VYAKARAN: Re: Classical Sanskrit Accent

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at umich.edu
Sun Apr 6 12:57:21 UTC 1997

	In connection with a discussion of classical Sanskrit accent, it
may be remembered that classical Sanskrit as spoken today has regionally
distinctive styles.  Just as one can identify a person's region within
India from his/her Indian English, one can do the same from the style of
spoken Sanskrit.  As someone who was extensively trained in a
Sanskrit-speaking institution in Pune, I remember that we had a few
teachers from the region of Karnataka, and their spoken Sanskrit accent
was distinctly different from our other Maharashtrian teachers.  While we
admired our teachers from Karnataka, we were not encouraged to follow them
in their "accent".  The different "accents" in the regional modes of
Sanskrit pronunciation were evident in all-India events such as
Panditasabhas, Kavisammelanas, and in the various inter-university
Sanskrit debate competitions.  The most important feature I have always
noticed, and is imperceptibly also part of my own personal pronunciation,
is that the Sentence intonation of modern Sanskrit is almost exclusively
connected with one's regional language.  The same is true in the phonetic
quality of vowels and consonants.  The gap between dentals and retroflexes
gets wider as one travels to the south.  Similarly, one can notice the
differences in the pronunciation of a sound like .n, which appears more as
a flapped sound in the region of Gujarat, while it becomes more firmly
stop-like in the region of Maharashtra.  The visarga and anusvaara are
also pronounced distinctively in different regions.  What I find most
interesting in Witzel's comments is the possibility of the regional
accents interfering in the pronunciation of Vedic accents.  Since the
pronunciation of a text like the Rigveda is identifiably different in
Maharashtra from let us say Tamilnadu, one needs to objectively
investigate the relationship of the regional accent of Sanskrit and its
impact on the recitation of Vedic accented texts.
	All the best,
					Madhav Deshpande

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