1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Marathi

MARATHI (properly Marāthī),[1] the name of an important Indo-Aryan language spoken in western and central India. In 1901 the number of speakers was 18,237,899, or about the same as the population of Spain. Marathi occupies an irregular triangular area of approximately 100,000 sq.m., having its apex about the district of Balaghat in the Central Provinces, and for its base the western coast of the peninsula from Daman on the Gulf of Cambay in the north to Karwar on the open Arabian Sea in the south. It covers parts of two provinces of British India—Bombay and the Central Provinces (including Berar)—with numerous settlers in Central India and Madras, and is also the principal language of Portuguese India and of the north-western portion of His Highness the Nizam’s dominions. The standard form of speech is that of Poona in Bombay, and, in its various dialects it covers the larger part of that province, in which it is the vernacular of more than eight and a half millions of people.

As explained in the article Indo-Aryan Languages, there were in ancient times two main groups of these forms of speech—one, the language of the Midland, spoken in the country near the Gangetic Doab, and the other, the languages of the so-called “Outer Band,” containing the Midland on three sides, west, east and south. The country to the south of the Midland, in which members of this Outer group of languages were formerly spoken, included the modern Rajputana and Gujarat, and extended to the basin of the river Nerbudda, being bounded on the south by the Vindhya hills. In the course of time the population of the Midland expanded, and gradually occupied this tract, reaching the sea in Gujarat. The language of the Outer Band was thus forced farther afield. Its speakers crossed the Vindhyas and settled in the central plateau of the Deccan and on the Konkan coast. Here they came into contact with speakers of the Dravidian languages of southern India. As happened elsewhere in India, they retained their own Aryan tongue, and gradually through the influence of their superior civilization imposed it upon the aborigines, so that all the inhabitants of this tract became the ancestors of the speakers of modern Marathi.

In Rajputana and Gujarat the language (see Gujarat) is to a certain extent mixed. Near the original Midland there are few traces of the Outer language, but as we go farther and farther away from that centre we find, as might be expected, the influence of the Midland language becoming weaker and weaker, and traces of the Outer language becoming more and more evident, until in Gujarati we recognize several important survivals of the old language once spoken by the earlier Aryan inhabitants.

Dialects.—Besides the standard form of speech, there is only one real dialect of Marathi, viz. Konkani (Kōnkaṇī), spoken in the country near Goa. There are also several local varieties, and we may conveniently distinguish between the Marathi of the Deccan, that of the Central Provinces (including Berar), and that of the northern and central Konkan. In the southern part of the district of Ratnagiri this latter Konkani variety of Marathi gradually merges into the true Konkani dialect through a number of intermediate forms of speech. There are also several broken jargones, based upon Marathi, employed by aboriginal tribes surviving in the hill country.

Relations with other Indo-Aryan Languages.—Marathi has to its north, in order from west to east, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Western Hindi and Eastern Hindi. To its east and south it has the Dravidian languages, Gondi, Telugu and Kanarese. Elsewhere in India Aryan languages gradually fade away into each other, so that it is impossible to fix any definite boundary line between them. But this is not the case with Marathi. It does not merge into any of the cognate neighbouring forms of speech, but possesses a distinct linguistic frontier. A native writer[2] says: “The Gujarati language agrees very closely with the languages of the countries lying to the north of it, because the Gujarati people came from the north. If a native of Delhi, Ajmere, Marwar, Mewar, Jaipur, &c., comes into Gujarat, the Gujarati people find no difficulty in understanding his language. But it is very wonderful that when people from countries bordering Gujarat on the south, as the Konkan, Maharashtra, &c. (i.e. people speaking Marathi) come to Gujarat, the Gujarati people do not in the least comprehend what they say.” This isolated character of Marathi is partly due to the barrier of the Vindhya range which lies to its north, and partly to the fact that none of the northern languages belongs now to the Outer Band, but are in more or less close relationship to the language of the Midland. There was no common ground either physical or linguistic, upon which the colliding forms of speech could meet on equal terms. Eastern Hindi is more closely related to Marathi than the others, and in its case, in its bordering dialects, we do find a few traces of the influence of Marathi—traces which are part of the essence of the language, and not mere borrowed waifs floating on the top of a sea of alien speech and not absorbed by it.

