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PRAKRIT (prakrta, natural)

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 252 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PRAKRIT (prakrta, natural), a term applied to the vernacular languages of India as opposed to the literary Sanskrit (sarizskrta, purified). The place which the Prakrits occupy in regard to the Indo-European languages (q.v.), ancient and modern, is treated under that head. There were two main groups of ancient Indo-Aryan dialects, or Primary Prakrits, viz. the language of the Midland or Aryavarta, and that of what is called the Outer Band. The language of the Midland became the language of literature, and was crystallized in the shape of literary Sanskrit about 300 B.C. Beside it all the Primary Prakrits continued to develop under the usual laws of phonetics, and, as vernaculars, reached a secondary stage marked by a tendency to simplify harsh combinations of consonants and the broader diphthongs, the synthetic processes of declension and conjugation remaining as a whole unaltered. The process of development closely resembles that of old Italian from the Italic dialects of Latin times. It should be noted that although the literary dialect of the Midland became fixed, the vernacular of the same tract continued to develop along with the other Primary Prakrits, but owing to the existence of a literary standard by its side its development was to a certain extent retarded, so that it was left somewhat behind by its fellows in the race. The Secondary Prakrits, in their turn, received literary culture. In their earliest stage one of them became the sacred language of Buddhism, and under the name of Pali (q.v.) has been widely studied. In a still later stage several Secondary Prakrits became generally employed for a new literature, both sacred and profane. Not only were three of them used for the propagation of the Jaina religion (see JAINS), but they were also dealt with as vehicles for independent secular works, besides being largely employed in the Indian drama. In the last-named Brahmans, heroes and people of high rank spoke in Sanskrit, while the other characters expressed themselves in some Secondary Prakrit according to nationality or profession. This later stage of the Secondary Prakrits is known as the Prakrit par excellence, and forms the main subject of the present article. A still further stage of development will also be discussed, that of the Apabhramsa, or " corrupt language." The Prakrit par excellence, which will throughout the rest of this article be called simply " Prakrit," underwent the common fate of all Indian literary languages. In its turn it was fixed by grammarians, and as a literary language ceased to grow, while as a vernacular it went on in its own course. From the point of view of grammarians this further development was looked upon as corruption, and its result hence received the name of Apabhrarirsa. Again in their turn the received literary cultivation and a stereotyped form, while as vernaculars they went on into the stage of the Tertiary Prakrits and become the modern Indo-Aryan languages. In the Prakrit stage of the Secondary Prakrits we see the same grouping as before—a Midland language, and the dialects of the Outer Band. The Prakrit of the Midland was known as Sauraseni, from Surasena, the name of the country round Mathura (Muttra). It was the language of the territories having the Gangetic Doab for their centre. To the west it probably extended as far as the modern Lahore and to the east as far as the confluence of the Jumna and the Ganges. Conquests carried the language much further afield, so that it occupied not only Rajputana, but also Gujarat. As stated above, the development of Sauraseni was retarded by the influence of its great neighbour Sanskrit. Moreover, both being sprung from the same original—the Primary Prakrit of the Midland—its vocabulary, making allowances for phonetic changes, is the same as in that language. The Prakrits of the Outer Band, all more closely connected with each other than any one of them was to Sauraseni, were Magadhi, Ardhamagadhi, Maharastri, and an unknown Prakrit of the North-west. Magadhi was spoken in the eastern half of the Gangetic plain. Its proper home was Magadha, the modern South Bihar, but it extended far beyond these limits at very early times. Judging from the modern vernaculars, its western limit must have been about the longitude of the city of Benares. Between it and Sauraseni (i.e. in the modern Oudh and the country to its south) lay Ardhamagadhi or " half-Magadhi." Maharastri was the language of