Friday, December 16, 2022

An Indian has cracked the 2,500-year-old Panini code

Indian cracks 2,500-year-old Panini code


 LONDON: As his thesis was published on Thursday, it became clear that an Indian PhD student at the University of Cambridge had finally solved a grammatical issue that had bedeviled scholars of Sanskrit since the 5th century BC. By decoding a rule taught by Panini, known as the "father of linguistics," Rishi Rajpopat made the breakthrough. His thesis, "In Panini, We Trust: Finding the Astadhyayi's Rule Conflict Resolution Algorithm.


The university claims that prominent Sanskrit scholars have called Rajpopat's discovery "revolutionary." Panini's so-called "language machine" can now be used precisely for the first time thanks to the 2,500-year-old algorithm that he decoded.


The Astadhyayi, Panini's grammar, was based on a system that worked like an algorithm. If you feed it the base and suffix of a word, it should turn them into sentences and words that are grammatically correct in a step-by-step process. Notwithstanding, at least two of Panini's principles frequently apply at the same time, bringing about clashes. Scholars have traditionally interpreted Panini's "metarule" to mean "in the event of a conflict between two rules of equal strength, the rule that comes later in the grammar's serial order wins." However, this frequently resulted in grammatical errors.


Rajpopat disagreed with the metarule's traditional meaning. He argued, on the other hand, that Panini meant that, out of the rules that apply to the left and right sides of a word, we should choose the one that applies to the right side. He discovered that the Panini's "language machine" produced grammatically correct words almost exclusively using this interpretation. It is believed that Panini wrote his system around 500 BC.


Rajpopat recalls, "I had a eureka moment in Cambridge." I was close to giving up after trying to solve this problem for nine months and getting nowhere. The 27-year-old scholar continued, "So, I closed the books for a month and just enjoyed the summer. Then, reluctantly, I went back to work, and within minutes, as I turned the pages, these patterns started emerging, and everything started to make sense." He would have to wait another two and a half years to reach the finish line.


"My student Rishi has solved it; he has found an extremely sophisticated solution to a problem that has puzzled scholars for centuries. "At a time when interest in the language is rising, this discovery will revolutionize the study of Sanskrit," said professor Vincenzo Vergiani, Rajpopat's PhD supervisor and professor of Sanskrit. Sanskrit is a classical Indo-European language from ancient times. An estimated 25,000 people in India speak it today.

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