Written Character.—Marathi books are generally printed in the well-known Nagari character (see Sanskrit), and this is also used to a great extent in private transactions and correspondence. In the Maratha country it is known as the Bālbōdh (“teachable to children,” i.e. “easy”) character. A cursive form of Nagari called Mōḍī, or “twisted,” is also employed as a handwriting. It is said to have been invented in the 17th century by Balaji Avaji, the secretary of the celebrated Sivaji. Its chief merit is that each word can be written as a whole without lifting the pen from the paper, a feat which is impossible in the case of Nagari.[3]

Origin of the Language.—The word “Marāṭhī” signifies (the language) of the Maratha country. It is the modern form of the Sanskrit Māhārāṣṭrī, just as “Marāṭhā” represents the old Māhā-rāṣṭra, or Great Kingdom. Māhārāṣṭrī was the name given by Sanskrit writers to the particular form of Prakrit spoken in Māhārāṣṭra, the great Aryan kingdom extending southwards from the Vindhya range to the Kistna, broadly corresponding to the southern part of the Bombay Presidency and to the state of Hyderabad. As pointed out in the article Prakrit this Māhārāṣṭrī early obtained literary pre-eminence in India, and became the form of Prakrit employed as the language not only of lyric poetry but also of the formal epic (kāvya). Dramatic works were composed in it, and it was the vehicle of the non-canonical scriptures of the Jaina religion. The oldest work in the language of which we have any knowledge is the Sattasaī, or Seven Centuries of verses, compiled at Pratiṣṭhāna, on the Gōdāvarī, the capital of King Hāla, at some time between the 3rd and 7th centuries A.D. Pratiṣṭhāna is the modern Paithan in the Aurangabad district of Hyderabad, and that city was for long famous as a centre of literary composition. In later times the political centre of gravity was changed to Poona, the language of which district is now accepted as the standard of the best Marathi.

General Character of the Language.—In the following account of the main features of Marathi, the reader is presumed to be familiar with the leading facts stated in the articles Indo-Aryan Languages and Prakrit. In the Prakrit stage of the Indo-Aryan languages we can divide the Prakrits into two well-defined groups, an Inner, Śaurasēnī and its connected dialects on the one hand, and an Outer, Māhārāṣṭrī, Ardhamāgadhī, and Māgadhī with their connected dialects on the other. These two groups differed in their phonetic laws, in their systems of declension and conjugation, in vocabulary, and in general character.[4] In regard to the last point reference may be made to the frequent use of meaningless suffixes, such as -alla, -illa, -ulla, &c., which can be added, almost ad libitum to any noun, adjective or particle in Māhārāṣṭrī and Ardhamāgadhī, but which are hardly ever met in Śaurasēnī. These give rise to numerous secondary forms of words, used, it might be said, in a spirit of playfulness, which give a distinct flavour to the whole language. Similarly the late Mr Beames (Comparative Grammar, i. 103) well describes Marathi as possessing “a very decided individuality, a type quite its own, arising from its comparative isolation for so many centuries.” Elsewhere (p. 38) he uses language which would easily well apply to Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit when he says, “Marathi is one of those languages which we may call playful—it delights in all sorts of jingling formations, and has struck out a larger quantity of secondary and tertiary words, diminutives, and the like, than any of the cognate tongues,” and again (p. 52):—

“In Marathi we see the results of the Pandit’s file applied to a form of speech originally possessed of much natural wildness and licence. The hedgerows have been pruned and the wild briars and roses trained into order. It is a copious and beautiful language, second only to Hindi. It has three genders, and the same elaborate preparation of the base as Sindhi, and, owing to the great corruption which has taken place in its terminations, the difficulty of determining the gender of nouns is as great in Marathi as in German. In fact, if we were to institute a parallel in this respect, we might appropriately describe Hindi as the English, Marathi as the German of the Indian group—Hindi having cast aside whatever could possibly be dispensed with, Marathi having retained whatever has been spared by the action of time. To an Englishman Hindi commends itself by its absence of form, and the positional structure of its sentences resulting therefrom; to our High-German cousins the Marathi, with its fuller array of genders, terminations, and inflexions, would probably seem the completer and finer language.”

