Panini (520 BC - 460 BCE) was a Sanskrit grammarian who gave a comprehensive and scientific theory of phonetics, phonology, and morphology. Panini was born in Shalatula, a town near to Attock on the Indus River in present day Pakistan. Sanskrit was the classical literary language of the Indian Hindus and Panini is considered the founder of the language and literature. It is interesting to note that the word "Sanskrit" means "complete" or "perfect" and it was thought of as the divine language, or language of the gods.

A treatise called Astadhyayi(or Astaka) is Panini's major work. It consists of eight chapters, each subdivided into quarter chapters. In this work Panini distinguishes between the language of sacred texts and the usual language of communication. Panini gives formal production rules and definitions to describe Sanskrit grammar. Starting with about 1700 basic elements like nouns, verbs, vowels, consonants he put them into classes. The construction of sentences, compound nouns etc. is explained as ordered rules operating on underlying structures in a manner similar to modern theory. In many ways Panini's constructions are similar to the way that a mathematical function is defined today.

Panini should be thought of as the forerunner of the modern formal language theory used to specify computer languages. The Backus Normal Form was discovered independently by John Backus in 1959, but Panini'snotation is equivalent in its power to that of Backus and has many similar properties. It is remarkable to think that concepts which are fundamental to today's theoretical computer science should have their origin with an Indian genius around 2500 years ago.


Pingala ( c 200 BCE) is the traditional name of the author of the Chandahsastra (also Chandahsutra), the earliest known Sanskrit treatise on prosody. Nothing is known about Pingala himself. In Indian literary tradition, he is variously identified either as the younger brother of Panini (4th century BCE), or as Patańjali, the author of the Mahabhashya (2nd century BCE). The Chandahsastra is a work of eight chapters in the late Sutra style, not fully comprehensible without a commentary. It has been dated to either the final centuries BCE or the early centuries CE, at the transition between Vedic meter and the classical meter of the Sanskrit epics. This would place it close to the beginning of the Common Era, likely post-dating Mauryan times. The 10th century mathematician Halayudha wrote a commentary on the chandahsastra and expanded it.