Language Variant subtags for Sanskrit

ejp10 ejp10 at
Tue Jul 13 21:43:17 CEST 2010

I am coming in slightly late into the discussion, so I apologize if I miss any point.

FWIW - I do think there is a universality to the term "classical" with reference to Sanskrit and other languages like Latin.

If we consider Latin in the West, "classical" refers to a codified grammar. This grammar was used by in the Roman era and in later Neo-Latin texts (up to an including mottos for U.S. states and universities such as "University of Delaware"). Latin is also source for neo-classical technical terms which are based on Latin roots, but actually invented post Roman era. Latin is also an official language of the Catholic Church and is still used officially by the Vatican

Sanskrit generally has the same functions in South Asia. There is a codified grammar, and texts can still be composed in Sanskrit (since it is an official language in the state of  Uttarakhand, India - Sanskrit is also a source of learned borrowings much like Latin and is a liturgical language like Latin.

In fact Fortson (2004) describes Sanskrit as a "somewhat artificial literary language"
Fortson, Benjamin W. (2004) "Indo-European Language and Culture" Blackwell.

This is also consistent with Latin. Despite the widespread use of Classical Latin in in almost all written texts, lower class dialogue from the Latin dramatist Plautus (254-184 BC) records structures "missing" in Classical Latin but which are attested in the modern Romance languages.

I suspect that Classical Sanskrit would contrast with older Vedic Sanskrit (which no one speaks/writes) and later stages of Prakrit forms much as Classical Latin can be contrasted with older archaic Latin and later medieval Latin forms.

There aren't many languages where this usage  of  "Classical" applies, but I believe Latin and Sanskrit are two of them. They are two ancient languages which somehow have Wikipedia pages

Latin Wikipedia -
Sanskrit Wikipedia -मुख्यपृष्ठम्


Elizabeth Pyatt

P.S. Is there any clarification from one of the handbooks on Indic languages? I don't have one handy

> Message: 5
> Date: Tue, 13 Jul 2010 11:59:13 -0700
> From: "Doug Ewell" <doug at>
> To: ietf-languages at
> Subject: RE: Language Variant subtags for Sanskrit
> Message-ID:
> 	<20100713115913.665a7a7059d7ee80bb4d670165c8327d.69d6666d2b.wbe at>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> Mark Davis ? <mark at macchiato dot com> wrote:
>> I fail to understand why people think that obfuscation is a good thing... There will be a prefix for "classical" that completely disambiguates it.
> It's not a matter of obfuscation per se.  There is a long-standing
> principle that a given subtag should have the same meaning in any tag in
> which it appears, regardless of prefixes or other surrounding subtags.
> Variant subtags like 'western' or 'classic' violate this principle,
> because the relationship between "classical Sanskrit" and "Sanskrit" may
> be totally different from the relationship between "classical X" and "X"
> for any other language X.
> Contrast this with, say, "fr-fonipa" and "sa-fonipa", where the meaning
> of 'fonipa' is the same regardless of whether it is applied to French or
> Sanskrit.  Likewise "az-baku1926" and "tk-baku1926"; even if the exact
> implementation of Ja?alif differed between Azerbaijani and Turkmen, the
> overall concept is the same.
> Region subtags don't follow this principle perfectly: the relationship
> between "en" and "en-CU" probably isn't the same as that between "es"
> and "es-CU".  But region subtags were established long before the BCP 47
> project (as such) got underway, and are already known to paint with too
> wide a brush at some times and too narrow a brush at other times. 
> Variants are our invention, and we ought to follow our own principles
> and intentions with regard to them.
> --
> Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA |
> RFC 5645, 4645, UTN #14 | ietf-languages @ is dot gd slash 2kf0s ?
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Elizabeth J. Pyatt, Ph.D.
Instructional Designer
Education Technology Services, TLT/ITS
Penn State University
ejp10 at, (814) 865-0805 or (814) 865-2030 (Main Office)

210 Rider Building  (formerly Rider II)
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