In the article Prakrit it is explained that the literary Prakrits were not the direct parents of the modern Indo-Aryan vernaculars. Each Prakrit had first to pass through an intermediate stage—that of the Apabhramśa—before it took the form current at the present day. While we know a good deal about Māhārāṣṭrī and very little about Śaurasēnī Prakrit, the case is reversed in regard to their respective Apabhramśas. The Śaurasēnā Apabhramśa is the only one concerning which we have definite information. Although it would be quite possible to reason from analogy, and thus to obtain what would be the corresponding forms of Māhārāṣṭra Apabhramśa, we should often be travelling upon insecure ground, and it is therefore advisable to compare Marathi, not with the Apabhramśa from which it is immediately derived, but with its grandmother, Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit. We shall adopt this course, so far as possible, in the following pages.

Vocabulary.—In the article Indo-Aryan Languages it is explained that, allowing for phonetic development, the vocabulary of Śaurasēnī Prakrit was the same as that of Sanskrit, but that the farther we go from the Midland, the more examples we meet of a new class of words, the so-called dēśyas, descendants of the old Primary Prakrits spoken outside the Midland, and strange to Sanskrit. Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit, the most independent of the Outer languages, was distinguished by the large proportion of these dēśyas found in its vocabulary, and the same is consequently the case in Marathi. The Brahmins of the Maratha country have always had a great reputation for learning, and their efforts to create a literary language out of their vernacular took, as in other parts of India, the direction of borrowing tatsamas from Sanskrit, to lend what they considered to be dignity to their sentences. But the richness of the language in dēśya words has often rendered such borrowing unnecessary, and has saved Marathi, although the proportion of tatsamas to tadbhavas[5] in the language is more than sufficiently high, from the fate of the Pandit-ridden literary Bengali, in which 80 to 90% of the vocabulary is pure Sanskrit. There is indeed a tradition of stylistic chastity in the Maratha country from the earliest times, and even Sanskrit writers contrasted the simple elegance of the Deccan (or Vaidarbhī) style with the flowery complexity of eastern India.

The proportion of Persian and, through Persian, of Arabic words in the Marathi vocabulary is comparatively low, when compared with, say, Hindostani. The reason is, firstly, the predominance in the literary world of these learned Brahmins, and, secondly, the fact that the Maratha country was not conquered by the Mussulmans till a fairly late period, nor was it so thoroughly occupied by them as were Sind, the Punjab, and the Gangetic valley.

Phonetics.[6]—In the standard dialect the vowels are the same as in Sanskrit, but and only appear in words borrowed directly from that language (tatsamas). Final short vowels (a, i and u) have all disappeared in prose pronunciation, except in a few local dialects, and final i and u are not even written. On the other hand, in the Nagari character, the non-pronunciation of a final a is not indicated. After an accented syllable a medial a is pronounced very lightly, even when the accent is not the main accent of the word. Thus, if we indicate the main accent by ’, and subsidiary accents (equivalent to the Hebrew methegh) by `, then the word kárawat, a saw, is pronounced kárᵃwat; and kàḷakáḷaṇē̃, to be agitated, is pronounced kàḷᵃkáḷᵃṇē̃. In Konkani the vowel a assumes the sound of o in “hot,” a sound which is also heard in the language of Bengal. In dialectic speech ē is often interchangeable with short or long a, so that the standard sāṅgitᵃlē̃, it was said, may appear as sāṅgitᵃlã or sāṅgitᵃlā̃. The vowels ē and ō are apparently always long in the standard dialect, thus following Sanskrit; but in Konkani there is a short and a long form of each vowel. Very probably, although the distinction is not observed in writing, and has not been noticed by native scholars, these vowels are also pronounced short in the standard dialect under the circumstances to be now described. When a long ā, ī or ū precedes an accented syllable it is usually shortened. In the case of ā the shortening is not indicated by the spelling, but the written long ā is pronounced short like the ă in the Italian ballo. Thus, the dative of pīk, a ripe crop, is pikā̇s, and that of hāt, a hand, is hātā̇s, pronounced hătā̇s. Almost the only compound consonants which survived in the Prakrit stage were double letters, and in M. these are usually simplified, the preceding vowel being lengthened in compensation. Thus, the Prakrit kannō becomes kān, an ear; Pr. bhikkhā becomes bhīk, alms; and Pr. puttō becomes pūt, a son. In the Piśāca (see Indo-Aryan Languages) and other languages of north-western India it is not usual to lengthen the vowel in compensation, and the same tendency is observable in Konkani, which, it may be remarked, appears to contain many relics of the old Prakrit (Saurāṣṭrī) spoken in the Gujarat country before the invasion from the Midland. Thus, in Konkani, we have put as well as pūt, while the word corresponding to the Pr. ekkō, one, is ek as well as the standard ēk.

