Plofker, Kim

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  • Publication
    Spoken Text and Written Symbol: The Use of Layout and Notation in Sanskrit Scientific Manuscripts
    (2009-09-02) Plofker, Kim
    Because of the traditional reverence for oral composition and recitation in Sanskrit literature, most Classical Sanskrit treatises, including scientific ones, were composed in verse and intended (at least in theory) for memorization. Written versions of Sanskrit texts are often presented in imitation of their ideal oral form, as an almost continuous and unformatted stream of syllables. Manuscripts of technical works on subjects such as mathematics and astronomy, however, had to combine this “one-dimensional” text stream with graphical and notational features generally requiring two-dimensional layout, such as tables, diagrams, and equations. This paper looks at how the ways in which this synthesis could be achieved posed several significant challenges for Sanskrit scribes.