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408                The Loom of Language
Modern Persian begins with the tenth century  It has changed but
little during the last thousand years
More than two thousand years ago the Vedic texts had akeady
burdened the Brahinanic priesthood with competing versions They
had to harmonize them, to explain archaic forms and to clarify dim
meanings The Vedic hymns were inviolable For centuries priests
had chanted them with punctilious attention to the time-honoured
fashion They bekeved, and had an interest in making others believe,
that correct observance decided whether the gods would dispatch
bhss or otherwise So training in priestcraft, as to-day, included
careful schooling of the ear for sound, for rhythm, and for speech-
melody For this reason ritual requirements eventually gave rise
to one of the major cultural contributions of Hindu civilization
The Hindu priests were pioneers of the rudiments of a science of
phonetics Subsequently this preoccupation of the priest-grammarian
with the sacred texts extended to secular literature It culminated
in the Sanskrit grammar of Panim (ca 300 B c) Pamni took a step
that went far beyond the trivial exploits of Attic Greece, and had a
decisive influence upon the course of nineteenth-century investigation
when it became known to European scholars He, and presumably his
forerunners, were the first to take words to pieces, and to distinguish
roots from their affixes Hence grammar is called vaydkarana in Sans-
krit, that is, "separation," "analysis "
Owing to this precocious preoccupation with grammar we have a
very clear picture of what Sanskrit was like With its eight cases and
dual number, the flexional apparatus of the Sanskrit noun was even
more elaborate than that of Latin or Greek, and the Sanskrit adjective
with its three gender forms reflects the luxuriance of its partner As we
retrace our steps to the earliest source of our information about the
beginnings of Aryan speech we therefore approach a stage which
recalls the state of affairs in Finnish with its fifteen sets of singular and
plural postpositions defining the relation of a noun to other words in
the same context It may well be that we should arrive at such a goal if
we could go back further; but the fact is that the use of Sanskrit case-
forms was not clear-cut and the case-affixes were not, like those of
Finnish, the same for every noun This is shown by the following
examples of Sanskrit genitive case-forms
devds     (god)                               devdsya
agnis     (fire)                                agnes