On the whole, the consonantal system is much the same as in other Indian languages. Nasalization of long vowels is very common, especially in Konkani. In this article it is indicated by the sign ~ placed over the affected vowel. The palatals are pronounced as in Skr. in words borrowed from that language or from Hindostani, and also in Marathi tadbhavas before i, ī, ē or y. Thus, caṇḍ (tatsama), fierce; jamā (Hindostani), collected; cikhal (M. tadbhava), mud. In other cases they are pronounced ts, tsh, dz, dzh respectively. Thus tsākar (for cākar), a servant; dzāṇē̃ (for jāṇē̃), to go. There are two s-sounds in the standard dialect which are very similarly distinguished. Ś, pronounced like an English sh, is used before i, ī, ē or y; and s, as in English “sin,” elsewhere. Thus, śimphī, a caste-name; śīl, a stone; śēt, a field; śyām, dark blue; but sāp, a snake; sumār (Persian shumār), an estimate; strī, a woman. In the dialects s is practically the only sibilant used, and that is changed by the vulgar speakers of Konkani to h (again as in north-western India). Aspirated letters show a tendency to lose their aspiration, especially in Konkani. Thus, bhīk (for bhīkh), alms, quoted above; hāt (Pr. hatthō), a hand. In Konkani we have words such as boiṇ, a sister, against standard bhain; gēr, standard gharī̇, in a house; āmī, standard āmhī, we. Here again we have agreement with north-western India. Generally speaking Marathi closely follows Māhārāṣṭrī when that differs from the Prakrits of other parts of India. Thus we have Skr. vrajati, Māhārāṣṭrī vaccai (instead of vajjai), he goes; Konkani votsũ, to go; Saurasēnī genhiduim, Māhārāṣṭrī ghettuṁ, to take; Marathi ghētᵃlē̃, taken. There is similarly both in Marathi and Māhārāṣṭrī a laxness in distinguishing between cerebral and dental letters (which again reminds us of north-western India). Thus, Skr. daśati, Māhārāṣṭrī ḍasai, he bites; M. ḍāsᵃṇē̃ to bite; Skr. dahati, Māhārāṣṭrī ḍahai, he burns; M. ḍādzᵃṇē̃, to be hot; Skr. gardabhas; Śaurasēnī gaddahō; Hindostani gadhā; but Māhārāṣṭrī gaḍḍahō; M. gāḍhav, an ass; and so many others. In Māhārāṣṭrī every n becomes , but in Jaina MSS. when the n was initial or doubled it remained unchanged. A similar rule is followed regarding l and the cerebral common in Vedic Sanskrit, in MSS. coming from southern India, and, according to the grammarians, also in the Piśāca dialects of the north-west. In M. a Pr. double nn or ll is simplified, according to the usual rule, to n or l respectively, with lengthening of the preceding vowel in compensation. Both and are of frequent occurrence in M., but only as medial letters, and then only when they represent or in the Pr. stage. When the letter is initial or represents a double nn or ll of Pr. it is always n or l respectively, thus offering a striking testimony to the accuracy of the Jaina and southern MSS. Thus, ordinary Māhārāṣṭrī ṇa, but Jaina Māhārāṣṭrī na, M. na, not; Māhārāṣṭrī (both kinds) ghaṇō, M. ghaṇ, dense; Māhārāṣṭrī soṇṇaaṁ, Jaina sonnaaṁ, M. sōnē̃, gold; Māhārāṣṭrī kālō, time, southern MSS. of the same kālō, M. kāḷ, time; Māhārāṣṭrī callai, M. tsālē, he goes or used to go. In some of the local dialects, following the Vedic practice, we find where d is employed elsewhere, as in (Berar) ghōḷā for ghōḍā, a horse; and there are instances of this change occurring even in Māhārāṣṭrī; e.g. Skr. taḍagaṁ, Māhārāṣṭrī taḷāam, M. taḷē̃, a pond.

