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The old Sanskrit called Vedic or Vedic Sanskrit, was more complex than the later form of the language, called classical Sanskrit. The Vedic language became simplified as it changed into classical Sanskrit. In the 400's B.C., the grammarian Panini wrote a very detailed description of classical Sanskrit. This stopped the literary (written) language from changing any further.

Sanskrit represents the highest achievements of Indo-Aryan languages. Although hardly spoken nowadays, Sanskrit has been listed a nationally accepted language in the VIII Scheduled to the Constitution.

Sanskrit language is the oldest literary language of India and the basis of many modern Indian languages, including Hindi and Urdu. Its earliest dialect form, Vedic, was spoken by the Aryans. Sanskrit died out as a living language by about 100 B.C. However, Sanskrit continued, like Latin in the West, as a language of courtly poetry and drama. It also served as the learned language for science, philosophy, and religious texts. Even today, some scholars in India teach, speak, and write in Sanskrit.

The name Sanskrit means refined or polished. The term contrasts with the designation Prakrit, meaning common or vulgar, which is applied to the popular languages that developed from Sanskrit over a period of several hundred years. These languages, in turn, are the source of such modern languages of India as Bengali, Hindi, and Punjabi.

Sanskrit contains a rich selection of sounds. Though simpler than Vedic Sanskrit, classical Sanskrit is more complex than modern languages. The language has 10 simple vowels and 4 diphthongs (paired vowel sounds pronounced as a single syllable). It also has 25 basic consonants, 4 semivowels (letters, such as y, that sound like vowels but take the place of consonants), and 3 sibilants, which produce hissing sounds. In addition, it has two breathing sounds, and a nasalizing sound.

Sanskrit has a complex grammar. For example, nouns and adjectives have three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter). They are inflected for three grammatical numbers (singular, dual, and plural). They also have eight cases (nominative, accusative, instrumental, dative, ablative, genitive, locative, and vocative). The verbal system is equally complex.

Thus, it has eight grammatical cases (inflected forms of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives). It also has three "numbers"--that is singular, plural, and dual (a class of noun, adjective, and verb form used when referring to two people or things). There is also an important spelling system called sandhi, in which a word ending varies according to its neighbouring sound.

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