Maharastra, the great kingdom extending southwards from the river Nerbudda to the Kistna and sometimes including the southern part of the modern Bombay Presidency and Hyderabad. Its language therefore lay south of Sauraseni. West of Sauraseni, in the Western Punjab, there must have been another Prakrit of which we have no record, although we know a little about its later ApabhrarhSa form. Here there were also speakers of Paisaci (see INDO-ARYAN LANGUAGES), and the local Prakrit, if we are to judge from the modern Tertiary vernacular, was a mixed form of speech. We have a detailed description of only one Apabhrarhfa —the Nagara—the Apabhramsa of the Sauraseni spoken in the neighbourhood of Gujarat, and therefore somewhat mixed with Maharastri. We may, however, conclude that there was an Apabhrarhfa corresponding to each Prakrit, so that we have, in addition to Saurasena, a Magadha, an Ardhamagadha and a Maharastra Apabhra h. a. Native writers describe more than one local A pabhraih a, of which we may mention Vracada, the ancient dialect of Sind. There were numerous Prakrit subdialects to which it is not necessary to refer. Of all these Prakrits, Maharastri is that which is best known to us. It early obtained literary pre-eminence, and not only was the subject of long treatises by native grammarians, but became the language of lyric poetry and of the formal epic (kdvya). Dramatic works have been written in it, and it was also the vehicle of many later scriptures of the Jaina religion. We also know a good deal about Ardhamagadhi, in which the older Jaina writings were composed. With Magadhi we have, unfortunately, only a partial acquaintance, derived from brief accounts by native grammarians and from short sentences scattered through the plays. We know something more about auraseni, for it is the usual prose dialect of the plays, and is also employed for the sacred writings of one of the Jaina sects. The materials extant for the study of the Prakrit are either native grammars or else literary works written in accord with the rules laid down therein. Originally real ver- Language. naculars with tendencies towards certain phonetic changes, the dialects were taken in hand by grammatical systematizers, who pruned down what they thought was over-luxuriant growth, trained errant shoots in the way they thought PRAKRIT unchanged. In Ap., as before, kh, Eh and ph are usually preserved in gh, dh and bh respectively. 3. T becomes d, d becomes l (often written 1), which when doubled becomes dentalized to ii, as in the case of the Jaina nn. P and b usually become v. The Outer languages often cerebralize dental sounds and change to I. 4. N, m, 1 and It remain unchanged. V disappears before u, but otherwise generally remains unchanged. In Ap. m may become a v nasalized by anunasika; thus, Skr. bhramara-, Ap. bhavara-. Final consonants usually disappear altogether, except nasals, which become anusvara. Thus, Skr. samantat, phalam, Pr. samanta, phalarh. The following rules will be found to include the great majority of possible cases of compound consonants. They show clearly the character of all! changes from Primary to Secondary Prakrit, viz. the substitution, mainly by a process of assimilation, of a slurred for a distinct pronunciation: I. In Pr. a conjunct consonant cannot consist of more than two elements, and, except in Mg. and Ap., can only be a double consonant or a consonant preceded by a nasal, a consonant followed by r, or one of the following: nh, nh, mh, lh. The consonants r and Is cannot be doubled. 2. In Pr. the only conjuncts which can begin a word are nh, nh, mh, and lh. If any other conjunct consonant be initial, the first member of the Pr. form of it is dropped. Thus, in Pr. kr becomes kk, and the Skr. akramati becomes Pr. akkamai. If we omit the initial preposition a- (Pr. a-), the kk becomes initial, and we have kamai, not *kkamai. Similarly, Skr. sthira- becomes Pr. thira- for *tthira-. 3. 'L and v are elided when they stand first or last in a compound, and the remaining letter is doubled, if it admits of doubling. Thus, Skr. ulka, Pr. ukka; Skr. pakva, Pr. pakka-. The same rule is followed regarding r, but when it follows a consonant it is sometimes, especially in Ap., retained even when initial. Thus, Skr. arka-, Pr. akka; Skr. priya-, Pr. pia- or (Ap.) pria-. 4. M, n and y are elided when standing last in a compound, and the remaining letter is doubled; thus, Skr. raimi-, Pr. rassi-. 5. K, g, t, d, t, d, p, i, s and s are elided when standing first in a compound, and the remaining letter is doubled as before; thus, Skr. bhakta-, Pr. bhatta-; Skr. skhalita-, Pr. khalia- for *kkhalia-(see rule 2). 