The Skr. compound consonant is pronounced dny in the standard dialect, but gy in the Konkan. Thus, Skr. jñānaṁ becomes dnyān or gyān according to locality.

Declension.—Marathi and Gujarati are the only Indo-Aryan languages which have retained the three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter, of Sanskrit and Prakrit. In rural dialects of Western Hindi and of Rajasthani sporadic instances of the neuter gender have survived, but elsewhere the only example occurs in the interrogative pronoun. In Marathi the neuter denotes not only inanimate things but also animate beings when both sexes are included, or when the sex is left undecided. Thus, ghōḍē̃, neut., a horse, without regard to sex. In the Konkan the neuter gender is further employed to denote females below the age of puberty, as in cēḍū, a girl. Numerous masculine and feminine words, however, denote inanimate objects. The rules for distinguishing the gender of such nouns are as complicated as in German, and must be learned from the grammars. For the most part, but not always, words follow the genders of their Skr. originals, and the abrasion of terminations in the modern language renders it impossible to lay down any complete set of rules on the subject. We may, however, say that strong bases (see below) in ā—and these do not include tatsamas—are masculine, and that the corresponding feminine and neuter words end in ī and ē̃ respectively. Thus, mulᵃgā, a son; mulᵃgī, a daughter; mulᵃgē̃, a child of so and so. As a further guide we may say that sex is usually distinguished by the use of the masculine and feminine genders, and that large and powerful inanimate objects are generally masculine, while small, delicate things are generally feminine. In the case of some animals (as in our “horse” and “mare”) sex is distinguished by the use of different words; e.g. bōkaḍ, he-goat, and śēḷī, a nanny-goat.

The nominative form of a tadbhava word is derived from the nominative form in Sanskrit and Prakrit, but tatsama words are generally borrowed in the form of the Sanskrit crude base. Thus, Skr. crude base mālin, nom. sing, mālī; Pr. nom. māliō (māḷiō); M. māḷī (tadbhava), a gardener; Skr. base mati-; nom. matis; M. mati (tatsama). Some tatsamas are, however, borrowed in the nominative form, as in Skr. dhanin, nom. dhanī; M. dhanī, a rich man. In Prakrit the nominative singular of many masculine tatsamas ended in ō. In the Apabhraṁśa stage this ō was weakened to u, and in modern Marathi, under the general rule, this final short u was dropped, the noun thus reverting as stated above to the form of the Sanskrit crude base. But in old Marathi, the short u was still retained. Thus, the Sanskrit īśvaras, lord, became, as a Prakrit tatsama, īśvarō, which in Apabhraṁśa took the form īśvaru. The old Marathi form was also īśvaru, but in modern Marathi we have īśvar. Tadbhavas derived from Sanskrit bases in a are treated very similarly, the termination being dropped in the modern language. Thus, Skr. nom. masc. karṇas, Pr. kannō, M. kān; Skr. nom. sing. fem. khaṭvā, Pr. khaṭṭā, M. khāṭ, a bed; Skr. nom. sing. neut. gr̥haṁ, Pr. gharaṁ, M. ghar, a house. Sometimes the Skr. nom. sing. fem. of these nouns ends in ī, but this makes no difference, as in Skr. and Pr. cullī, M. cūl, a fireplace. There is one important set of exceptions to this rule. In the article Prakrit attention is drawn to the frequent use of pleonastic suffixes, especially of -(a)ka- (masc. and neut.), -(i)(fem.). This could in Sanskrit be added to any noun, whatever the termination of the base might be. In Prakrit the k of this suffix, being medial, was elided, so that we get forms like Skr. nom. sing. masc. ghōṭa-kas, Pr. ghōḍa-ō, M. ghōḍā, a horse; Skr. nom. sing. fem. ghōṭi-kā, Pr. ghōḍi-ā, M. ghōḍī, a mare; Skr. ghōṭa-kaṁ, Pr. ghōḍa-(y)aṃ, M. ghōḍe, a horse (without distinction of sex). Such modern forms made with this pleonastic suffix, and ending in ā, ī or ē̃ are called “strong forms,” while all those made without it are called “weak forms.” As a rule the fact that a noun is in a weak or a strong form does not affect its meaning, but sometimes the use of a masculine strong form indicates clumsiness or hugeness. Thus bhākar (weak form) means “bread,” while bhākᵃrā (strong form) means “a huge loaf of bread.” The other pleonastic suffixes mentioned under Prakrit are also employed in Marathi, but usually with specific senses. Thus the suffix -illa- generally forms adjectives, while -ḍa-ka- (in M. -ḍā, fem. -ḍī, neut. -ḍē̃) implies contempt.

