheless.
Apropos of your skepticism, I tried my best to back my claim with a research published by the engineer.
The publication is not from a "NASA engineer". Neither does the publication, back up any of your claim.
If it did turn out that Sanskrit were exceptionally well suited for something in AI, I'm willing to bet that either the domain of AI or Sanskrit (either the systems in its grammar, or our respect for it as a natural language that can only imperfectly be captured by a formalized grammar of it) would need to be so constrained in scope that this supposed exceptionality would seem rather cherrypicked.
I'm not saying Sanskrit isn't cool (it's super cool), but I am saying we should resist insinuations that it's somehow more conducive to sophisticated thought or whatever.
I find so many similarities in language (well of course that's a no-brainer), traditional music, recipes. I met many Iranian people while I was a student in the United States. My experience has been so absolutely wonderful.
I don't how much goodwill Iranians have towards Indians, but personally I have a lot towards them. Hopefully would be able to visit sometime. This was impossible while I was a student in US -- without burning bridges that is.
First of all- what is the main claim of the paper? It's difficult to tell
because it's not stated clearly at any point. There are a number of sentences
in the paper that seem to be trying to claim something, but the author seems
to be unclear himself what that something ought to be.
For example, this sentence, in the abstract, seems to make a strong claim:
This article demonstrates that a natural language can serve as an artificial
language also, and that much work in AI has been reinventing a wheel
However, a demonstration that a semantic analysis of a scant few sentences in
two natural languages by two different methods (semantic nets and Paninian
grammar) has similar results can not be accepted as proof that the two methods
are equivalent, which really seems as what the author is trying to claim. At
best it's evidence that there is an equivalence, but since this evidence
consists of just a few sentences, it is really weak evidence. There is
probably an infinite number of sentences that it is possible to construct in
English and in Sanskrit- and a possibly infinite number of semantic parses
based on the author's own chosen semantic net scheme, of each of those
sentences. There's nothing to say that if we kept analysing English and
Sanskrit sentences in the way the author shows, we would keep getting the same
results he obtained.
So to recap, the paper has a very vague main claim that is very loosely
supported empirically by some examples that we have no way to know are
representative. Like I say in another comment, I really can't understand how
this passed peer review in AAAI. There is no chance that this would ever be
published in AAAI today.
Of course there's no point doing any of this now, it's only a curiosity as far as AI is concerned (though interesting from the viewpoint of intellectual history), and it's not surprising that the paper has been a dead end.
For example, I know (of) Attempto and have done a bit of reading on CNLs in general (mainly because I've done some undergraduate and post-graduate stuff with the Magic: the Gathering CNL, "ability text" :). There is no attempt by the author to describe "Shastric sanskrit" as a CNL for knowledge representation. That would have been a clearly stated claim and it would make a lot of sense- but, it's nowhere to be seen.
To be honest, after a cursory reading, it sounds a bit meh and I'm surprised that it was actually published by AAAI.
In many ways, Hindi was just an optimization pass on the language.
Edit: studied Hindi and Sanskrit in school. Modulo a few things, they’re very similar. Far more so than other linked languages like Latin and its derivatives
In written form, Hindi is closest IMHO to Sanskrit versus the other major Indian languages. However it drops certain aspects like explicit अ and a few less common characters. But largely if you can read Hindi, you can read Sanskrit without much issue.
Whereas other Indian languages diverged more in their written text form. Though even there, I can read Gujarati text to some degree.
I’m ethnically Bengali so I can understand some spoken Bengali but struggle to read any due to the more marked difference in how the letters are formed.
That's not the only script that Sanskrit was written in. Devanagari wasn't even the first script that Sanskrit was written in. In fact Sanskrit did not have an 'official' script. Marathi and Gujarati also uses Devanagari with a few minor differences.
I wasn’t speaking for historical accuracy or commenting on other languages.
I wish I was taught better.
Are there any sources to relearn Sanskrit from the ground up.
Otherwise if you prefer text there is http://learnsanskrit.org/ etc.
I studied only for 4 years, but I'm native Sinhalese, which isn't really that far from Sanskrit.
It's interesting you say that. My native tongue is Hindi, but growing up I had a friend whose mother tongue was Malayalam, and according to him Malayalam was closer to Sanskrit than Hindi.
Do you know if there are similarities between Sinhalese and Malyalam?