PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE

  • 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."

  • An 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.

  • Sanskrut's 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 years."

  • 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."

  • "Panini 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 computing machines."

  • 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.

  • "We 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 might proceed.

  • 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 Sanskrutists.

  • 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.