The synthetic declension of Sanskrit and Prakrit has been preserved in Marathi more completely than in any other Indo-Aryan language. While Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit, like all others, passed through the Apabhraṁśa stage in the course of its development, the conservative character of the language retained even in that stage some of the old pure Māhārāṣṭrī forms. In the article Prakrit we have seen how there gradually arose a laxity in distinguishing the cases. In Māhārāṣṭrī the Sanskrit dative fell into almost entire disuse, the genitive being used in its place, while in Apabhraṁśa the case terminations become worn down to -hu, -ho, -hi, - and -, of which -hi and - were employed for several cases, both singular and plural. There was also a marked tendency for these terminations to become confused, so that in the earliest stages of most of the modern Indo-Aryan vernaculars we find -hi freely employed for any oblique case of the singular, and - for any oblique case of the plural. Another feature of Prakrit was the simplification of the complicated declensional system of Sanskrit by assimilating it in all cases to the declension of a-bases, corresponding to the first and second declensions in Latin.

In the formation of the plural the Prakrit declensions are very closely followed by Marathi. We shall confine our remarks to a-bases, which may be either weak or strong forms, and of which the feminine ends sometimes in ā, and sometimes in ī. In Prakrit the nom. plur. of these nouns ends masc. ā, fem. āō, īō, neut. āiṁ. We thus get the following:—

  Masculine. Feminine. Neuter.

 Nom. Sing.   Nom. Plur.   Nom. Sing.   Nom. Plur.   Nom. Sing.   Nom. Plur.   Nom. Sing.   Nom. Plur. 

 Weak form.                
 Prakrit kannō,
an ear.
kannā khaṭṭā,
a bed.
khaṭṭāō cullī,
 a fireplace. 
cullīō gharaṁ,
a house.
 Marathi kān kān khāṭ khāṭā cūl cūlī ghar gharē̃
 Strong form.                 
 Prakrit ghōḍaō,
a horse.
ghōḍayā ghōḍiā,
a mare.
ghōḍiāō  *ghōḍayaṁ
a horse.
 Marathi ghōḍā ghōḍē ghōḍī ghōḍyā ghōḍē̃ ghōḍī

Several of the old synthetic cases have survived in Marathi, especially in the antique form of the language preserved in poetry. Most of them have fallen into disuse in the modern prose language. We may note the following, some of which have preserved the Māhārāṣṭrī forms, while others are directly derived from the Apabhraṁśa stage of the language. We content ourselves with giving some of the synthetic cases of one noun, a weak neuter a-base, ghar, a house.

 Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit.  Apabhraṁśa. Marathi.

