Definition of Sanskrit Language: Characteristics, History, and Examples – Humans are social beings who cannot live alone, always needing the presence of other people to be able to meet their daily needs. For this reason, humans need to interact with other people with various media, one of which is language as a tool to connect. Without language, humans will not be able to convey specific intentions or messages, including not being able to ask for help from their environment. There are various kinds of languages born around the world, one of which is Sanskrit which is one of the oldest languages. So what is Sanskrit and why is this language one of the oldest languages ever spoken in the world?
Before getting to know more, it should be noted that this language, according to historians, is thought to be the first spoken language on earth. This suspicion is getting stronger because many languages spoken by Europeans were inspired from this language so that they are included in ancient heritage. This is evidenced by the assumptions taught by all educational institutions or universities around the world, which consider them to be the most ancient. But there is no evidence that confirms when the Sanskrit language was originally used or exactly in what year this language was used. Before discussing further the history of Sanskrit, we need to know what is Sanskrit?
Definition of Sanskrit
What is Sanskrit and what does it mean? Sanskrit is an Indo-European language which is considered one of the oldest and is widely known by language researchers. The meaning of Sanskrit is perfect language, an antonym of folk language or prakerta and is widely used for religious or scientific purposes. Until now, Sanskrit has become one of the official languages used in India because it is closely related to Hinduism and Buddhism. In India itself, Sanskrit is widely used in several events in the Hindu religion or in several other major state celebrations.
For the people of India, this language is so exclusive because it is a marker of differences in social status so that it is only taught to high classes or castes. The use of Sanskrit is not only developing in India, but several countries also use it for certain symbols or mottos. Indonesia is one of several countries in the world that uses this language in the national motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. We are no strangers to the motto which has different meanings but still one, which is taken from one of the oldest languages in the world. Although not entirely, this motto uses Sanskrit because there is a blend with the original language from Indonesia, namely Old Javanese.
Characteristics of Sanskrit
After knowing what Sanskrit is in the previous review, then what are the characteristics of Sanskrit so that people can distinguish it from the others? Here are the characteristics.
1. Have Eight Grammar
In Sanskrit there are eight grammar that distinguish it from other languages. The eight grammars in question are as follows.
- Nominative grammar is grammar that refers to nouns. The nominative in the pattern of language in the formation of certain sentences shows the position as the subject. In essence, normative is a class of words for all types or elements that can be objectified.
- Vocational grammar is a word that refers to persuasive words such as invitations, exclamations, or calls.
- Grammar in the form of the accusative is a word that shows the object of a verb. The accusative in the formation of a sentence occupies a position as an object which is preceded by a transitive verb. So that the accusative with transitive verbs must coexist because they both influence each other.
- Instrumental grammar refers to tools. In passive sentences, the noun that mentions the actor is an instrumentalist.
- The dative grammar refers to demonstrative words namely to, like, or for.
- Grammar in the form of ablative refers to the origin of something or an object that is able to move something.
- Generative grammar refers to words that show possession or belonging.
- Locative grammar refers to the existence of something or indicates the location of a certain place.
2. Know the Three Genders or Gender
There are three known genders or genders in Sanskrit, namely masculine which is male, feminine in female, and neutral. Its use is common on objects that can be distinguished by gender. Neutral here means that the noun in question can be attached to a man or to a woman. Nouns that end in a but are short are masculine or neuter, while those that end in a are long and can almost be said to be feminine.
3. There Are Three Types of Amounts
There are three types in Sanskrit grammar to distinguish an object, namely singular for one object, dualist for two objects, and plural for more than two.
4. Have a Basic Schematic
The basic scheme here serves as a sign to distinguish which words are singular, dual or plural. This basic scheme is used in word formation in the 8 grammars as explained above.
5. Has Sandhi Law
The law of sandhi is a word change that occurs either at the beginning, middle or end due to the effect of a sound that is almost similar. There are two types of sandhi laws, namely inner sandhi and outer sandhi. Deep sandhi is a basic word that is joined with certain affixes. While the outer sandhi are two basic words that are combined into one whole word.
This term can be found in Old Javanese or in Indonesian. Some examples that include sandhi in the Java language are:
- Omah which means house is formed from two elements, namely a plus uma.
- kepengen which means desire is formed from two elements, namely when and want.
While those that include outer sandhi include narendra (a combination of nara and senses) and Werkudara (a combination of wreku and air).
History of Sanskrit Language Development
After learning about what Sanskrit is and the characteristics that distinguish it from other languages, what about the history of its development? There are not so many historical relics or discoveries that say the origins and when this language was born so that it can develop as it is today. Allegations or estimates that say Sanskrit as one of the oldest languages in the world is at the time of the Vedas. This period appeared in 1750-500 BC where in that civilization the Indo-Aryans lived and settled in northern India. They use Sanskrit as a means of communication between one another and spread to other areas.