6. The above rules hold in the order given above; that is to say, rule 3 holds in preference to rules 4 and 5, and rule 4 in preference to rule 5. Thus, in the Skr. compound kr, the r is elided under rule 3, and not the Is under rule 5, so that the Pr. form is kk. 7. Special Rules for Mg.—In this form of Pr. there are several peculiar changes. Dy, rj, ry, all become yy; ny, ny, become nn; medial cch becomes ic; lt, 4, .nth become sl; and rth, slh become st. Other changes also occur, besides dialectic variations of those given above. Declension.—Pr. has preserved the three genders of Skr., but has lost the dual number. As a rule, the gender of a noun follows that of the Skr. original, though in AMg. there is already a tendency to substitute the masculine for the neuter, and in Ap. these two genders are frequently confused, if the distinction is not altogether neglected. In the formation of cases, the phonetic rules just given are fully applied, but there are also other deviations from the Skr. original. The consonantal stems which form an important part of Skr. declension are frequently given vocalic endings, and there is a general tendency to assimilate their declension to that of a-bases, corresponding to the first and second declensions in Latin. This tendency is strongly helped by the free use of pleonastic suffixes ending in a, which are added to the base without affecting its meaning. Of these the most common are -ka-, -ea, and -alla-, or -calla-. The first of these was also very common in Skr., but its use became much extended in Pr. In accordance with the general rule, the Is is liable to elision; thus, Skr. ghota-ka-, Pr. ghoda-a-. It may even be doubled, as in Skr. bahu-, much, Pr. bahu-a-a-, for bahu-ka-ka-. -pa- is confined to Ap., and may be used alone or together with the other two, as in Skr bahubala-, strength of arm, Ap. bahubal-ullada-(k)a-. Illa- is most common in the Outer languages, and especially so in AMg. and M.; thus, Skr. Pura-, M. pur-illa-. All the Skr. cases are preserved except the dative, which has altogether disappeared in the Midland, but has survived in the singular number in the Outer languages. Everywhere the genitive can be employed in its place. Most of the case-forms are derived from Sanskrit according to the phonetic rules, but Ap. has a number of dialectic forms which cannot be referred to that language (cf. the remarks above about -hi =et). It also rarely distinguishes between the nominative and the accusative. As an example, we may give the commoner forms of the declension of the Skr. putra, Pr. putta-, a son (see next page). It should be understood that numerous other forms were also in use, but the ones given here are selected because they are both common and typical. The declension of neuter a-bases closely resembles the above, differing only in the,nominative and accusative singular and plural. Ap. has almost lost the neuter termination in the singular. Feminine a-stems are declined on the same lines, but the cases have run more into each other, the instrumental, genitive and locative singular they ought to have gone, and too often generalized tendencies into universal rules. Subsequent writers followed these rules and not the living speech, even though they were writing in what was meant to be a vernacular. Moreover, at an early date, the Prakrits, qua literary languages, began to lose their characteristics as local forms of speech. A writer composed in Maharastri, not because it was his native language, but because it was the particular Prakrit employed for lyrics and in formal epics. In the same way, in dramatic literature, SaurasenI and Magadhi were put into the mouths of characters in particular walks in life, whatever the nationality of the dramatist might have been. There was thus a tendency for these literary Prakrits to adopt forms from the vernacular dialects of those who wrote them, and, en revanche, for the very popular lyric poetry of Maharastri to influence the local dialects of the most distant parts of India. On the other hand, although to a certain extent artificial, the literary Prakrits are all based on local vernaculars, a fact entirely borne out by a comparison with the modern Indian languages, which closely agree with them in their mutual points of difference. We now proceed to consider the general points in which the Prakrits differ from Sanskrit and from each other. The reader is throughout assumed to be familiar with the general outline of the article
End of Article: PRAKRIT (prakrta, natural)
PRAM (Du. praam)

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