February 26, 2006

Sri Aurobindo on the origin of human speech by analysing Sanskrit language

GODAVARISHA MISHRA The Hindu Book Review Tuesday, Feb 21, 2006

SANSKRIT AND THE EVOLUTION OF HUMAN SPEECH: Sampadananda Mishra; Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry
In addition to Sri Aurobindo's scholarship in many disciplines, this book makes an attempt to portray his deep and scientific concern for human speech and different aspects related to it. He was of the view that on the basis of original mind impressions one can discover the root sounds which would help us to establish a source language as the basis of all the languages of the world. For doing this, he has chosen the Sanskrit language selecting certain useful specimens from the Vedas and experimented with them grammatically, lexically and etymologically. Organised into five chapters, the book begins with a study of language in general and describes the attempts made by ancient Greeks and Indians. On the basis of Sri Aurobindo's writings, the author presents a critique of comparative philology, which is not scientifically sufficient to study the multifaceted problems concerning language, its origin and growth.
Chapter two discusses theories of the origin of language and particularly the views of Sri Aurobindo on the origin and growth of Aryan speech, and provides an outline of original root sounds. The next one deals with the Sanskrit alphabets, which are taken to be seed sounds that gave rise to the ancient root-sounds. Discovering the root-sounds and recognising their senses, the author feels, would aid the tracing of the common origin of all languages. Further, this chapter analyses the structural pattern of the Sanskrit language, the root meanings of the vowels and consonants and provides samples of original sounds as the source of language formation.
Next it deals with the modern notions of language, showing how language has deeper aspects than just being a communicative tool. It summarises the Vedic and Tantric theories of speech, the Sphota theory, the vibration theory of physics, and the creative word theory of Sri Aurobindo. Chapter five deals with the principles adopted in the past to interpret the Vedas and related issues to their interpretation from Sri Aurobindo's viewpoint. The author critically assesses the views of contemporary thinkers. There is little doubt that the book would come in handy for those interested in linguistic studies, Sri Aurobindo and comparative language. That he was a multifaceted thinker whose holistic thinking embraced many disciplines is reasserted in this book.

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