order of letters

Dipak Bhattacharya dbhattacharya200498 at YAHOO.COM
Wed May 19 18:56:14 UTC 2010

The chart of sounds called the Māheśvarasutras that will be found at the beginning of Pāṇini’s grammar is no paradigmatic structure of Sanskrit or NIA phonemes. The Rik-Prātiśākhya is more systematic and is followed even in the alphabet charts for children in most of the NIA primers. Its arrangement and logic is clear and may be taken as an authentic chart of the original sounds. 
There are four blocks of consonants. In the first block of five series of what the grammarians call sparśas, the series - velar, palatal, retroflex, dental and labial - are arranged according to the place of articulation and the individual consonants in each series according to what the grammarians call prayatna ‘effort’. The non-sparśa antaḥsthas (semivowels and liquids) y,r,l,v follow the first block. They too are arranged according to their place of articulation. So are the sibilants h, ś, ṣ and s forming the third block. The spirants ḥ, the jihvāmūlīya, the upadhmānīya form the fourth block. They too are arranged according to their place of articulation. The anusvāra that has both vocalic and consonantal character stands alone without a place of utterance.  The logic behind keeping the spirants apart is most probably their inability to form an akṣara with a following vowel. In normal Sanskrit the ñ too does not form an akṣara
 with its following vowel. But improvised words like yañi in Pāṇini’s grammar shows the theoretical possibility to form such a syllable. This becomes a living reality in some NIA languages. But this is not possible with ḥ, ḫ or ḩ even in NIA. 

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