Panini's grammar consists of nearly 4,000 rules divided into
eight chapters. It provides a collection of 2,000 roots. Being
composed with the maximum conceivable brevity, this grammar
describes the entire Sanskrut language in all the details of
its structure, with a unity which has never been equaled elsewhere.
It is at once the shortest and fullest grammar in the world."
interesting point about Panini's grammar is that it "is
notably descriptive; it does no t attempt to tell people how
they should speak and write; Panini was only concerned with
what people actually did say and write." This underscores
the point about Sanskrut as a natural language.
potential for scientific use was greatly enhanced as a result
of the thorough systemization of its grammar by Panini. On the
basis of just under 4000 sutras [rules expressed as aphorisms],
he built virtually the whole structure of the Sanskrut language,
whose general 'shape' hardly changed for the next two thousand
In order to create the grammar, Panini "invented a notation
which is equivalent in its power to that of Backus [BNF], and
has many similar properties: given the use to which the notation
was put, it is possible to identify structures equivalent to
the Backus '|' and to the use of the meta-brackets '<' and
'>' enclosing suggestive names. Panini avoided the necessity
for the character '::=' by writing the meta-result on the right
rather than the left."
uses metarules, transformations, and recursion in such sophistication
that his grammar has the computing power equivalent to a Turing
machine. In this sense Panini may be considered the father of
Joseph argued that "An indirect consequence of Panini's
efforts to increase the linguistic facility of Sanskrut soon
became apparent in the character of scientific and mathematical
literature," i.e. that the flourishing of Indian Subcontinetal
mathematics may have been a direct consequence of the systematization
of the grammar of Sanskrut, and of the formal tools which were
developed in order to do this.
can now assert, with the power of hindsight, that Indian subcontinent
linguists in the fifth century B.C. knew and understood more
than Western linguists in the nineteenth century A.D. Can one
not extend this conclusion and claim that it is probable that
Indian subcontinent linguists are still ahead of their Western
colleagues and may continue to be so in the next century? Quite
possible; all we can say is that it is difficult to detect something
that we have not already discovered ourselves."
What might be other features of the grammar that have not yet
been rediscovered in computer science remains to be seen. But
it is suggested that aspects of its structure will have implications
for further advance in computer science, knowledge representation,
and linguistics. In particular we can hope for significant applications
in natural language processing. The ongoing analysis of the
structures of Paanini and those of the later grammarians and
logicians will be aided by the development of software to implement
it on a digital computer.
The specific issues of immediate interest to the computer scientist
include analysis of the arrangement of the rules and search
for other arrangements that are equivalent in terms of their
generative power. The formal aspects of these arrangements and
their relationships is likely to help increase the notion of
distance between grammars. Such a notion is of immediate relevance
for machine translation. Given two languages with grammars that
are close in structure, as in the Indo-Aryan family of languages,
one would expect the translation across the languages to be
relatively easy. A formalizations of the notion of closeness
is also likely to give pointers regarding how an automatic translation
One great virtue of the Paaninian system is that it operates
at the level of roots and suffixes defining a deeper level of
analysis than afforded by recent approaches like generalized
phrase structure grammars 21 that have been inspired by development
of computer parsing techniques. This allows for one to include
parts of the lexicon in the definition of the grammatical structure.
Closeness between languages that share a great deal of a lexicon
will thus be represented better using a Paaninian structure.
These fundamental investigations that have bearing on linguistics,
knowledge representation, and natural language processing by
computer require collaboration between computer scientists and
Computer oriented studies on it would also help to introduce
AI (artificial intelligence), logic, and cognitive science
as additional areas of study in the Sanskrut departments
of universities. This would allow the Sanskrut departments
to complement the program of the computer science departments.
With the incorporation of these additional areas, a graduate
of Sanskrut could hope to make useful contributions to the
computer software industry as well, particularly in the
fields of natural language processing and artificial intelligence.