The recently released Sanskrit and the Evolution of Human Speech by Sampadananda Mishra attempts "to highlight Sri Aurobindo’s contribution in the field of linguistics; to create an awareness about the role of language, and of Speech as a Creative Power; to establish the study of Sanskrit as a key to help trace the origin and development of language".

To learn more about how this book achieves its objective, read the review that follows the New Publications section.


NEW PUBLICATIONS



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ENGLISH

coverK. D. Sethna (Amal Kiran)

An Introduction through Interaction
— P. Raja
ISBN: 81-87619-08-2
Publisher: Busy Bee Books, Puducherry
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 124
Price: Rs 100

In this series of interviews, K. D. Sethna, the grand centenarian, reminisces about his childhood, a variety of relationships, his poetry, his critical works and his inner quest. The book brings out "the vision of a man who has encapsulated in his hundred years the turmoil and exuberance of the 20th century."

coverSri Aurobindo on Hinduism

— Compiled from the Works of Sri Aurobindo
Publisher: Smt. Maya Chattopadhyay, Kolkata
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 116
Price: Rs 50

This is a compilation on religion in general and Indian tradition in particular. It is especially relevant in the context of the current debate on secularism and revivalism, and the ongoing reevaluation of the place of religion in public life.

The material is drawn from The Renaissance in India and other Essays on Indian Culture (formerly The Foundations of Indian Culture) as well as from Sri Aurobindo's other cultural and philosophical writings.

coverMahalakshmi (Mahalakshmi Aspect of the Mother)

All India Magazine booklet

— Words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother
ISBN: 81-7060-243-2
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 48
Price: Rs 15

coverConversations of the Dead (Mriter Kathopakathan)

— Nolini Kanta Gupta
Publisher: Smt. Maya Chattopadhyay, Kolkata
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 89
Price: Rs 30

Sri Aurobindo wrote five "Conversations of the Dead" in 1909–10. Nolini Kanta Gupta translated these into Bengali, and himself wrote thirteen similar conversations in Bengali. All these were published as part of a book Mriter Kathopakathan.

This booklet contains English translations of the thirteen Bengali "Conversations" by Nolini-da. The conversations are presented as between famous historical figures such as Akbar and Aurangzeb, Chandragupta and Asoka, and Buddha and Lao-Tze.

coverAlakananda

— Nishikanta
Publisher: Smt. Maya Chattopadhyay, Kolkata
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 78
Price: Rs 50

Nolini Kanta Gupta wrote of the mystical Bengali poet Nishikanta, "[His] poetry is the embodiment of the Mother, Her living image created through words."

Here is the English rendering of Nishikanta's book of Bengali poems Alakananda.

FRENCH

coverLa Vie Divine

— Sri Aurobindo
ISBN: 81-7058-784-0
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Puducherry
Binding: Hard Cover
Pages: 1153
Price: Rs 1050

“The Life Divine”: Clef de voûte de l’œuvre de Sri Aurobindo, une vue d’ensemble de l’évolution spirituelle de l’humanité et de la transformation qui rendra possible la vie divine sur la terre.

coverLe regard intérieur

Maîtrise et croissance intérieure : un guide pour le chercheur
— Extraits des œuvres de Sri Aurobindo et de la Mère
ISBN: 81-7058-793-X
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Puducherry
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 223
Price: Rs 100

Les textes de Sri Aurobindo et de la Mère recueillies dans ce livre par A. S. Dalal indiquent les étapes et les moyens nécessaires pour acquérir la maîtrise et favoriser la croissance intérieure.

coverLes Pouvoirs intérieurs

— Extraits des œuvres de Sri Aurobindo et de la Mère
ISBN: 81-7058-799-9
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Puducherry
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 227
Price: Rs 110

Ces textes de Sri Aurobindo et de la Mère réunis par A. S. Dalal traitent des différents niveaux de la conscience, du pouvoir de la pensée, de l'imagination, de l'intuition, de la Yoga-Shakti.

MARATHI/SANSKRIT

coverBhavani Bharati

— Sri Aurobindo
Publisher: Vishva–Sanskrit–Pratishthanam, Vadodara
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 112
Price: Rs 50

TAMIL

coverSri Aravindarin Amara Kavithaigal

— N.V. Balu
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Society, Anna Nagar Centre, Chennai
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 292
Price: Rs 75

TELUGU

coverVidyarti Karadipika

— Sri Mataravindula Rachanala nundi Sankalanam
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Vidya Kendram, Tenali
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 103
Price: Rs 30




 

Review


coverSanskrit and the Evolution of Human Speech

Based on Sri Aurobindo's Linguistic Theory
— Dr Sampadananda Mishra
ISBN: 81-7060-236-X
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Puducherry
Binding: Soft Cover
Pages: 171
Price: Rs 125

Brief description of content

This book presents Sri Aurobindo's views on linguistics in general and on Sanskrit in particular. It compares Sri Aurobindo's approach to the problem of the origin of human speech with those of other philologists.

