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Hindus believe that "Sanskrit is the mother of all Languages".

It is a fact that Sanskrit has enriched most Indian Languages including the Dravidian Languages such as Telugu, as Latin enriched some languages like English.

Since Hinduism is believed by some people to be the oldest recorded religion in the world and Sanskrit was the language of the people those days, do linguists agree that Sanskrit is the mother of all languages, or do they consider it a myth?

Do you think that there must be a common language for our ancestors who might have spoken a language though it might not have been Sanskrit?

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    It is not, it is just an older one that has much influence on contemporary and dead languages, but it has comparatively little/no influence on, say, afro-asiatic / berber / japonic languages – Carly Sep 4 at 17:09
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    Hinduism is not the "oldest recorded religion in the world". The ancient Sumerians and Egyptians had "recorded" religious texts long before anything was "recorded" in Sanskrit. But this has nothing to do with linguistics. This is a bogus question and I have voted to close it. – fdb Sep 4 at 17:47
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    Don't close it. This is such a common claim on the internet that explaining why it's bogus would be a public service. – Nardog Sep 4 at 18:06
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    Sanskrit is the mother of all North Indian languages, just as Latin is the mother of all Romance languages. But Sanskrit is not related to Dravidian, except where Dravidian languages have borrowed Sanskrit words -- and where Sanskrit borrowed consonants series from Dravidian. And Latin is not related to Basque, though Basque has borrowed many Latin words. That's all. The indo-European language family contains Latin and Sanskrit and their descendants, but not all the languages of the world. Latin and Sanskrit are cousins, though -- neither is "mother" to the other one. – jlawler Sep 4 at 18:36
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    I would also suggest keeping this open. This is a widespread claim, even promoted by some "linguists", and it's worth debunking. – Draconis Sep 4 at 18:50
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No, it is not.

First and foremost, there are many languages recorded long before the advent of Sanskrit, and many religions recorded long before the advent of Hinduism. The oldest surviving texts in Ancient Egyptian are from c. 3000 BCE, while the majority of the Rigveda (the oldest known Sanskrit text) was probably composed between 1500 and 1200 BCE. So that's a difference of a millennium and a half—and that's just between the oldest surviving written documents in Egyptian and the oldest oral traditions that were, much later, written down in Sanskrit! (While scholars think the Rigveda was composed sometime in the second millennium BCE, it wasn't written down until centuries later, and we don't have any actual artifacts with Sanskrit written on them from this period.)

Sanskrit is an Indo-European (sometimes called Indogermanic) language, which makes it a relative of English, Spanish, Russian, and many others. But Sanskrit isn't the ancestor of those languages, any more than the composers of the Vedas were the ancestors of all modern Europeans. Rather, Sanskrit and those other languages all share a common ancestor, called "Proto-Indo-European" (or "Proto-Indogermanic"), which was spoken somewhere between 4500 and 2500 BCE.

There are no surviving records of Proto-Indo-European (PIE for short), but scholars have been able to reconstruct it by comparing the languages that are attested, and working backward from there. There are some striking similarities, which make it clear that the languages are related. But:

  • Sanskrit preserves some features that disappeared in other branches: for example, the injunctive is well-attested in Vedic Sanskrit, but is uncommon in Homer's Greek, and disappears entirely by Plato's time.
  • And other branches preserve some features which have disappeared in Sanskrit: Hittite retains a phoneme that disappeared entirely in Sanskrit (but left plenty of traces showing that it must once have existed).

There are dozens and dozens more correspondences like these, where features disappeared in one branch but survived in another, or were innovated in one branch but not in another, and so on. So while it's clear that Ancient Greek, Sanskrit, Hittite, and so on are related, it's also clear that none is "mother" to the others: they're more like "siblings" or "cousins", with a common ancestor.

Do you think that there must be a common language for our ancestors[?]

Now this question is harder to answer.

The techniques I mentioned above, called the "comparative method", are really useful for reconstructing languages that must once have existed but aren't directly attested. But this method can only go back so far. Past a certain point, the comparative method just can't say anything particularly meaningful.

So while we know that there was an ancestor to all Indo-European languages, and an ancestor to all Afro-Asiatic languages ("Proto-Afro-Asiatic"), and an ancestor to all Sino-Tibetan languages ("Proto-Sino-Tibetan")…we can't really say anything definite about what came before those. They might all descend from an ancient sort of "Proto-World", or they might have all come about independently. There's just not enough evidence to say one way or the other.

