Panini’s 2500 Yr Old Grammatical Puzzle Solved by Indian PhD Student at Cambridge

Rishi Rajpopat has solved a Sanskrit grammatical problem that remained an enigma for Sanskrit scholars since 5th century BC. Rishi, who is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, submitted his thesis related to it on Thursday.

His thesis is titled ‘In Panini, We Trust: Discovering the Algorithm for Rule Conflict Resolution in the Astadhyayi’. As Sanskrit is accepted as the mother of all languages, Panini is known as the father of linguistics.

It is hoped that the discovery of Rishi Rajpopat will ease the path for use of Panini’s grammar in computers. Earlier users of Panini’s grammar faced ‘rules conflict’ when two or more of Panini’s rules were simultaneously applicable at the same step. Scholars were always in search of an algorithm or logical process to ascertain which rule to choose.  Rajpopat has come up with a logical solution or algorithm to eradicate this ‘rules conflict’ during use of Panini’s grammar to create words.

Now it would be possible to construct millions of grammatically correct words, using Panini’s revered language rules. Panini’s system details 4,000 rules in the Astadhyayi, written in 500 BC. Through it, words are formed in a logical process, which a computer can learn.

Rajpopat’s PhD supervisor Professor Vincenzo Vergiani said, “He has found an extraordinarily elegant solution to a problem that has perplexed scholars for centuries. This discovery will revolutionise the study of Sanskrit at a time when interest in the language is on the rise.”

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