 Nominative  gharaṁ  gharu  ghar
 Dative  gharassa (genitive)   gharaho (genitive)   gharās (dative) 
 Locative  gharē  gharahi (-hī)  gharī̃, gharā
 General oblique   gharassa (genitive)  gharaho (genitive)  gharās, gharā
 Nominative  gharāiṁ  gharaī̃  gharē̃
 Locative  gharēsu  gharahi (-hī)  gharī̃
 General oblique  gharāṇa (genitive)  gharahā (genitive)  gharā̃

As already stated, in Prakrit the genitive is employed instead of the dative, and thus forms the basis of the Marathi dative singular. The genitive plural is not used as a dative plural in Marathi, but it is the basis of the plural general oblique case. The Marathi singular general oblique case is really the same as the Marathi dative singular, but in the standard form of speech when so used the final s is dropped, gharās, as a general oblique case, being only found in dialects. This general oblique case is the result of the confusion of the various oblique cases originally distinguished in Sanskrit and in literary Prakrit. In Apabhraṁśa the genitive began to usurp the function of all the other cases. It is obvious that if it were regularly employed in so indeterminate a sense, it would give rise to great confusion. Hence when it was intended to show clearly what particular case was meant, it became usual to add, to this indeterminate genitive, defining particles corresponding to the English “of,” “to,” “from,” “by,” &c., which, as in all Indo-Aryan languages they follow the main word, are called “postpositions.” Before dealing with these, it will be convenient to give the modern Marathi synthetic declension of the commoner forms of nouns. The only synthetic case which is now employed in prose is the dative, and this can always be formed from the general oblique case by adding an s to the end of the word. It is therefore not given in the following table.

  Masculine. Feminine. Neuter.

Meaning. Ear. Horse.  Gardener.  Bed.  Fireplace.  Mare. House. Horse. Pearl.

 Nom. kān ghōḍā māḷī khāṭ cūl ghōḍī ghar ghōḍē̃ motī
 Gen. obl.  kānā ghōḍyā māḷyā khāṭē cūlī ghōḍī gharā ghōḍyā mōtyā
 Nom. kān ghōḍē̃ māḷī khāṭā cūlī ghōḍyā gharē̃ ghōḍī̃ mōtyē̃
 Gen. obl. kānā̃ ghōḍyā̃ māḷyā̃ khāṭā̃ cūlī ghōḍyā̃ gharā̃ ghōḍyā̃ mōtyā̃

The usual postpositions are:—

Instrumental: nē̃, plural nī̃, by. Dative: , plural also , to or for. Ablative: hūn, ūn, from. Genitive: tsā, of. Locative: ~t, in. We thus get the following complete modern declension of ghar, a house (neut.):—

  Sing. Plur.
Nom.  ghar gharē̃
Acc. ghar gharē̃
Instr.  gharānē̃ gharā̃nī̃
Dat. gharās, gharālā gharā̃s, gharā̃lā, gharā̃nā
Abl. gharāhūn, gharūn gharā̃hūn
Gen. gharātsā gharā̃tsa
Loc. gharā̃t gharā̃t

The accusative is usually the same as the nominative, but when definiteness is required the dative is employed instead. The termination nē̃, with its plural nī̃, is, as explained in the article Gujarati, really the oblique form, by origin a locative, of the or , employed in Gujarati to form the genitive. The suffix of the dative plural is derived from the same word. Here it is probably a corruption of the Apabhraṁśa nāu or naho. The postposition lā is probably a corruption of the Sanskrit lābhē, Apabhraṁśa lahi, for the benefit (of). As regards the ablative, we have in old Marathi poetry a form corresponding to gharāhu-niyā̃, which explains the derivation. Gharāhu is a by-form of the Prakrit synthetic ablative gharāu, to which niyā, another oblique form of , is added to define the meaning. The locative termination ~t is a contraction of the Pr. antō, Skr. antar, within.

The genitive gharātsā is really an adjective meaning “belonging to the house,” and agrees in gender, number and case with the noun which is possessed. Thus:

māḷyātsā ghōḍā, the gardener’s horse. māḷyācē ghōḍē, the gardener’s horses.

māḷyācī ghōḍī, the gardener’s mare. māḷyācyā ghōḍyā, the gardener’s mares.

māḷyācē̃ ghōḍē̃, the gardener’s horse (neut.). māḷyācī̃ ghōḍī, the gardener’s horses (neut.).