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    for those keep score at home: "proto-" means here hypothesized. we do not have kindles or youtube channels from 5000 BC to "directly" "verify" the extrapolation (cf: how to pronounce latin). it is a "reasonable" "assumption" of the precursor to the INDO-EUROPEAN tongues – Carly Sep 4 at 20:22
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    @Carly Why the scarequotes? It's true, we have no way to directly verify our reconstructions, and they're reasonably well-founded assumptions. – Draconis Sep 4 at 21:35
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    That's not what "proto-" means though, even though it's definitely true we don't have direct evidence (written material). "Proto-" as a prefix comes from Greek and means "first" as well as being used to refer to "original" or "ancestral". It simply refers to the fact that we assume these languages to have the "first of their kind", as in, for instance, the first Indo-European language, all the others of which are derived from. If we had direct attestation, well, we'd probably use its own name, and not "Proto-Something", sure. It's just not what the "proto-" refers to. – LjL Sep 4 at 22:18
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    It's also not automatically true that we can't verify our theories about protolanguages (I don't think this was claimed, but I just thought it was worth noting). Actual Proto-Indo-European is extremely unlikely to ever be attested, but for example, we suddenly found ourselves able to read Hittite and to suddenly verify some hypotheses about Indo-European that we had made. I think this shows that there is no need for scarequotes because in this way, comparative linguistics is or can potentially be an experimental science, although it's rare to find precious texts that verify our theories. – LjL Sep 4 at 22:22
  • @LjL Agreed. I have also seen "proto-" used specifically for hypothetical reconstructions, and "common" used instead when talking about the actual language—as in, nobody ever spoke Proto-Indo-European, they spoke Common Indo-European, and Proto-Indo-European is our model of that. It doesn't seem like a very useful distinction, though. – Draconis Sep 4 at 22:26
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Sanskrit is not the mother of all languages. Sanskrit is not even the mother of the modern Indo-Aryan languages of the Northern India. Neither it is their father or grandfather. In fact, no language is a direct descendant of Sanskrit.

Saying that Sanskrit to the modern Indo-Aryan languages is the same as Latin to the modern Romance languages is absolutely wrong. The Romance languages are direct descendants of Latin, but the modern Indo-Aryan languages are not direct descendants of Sanskrit. The best European analogy is the role Ancient Greek played for the modern European languages: Ancient Greek affected them all, filled them with lots of words and syntactic structures, but none of those languages is a direct descendant of Ancient Greek, naturally with the exception of modern Greek.

To continue the family analogy, to the modern Indo-Aryan languages Sanskrit is a cousin grandfather who was their teacher, their guru. The Indo-Aryan languages descend from grandfather's siblings, but grandfather himself had no children.

Speaking more linguistically, there are actually two languages called Sanskrit: the Vedic Sanskrit aka the Vedic language (ca. 1500 to 500 BCE), and Sanskrit proper aka Classical Sanskrit (ca. 200 CE to 1300 CE), the latter being a refined and artistic, highly elaborate version of the former. The Vedic language was once a vernacular, but since the texts in it were holy and highly revered, the language was later standardized and it underwent polishing by Indian sages and philosophers giving rise to Sanskrit whose name can be translated as "well prepared, pure and perfect, polished". But apart from Sanskrit proper, the Vedic language gave rise to its sister languages, not so refined, not so polished, but which were really vernacular languages in the times when Sanskrit became the language of educated philosophers, brahmins, and poets. Those sister languages are called Prakrits, "natural, original, unpolished", the main ones being Maharashtri, Gandhari, Shauraseni, and Magadhi. Pali can also be considered a Prakrit, although later they did polish it very much. The Prakrits are the Middle Indo-Aryan languages, it is from them that the Modern Indo-Aryan languages developed.

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    <s>(Don't forget Paisācī!)</s> – Draconis Sep 4 at 21:35
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    I think much of this is true for languages derived from Latin, too, in the sense that they are derived from Vulgar Latin, which was likely quite different from Classical Latin even during classical times. I'd say there is a close parallel between "Classical" and "Sanskrit" meaning literary and refined on one hand, and "Vulgar" and "Prakrit" meaning natural vernaculars on the other. – LjL Sep 4 at 22:26
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    Your analogy between Sanskrit and Greek is very misleading. European languages have borrowed extensively from Greek, but they do not descend from Greek (apart from Modern Greek, of course.) Modern Indo-Aryan languages descend genetically from proto-Indo-Aryan (which is close to, but not identical with, classical Sanskrit). – fdb Sep 5 at 10:50
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    @fdb - So what is misleading? – Yellow Sky Sep 5 at 10:59
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    You seem to contradict yourself here. The Prakrits are absolutely descendants of Sanskrit – just not of Classical Sanskrit. ‘Sanskrit’ in English is, as you say, an underspecified term, and if you use it to refer to the Vedic language which was used (in a formulaic, poetic style) to compose the Vedas, then it’s not true that no languages are descended from Sanskrit. (Also, pedantically speaking, there are no languages called Sansktit, but I don’t have the rep here to make a single-character edit.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 5 at 16:57
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Not at all.

Sanskrit, Latin and a few other languages had a common ancestor called Proto-Indo-European, which was prevalent around 2500 BC on the southern steppes of Russia.

It is a fact that Sanskrit has enriched most Indian Languages including the Dravidian Languages such as Telugu as Latin enriched some languages like English

Yes, this is true.


Do you think that there must be a common language for our ancestors who might have spoken a language though it might not be Sanskrit?

Yes, this is probably true but than common language existed at least 50,000 years ago.

If anyone is at all interested in this field, I highly recommend https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3328218-the-story-of-human-language or https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/story-of-human-language.html

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