Sri Aurobindo has extensively studied some of the word-families of Sanskrit to find out the original mind-impressions that the root-sounds have within them. Discovering these, he shows how Sanskrit has preserved the original primitive structure of language and the system of simple root-sounds.

Some original writings of Sri Aurobindo on the subject are included.

Contents:
I. Study of Language and Sri Aurobindo
II. The Origin and Development of Language: Sri Aurobindo's Theory
III. Growth of Language from Seed-sounds
IV. The Creative Word: A New Approach to the Study of Language
V. A True Interpretation of the Vedas: Need for a New Science of Language




Can you imagine a world without language? Without speech?

Yet both language and speech are “so familiar a feature of daily life that one rarely pauses to observe the significance of it” says the author, Dr Sampadananda Mishra, in the introduction to his book Sanskrit and the Evolution of Human Speech. A reputed American scholar Vyas Houston once said, “Of all the discoveries that have occurred and developed in the course of human history, language is the most significant.” Then more emphatically, “Without language, civilization could obviously not exist.”

From ancient times scholars and philosophers the world over have attempted to arrive at a science of language, to understand its evolution and processes. Records show that the discovery of Sanskrit in Europe gave a new impetus and direction to the study of language. Indian scholars and grammarians had for centuries recognized the potential of Sanskrit as a means to unravel the mystery of the formation of language.

This book is a tribute to Sri Aurobindo as a linguist par excellence. It seeks to bring forth his yet unrecognized contribution in the evolving field of linguistics. Sri Aurobindo declared categorically, “my subject … is the origin, growth and development of human language as it is shown to us by the embryology of the language ordinarily called Sanskrit … I base my conclusions on the evidence of the Sanskrit language helped out by those parts of the Greek, Latin and Tamil tongues which are cognate to the word-families of Sanskrit, and by the origins of Aryan speech I mean, properly, the origin of human speech as used and developed by those who fashioned these word-families and their stocks and off-shoots.”

The book is divided into seven parts. The first chapter outlines the development of language as traced by various scholars through the centuries. It ends with Sri Aurobindo’s analysis of the arbitrary and conjectural nature of comparative philology and his questioning of bold claims to establish it as an authoritative science. In the second, the reader is introduced to contemporary theories of the origin of language, with special reference to Sri Aurobindo’s research on the Origins of Aryan Speech and the methodology applied by him for its study. According to him the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are used as seed-sounds which combine to form primitive root-sounds, based on which language is said to have evolved. The third chapter deals with Sri Aurobindo’s views on Sanskrit as the key to understanding the evolution of language. Here he elaborates on the role of the Sanskrit alphabet, its relation to root-meanings and gives a few examples to illustrate his point.

While the third chapter deals with the etymological aspects of Sanskrit, the fourth tries to explain the phenomenon of human speech, vak. It discusses the different theories of the nature of speech that have been formulated in Indian tradition. The author talks about the important Indian concept of the four grades of speech, para, pasyanti, madhyama and vaikhari, and their corresponding psychological states, thus tracing its development in man’s consciousness from its inception to its expression. He then puts forth Sri Aurobindo’s approach to language as being much more than a mere tool for communication. In keeping with the Vedic vision, Sri Aurobindo speaks about the Word as being a Creative Power.

The final chapter is dedicated to a deeper study of the primitive structure of Vedic Sanskrit from Sri Aurobindo’s perspective and of the formation of its archaic words. It explains the need to attribute to key words their intrinsic psycho-spiritual sense in order to enable one to grasp the true purport of the symbolic texts.

The conclusion starts with a brief introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s linguistic background followed by a summary of the salient points of the book. The final part comprises of Sri Aurobindo’s own articles thus providing the readers an opportunity to read him in the original.

The book has been successful in its three prime objectives: to highlight Sri Aurobindo’s contribution in the field of linguistics; to create an awareness about the role of language, and of Speech as a Creative Power; to establish the study of Sanskrit as a key to help trace the origin and development of language.

At the outset, Dr Mishra humbly confesses his inability to present a more complete study of the subject but his book has done full justice to the topic within its limited scope. Abounding in references, it is proof of his extensive research in this field. At times a little technical, the book is still very readable for an amateur in this field. It can also serve as a useful resource for anyone who seeks to have a deeper insight into the fascinating phenomenon of human language and speech.

— Anuradha Choudry

Anuradha, a former student of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, is currently doing her Ph.D. on the Vedas as texts of applied psychology. She is also a freelance teacher of spoken Sanskrit with Samskrita Bharathi, a popular movement to promote the language.




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