`real' Sanskrit vs `conversational' Sanskrit

zydenbos at flevoland.xs4all.nl zydenbos at flevoland.xs4all.nl
Sat Apr 19 23:41:26 UTC 1997

Replies to msg 18 Apr 97: indology at liverpool.ac.uk (mmdesh at umich.edu)

 me> From: Madhav Deshpande <mmdesh at umich.edu>

 me> The coloring of the components is an interesting issue.  For example, 
 me> while most southern
 me> speakers cannot distinguish between vaiyaakara.na and
 me> vayyakara.na, notice
 me> the Pali veyyaakara.na.  This is a sign of some old dialectal
 me> coloring.
 me> For Patanjali, the constituents of e and o are fused with
 me> each other
 me> (pra"sli.s.ta), while the constituents of ai and au are not
 me> so fused.

 me> These two are called samaahaaravar.na, groupings of vowels. But for
 me> Patanjali, the constituents of ai and au are viv.rtatara
 me> "more open" than
 me> their independent occurrences.  This is, in my opinion, not
 me> the case with
 me> the modern south Indian pronunciation of ai and au, where the initial
 me> a seems, if anything, shorter and less open than the normal a.
 me> In any case, modern regional pronunciations of Sanskrit are more 
 me> closely connected with
 me> the regional vernaculars, than with anything inherited from
 me> Patanjali.

The southern pronunciation is still recognizable as samaahaaravar.na, but can
we still say this in the case of the northern pronunciation? When "Maithi(li)"
sounds like "Kathy", the first vowel is not a diphthong. 

The northern short 'a' is more closed, but also weaker than the southern, and
this weakening of 'a' in the northern languages finally led to the final 'a' as
well as medial 'a' in non-stressed syllables being dropped from current
pronunciation altogether. I can imagine that a vowel which is so weak will
leave no trace as a distinct element in what was originally a diphthong but
later became a new single vowel with a distinct quality. This could explain the
phenomenon described in Sukumar Sen's _A Comparative Grammar of Middle
Indo-Aryan_ (par. 41), where he writes that ai and au became e and o in
Prakrit, "pronounced probably as" open e and o. This is what we hear when
Hindi-Urdu-speakers pronounce "hai" and "aur", which are written as if they are

- RZ

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