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International Journal of Arts, Humanities and Social Studies

Vol. 6, Issue 1, Part A (2024)

Sanskrit’s affiliation to European languages and competing models of ‘Similarity’: Sir William Jones, Gaston-Laurent Coeurdoux, and Friedrich Schlegel

Author(s):

Dr. Prem Lata Chandra and Abhay Kumar Mishra

Abstract:

In 1784, Sir William Jones noted the similarities between Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek, leading to his recognition for discovering the concept of 'Indo-European' over two hundred years ago. However, new researches credit Father Gaston-Laurent Coeurdoux, a French Jesuit missionary in India, as the precursor to Sir William Jones with regard to discerning the similarity between Sanskrit and European languages. However, models of ‘similarity’ proposed by both of them allow for notable divergences. The concept of ‘mosaic ethnology’ sheds much light on their respective ideas of ‘similarity’. Sir William Jones aimed to emphasize the ethnological analogy between Indians and Europeans, based on their common descent from Hamite lineage. Father Coeurdoux, however, analyzed the linguistic-ethnological similarity between Indians and Europeans by highlighting their common Japhetite lineage. He argued that the Brahmins of India, who spoke Sanskrit, had closely interacted with Greek, Latin and other European peoples, and that this interaction became the source of language ‘similarity’ evolving over time. In Germany, in early 19th century, Friedrich Schlegel made inquiries into Sanskrit language and texts, and referred to linguistic similarity between Sanskrit and European languages as deriving from flectional character of Sanskrit. This finding earned him the reputation of being one of the earliest pioneers of comparative linguistics. Yet, Schlegel’s apparent linguistic enterprise contained an undertone of ‘internal colonialism’, denoting Germany’s aspiration to re-define itself in terms of leading a spiritual revitalization of Europe which stood on the brink of disintegration. More than that, in Schlegel’s ensuing scheme of retrieving and refining the lost primeval wisdom of India, contours of difference as well as that of interspersal between the West and East seem to be curiously interlocked.

Pages: 22-29  |  213 Views  76 Downloads


International Journal of Arts, Humanities and Social Studies
How to cite this article:
Dr. Prem Lata Chandra and Abhay Kumar Mishra. Sanskrit’s affiliation to European languages and competing models of ‘Similarity’: Sir William Jones, Gaston-Laurent Coeurdoux, and Friedrich Schlegel. Int. J. Arts Humanit. Social Stud. 2024;6(1):22-29. DOI: 10.33545/26648652.2024.v6.i1a.84
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