Rishi Rajpuppat, 27, has deciphered the grammar rule taught by Panini, a professor of ancient Sanskrit who lived some 2,500 years ago.
Only Sanskrit is spoken India About 25 thousand people out of more than a billion people, according to the university.
Rajpupat says he had a “eureka moment at Cambridge” after spending nine months “getting nowhere”.
“I closed the books for a month and just enjoyed the summer—swimming, cycling, cooking, praying, and meditating,” he says.
“Then I reluctantly got back to work and within minutes of turning the pages these patterns started to emerge and it all started to make sense.”
He says he “spent hours in the library, including in the middle of the night,” but still has another two and a half years to work on this problem.
Panini’s grammar, known as Astadhyayi, was based on a system that ran as a file algorithm To convert the base and suffix of a word into grammatically correct words and phrases.
However, two or more Panini rules are often applied simultaneously, creating conflicts.
Panini taught the “descriptive rule”, which academics have traditionally interpreted as: “In the event of a conflict between two rules of equal strength, the rule which comes later in the sequential order of the rules wins”.
However, this often led to grammatically incorrect results.
The Rajputs rejected the traditional interpretation of the meta-rule. Instead, he said, Panini means that among the bases applied to the right and left sides of the word, respectively, Panini wanted us to choose the rule applied to the right side.
Using this interpretation, he found that Panini’s “language machine” produced grammatically correct words almost without exception.
“I hope this discovery will instill confidence, pride and hope in students in India that they too can achieve great things,” says Rajpuphat from India.
“He has found a very elegant solution to a problem that has puzzled scholars for centuries,” said Sanskrit professor Vincenzo Vergiani, a consultant to the Rajpupats at the University of Cambridge.
“This discovery will revolutionize the study of Sanskrit at a time when interest in the language is growing.”
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