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For more than three millennia, Sanskrit served as the primary written language of major Indian literary works, but since 2002, Peter Scharf, senior lecturer in Classics, has revolutionized the way people can access the language today.

Scharf is expanding his digital Sanskrit library to include an additional 100 original classical works and 163 manuscripts of major Indian literature, he said. The revamped Sanskrit library Web site — set to be unveiled some time in the next few weeks — builds upon the current online Sanskrit library that Scharf and his colleagues constructed. In addition to digitizing at least a hundred more Sanskrit texts, Scharf is working on new linguistic software and integrating lexical sources.

He received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities in coordinating the project.

Scharf sought to provide the public with the tools to accurately translate and analyze Sanskrit texts. Unlike with the English language, most digital mediums did not possess the necessary software to process Sanskrit. To address this problem, Scharf and his colleagues developed a variety of encoding and computational phonology and morphology techniques to digitize original Sanskrit transcripts, Scharf said. He also noted that digitizing Sanskrit texts has greatly facilitated the way students do research on Sanskrit literature.

"We don't just want to duplicate or imitate the print media in making Sanskrit available on the web. We want to take advantage of the things that the … digital medium can do that print media could not do," Scharf said.

The current Sanskrit Library also provides links to online Sanskrit dictionaries, such as Monier-Williams, Apte and Macdonnel. The Web site further features extensive grammatical resources and analyzers.

The group is trying to "build these kinds of tools that allow someone to bring linguistic analysis to bear on texts in an environment where it's easy to use all these tools for the benefit of the normal reading public," Scharf said.

This past winter, Scharf said, he also traveled to India to give several presentations regarding his research and the library. Scharf spoke at the International Conference on Natural Language Processing at the University of Hyderabad, the Indian Institute of Technology and gave various other talks in Kalady and Madras.

Scharf also said he hopes that the University's Year of India program will shed more light on Sanskrit and Indian literature, and added that "Brown could become an important center of Indological research."



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