Linguistic Puzzle #6

The puzzle was adapted from the book “Problems from Linguistics Olympiads, 1965-1975”, MCNMO - Moscow, 2007. The editors are Tomonori Nagano, Richa Gupta, and Roman Senkov.

Sanskrit is a classic language in South Asia used between 1500 BCE and 600 BCE. Sanskrit is the sacred and liturgy language of Hinduism (and old Buddhism) like how Latin is used in the Roman Catholic Church. Sanskrit is also known as one of the oldest human literatures such as Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa (estimated to be written between 700 BCE and 400 BCE) and for Pāṇini grammar, the oldest written grammar book of a human language. Sanskrit played a major role in the discovery of Proto Indo-European language by Sir William Jones in 1796, who found systematic affinities among languages geographically separated such as Italic (Romance), Slavic, Hellenic, and Indo-Iranian (such as Hindi and Bengali) languages. The Proto Indo-European language, a great-great-great-great [repeat as many times as you wish] grandfather language of the European, Slavic, and Indian languages (including English, Spanish, Russian, Bengali, and Hindi), is believed to be spoken in the Kurgan culture in Eastern Ukraine between 5,000 BCE and 3,000 BCE.

A Sanskrit manuscript copy of the Heart Sutra (photo credit:

The puzzle is purely logical and no prior knowledge of Sanskrit is required to solve it. Please do not search for the translations. You can also click on the words below to hear how they are pronounced, the audio were recorded by Dr. Richa Gupta. The solution to this puzzle will be published in the next Ad Astra issue. Good luck!

Below are several Sanskrit words (or morphemes that are used to form words) written in Devanagari script (the first column) followed by their approximate Latin transliteration and English translation.

वच् vac said
वेद veda true or sacred knowledge or lore
चुद् cud to hasten, to incite
मेने mene thought
दम dama house, home
यद् yad whatever, whichever
नम् nam to bend
दिव diva sky, heaven
तमस् tamas darkness, ignorance, obscuration of the sun or moon in eclipses

Note: sound [c] is close to English [tʃ], for example in 'child' or 'cherry', and to Russian [ч] in 'чан' or 'час'.

Question #1. Describe the rules of Vowel and Consonant formation in Devanagari script.

Question #2. How would you pronounce the following Sanskrit words? Write their pronouncations in Latin transliteration.

नमत् – bending or नमन – bent;
वचन – speech, sentence, speaking;
मन् – to think;
मुद् – joy;
देव – God;
वेदस् – science, wealth;
यद् तद् – every, any.

Please send us your solutions to, use "linguistic puzzle Ad Astra 2021, issue #3" as the subject line.

★ Solution of the Linguistic Puzzle 2021, issue #2 (Ad Astra 2021/2):