It is from this allegation that the assumption that the oldest language in the world is pinned until now. Actually another language that is considered the oldest compared to Sanskrit is Hittite which belongs to the Indo-European language family. The Hittite language was widely spoken by people in mainland Turkey. The spread of Sanskrit is so wide that it influences several European vocabularies, one of which is in English. Some of these similar vocabulary are as follows:
The many similarities to the classical languages of Europe surprised many scholars at the time. The closeness that is created between the two shows that there is a fairly strong historical bond and the root words that make it similar. This is inseparable from the relationship between Sanskrit and other ancient languages, including Latin or Greek.
The development of Sanskrit also could not be separated from the intervention of the Aryans who spread across India to the outside of India. The Indo-Aryan migration theory argues that Sanskrit is closely related to other Indo-European languages because the speakers are the same person. The thing that can prove this theory is the closeness between the Indo-Iranian languages and the Slavic and Baltic languages of Europe where exchange of vocabulary occurs in them. The exchange of vocabulary in question relates to flora and fauna in Indo-European languages.
In prehistoric times, the language used by the Indo-Aryans is believed to be the ancestor of Sanskrit. However, this belief cannot be proven by material remains or anything else, so it is unclear and the time span is too long. Thomas Burrow as one of the historians of linguistics said that Sanskrit was a branch of the Indo-Aryans who migrated to the East Iran region. The move was then directed towards South Asia precisely in the 2nd century BC.
The language used by the Indo-Aryans was not necessarily the same, but underwent a change which was later named the Vedic language. This language is thought to be the preclassical form of Sanskrit until it is better known today. Relics of ancient history that uses Sanskrit is a Hindu holy book called the Regveda which was written in the 2nd century. However, this legacy is only in the form of sayings passed down by previous generations and not recorded in certain media, so the truth is not so trusted.
The Rigveda itself is a Hindu holy book which was made separately because it was composed by many authors at that time. The person who composed this book is a different person from one generation to another. Louis Renou, who is a researcher of Sanskrit literature, especially the Regveda, said that the Vedic language had a more regular linguistic pattern at its time. Some of the relics after our Regweda include the Atharwaweda, Yajurweda, Samaweda, and several other ancient texts. From the heritage of the Vedic language, Sanskrit is considered an ancient language used by people in the northwestern, eastern and northern regions of India.
Several educated groups in Europe then questioned whether Sanskrit was an spoken language or only a literary language. This difference gave birth to two camps that have their own opinions, one believes Sanskrit as the spoken language and the other as the literary language. Groups that are pro as an oral language believe it is based on preservation through texts written in Sanskrit during the time of Ancient India. They say that the classical Sanskrit language at that time was spoken by those who belonged to the educated and cultured classes.
The spread of Sanskrit also reached Indonesian territory, more precisely at the beginning of the 5th century AD by priests who came from India and its surroundings. Especially in the 7th century when the existence of Hinduism in the archipelago at that time reached its peak of glory through several major kingdoms. The great kingdoms that once stood in Indonesia, such as the Kutai Kingdom as the oldest kingdom in Indonesia, Tarumanegara, to the most famous, namely Majapahit. The relics of these kingdoms are generally in the form of inscriptions written in Sanskrit such as from the Kutai kingdom through 7 inscriptions in Sanskrit.
The Majapahit Kingdom as the largest Hindu kingdom in Indonesia also left behind many historical heritages with a Sanskrit flavor. One of the famous legacies to this day is the palapa oath uttered by Gajah Mada who was in power at that time. In the palapa oath, there is the word Nusantara which comes from the Sanskrit language used until now which can be found in other texts or readings. Nusantara comes from the word nusa which means island and the word between which means outside. Archipelago by Patih Gajah Mada is intended for all areas outside Java because of his desire to unite all regions into one under the name Nusantara.
Even though it carried a strong influence through the Hindu-style kingdoms at that time, the Sanskrit language began to be abandoned in the 14th century. The reason for this was because the collapse of the Hindu royal dynasty was replaced by an Islamic power which spread more Arabic and Malay languages. However, the Sanskrit element does not necessarily disappear because the vocabulary from Malay and other regions in the archipelago is an absorption of Sanskrit. Java is an area where Sanskrit elements are still present in some of the vocabulary developed and used by the ancestors until now. Evidence that the Sanskrit element is still strong even though it has been abandoned for a long time by many people.
Not only does it affect certain regional languages, the national language of Indonesia also gets the same influence apart from Arabic, Chinese, English, Dutch, and so on. It is estimated that approximately 800 in Indonesian contain elements from Sanskrit which are still used and recorded in the KBBI.
Examples of Sanskrit in Indonesian
In this article, we not only know what Sanskrit is, but we also have to know that many words are borrowed from Sanskrit. We even feel very familiar with it because we are used to pronouncing it. Moreover, in ancient times, its influence was so strong in Indonesia that a lot of vocabulary was also absorbed. The following are examples of some of the absorbed vocabulary into Indonesian.
After knowing what Sanskrit is, its characteristics, to its history, there are many lessons that can be learned. The influence of Sanskrit in this world is so great that its existence is still attached even though times are changing. This indicates that the nation’s ancestors managed to maintain their existence between generations. We, as the Indonesian people, must also follow the example of this preservation and ensure that the Indonesian language as a medium of communication does not fade with time. Do not let the nation’s unifying tool which is so pluralistic disappear so that we will also lose our national identity.