The suffix tsā, , cē̃, is derived from the Sanskrit suffix tyakas, Pr. caō, which is used in much the same sense. In Sanskrit it may be added either to the locative or to the unmodified base of the word to which it is attached, thus, ghōṭakē-tyakas or ghōṭaka-tyakas. Similarly in Marathi, while it is usually added to the general oblique base, it may also be added to the unmodified noun, in which case it has a more distinctly adjectival force. The use of tsā has been influenced by the fact that the Sanskrit word kṛtyas, Pr. kiccaō, also takes the same form in Marathi. As explained in the article Hindostani, synonyms of this word are used in other Indo-Aryan languages to form suffixes of the genitive.[7]

Strong adjectives, including genitives, can be declined like substantives, and agree with the qualified noun in gender, number and case. When the substantive is in an oblique case, the adjective is put into the general oblique form without any defining postposition, which is added to the substantive alone. Weak adjectives are not inflected in modern prose, but are inflected in poetry. As in other Indo-Aryan languages, comparison is effected by putting the noun with which comparison is made in the ablative case.

The pronouns closely follow the Prakrit originals. The origin of all these is discussed in the article Hindostani, and the account need not be repeated here. As usual in these languages, there is no pronoun of the third person, its place being supplied by the demonstratives. The following are the principal pronominal forms:—

mī̃, I, instr. mī̃, myā, dat. malā, obl. madz; āmhī, we, instr. āmhī̃, obl. āmhā̃; mādzhā, my, of me; āmtsā, our, of us.

tū̃, thou, instr. tū̃, twā, dat. tulā, obl. tudz; tumhī, you, instr. tumhī̃, obl. tumhā̃; tudzhā, thy, of thee; tumtsā, your, of you.

āpan, self, obl. āpᵃṇa, gen. āpᵃlā. This is also employed as an honorific pronoun of the second person, and, in addition, to mean “we including you.”

, this, fem., , neut. hē̃; , he, that, fem. , neut. tē̃; dzō, who, fem., , neut. jē̃.

kōṇ, who? kāy, what? obl. kāśa; kōṇī, any one; kā̃hī, anything.

In all these the plural is employed honorifically instead of the singular.

Conjugation.—In Prakrit (q.v.) the complicated system of Sanskrit conjugation had already disappeared, and all verbs fell into two classes, the first, or a-, conjugation, and the second, or ē-, conjugation, in which the ē represents the aya of the Sanskrit tenth conjugation and of causal and denominative verbs. Marathi follows Prakrit in this respect and has two conjugations. The first, corresponding to the Prakrit a-class, as a rule consists of intransitive verbs, and the second, corresponding to the e- or causal class, of transitive verbs, but there are numerous exceptions. Verbs whose roots end in vowels or in h belong partly to one and partly to the other conjugation. These conjugations differ only in the present and past participles and in the tenses formed from them. Here, in the first conjugation an a, and in the second conjugation an i, is inserted between the base and the termination.

The only original Prakrit tenses which have survived in Marathi are the present and the imperative. The present has lost its original meaning and is now a habitual past. It is also the base of the Marathi future. These three tenses, the habitual past, the imperative and the future, are conjugated as follows. They should be compared with the corresponding forms in the article Prakrit. The verb selected is the root uṭh, rise, of the first conjugation.

 Person.   Habitual past 
(old present),
 I used to rise. 
 Let me rise. 
 I shall rise. 

 Sing.   Plural.   Sing.   Plural.   Sing.   Plural. 

1  uṭhē̃  uṭhū̃  uṭhū̃  uṭhū̃  uṭhēn  uṭhū̃
2  uṭhēs   uṭhā̃  uṭh  uṭhā  uṭhᵃśīl   uṭhāl
3  uṭhē  uṭhat   uṭhō   uṭhōt   uṭhēl  uṭhᵃtīl 

As in Rajasthani, Bihari and the Indo-Aryan language of Nepal (see Pahari), the future is formed by adding l, or in the first person singular n, to the old present. In the second person singular the l has been added to a form derived from the Pr. uṭṭhasi, which is also the origin of the old present uṭhēs. Some scholars, however, see in uṭhaśī a derivation of the Prakrit future uṭṭhihisi, thou shalt arise, and a confusion of the Prakrit present and future is quite possible.

The remaining tenses are modern forms derived from the participles. The verbal nouns, participles and infinitives are as follows:—


 Verbal Noun  uṭṭhaṇīaṁ  uṭhᵃṇē̃, the act of rising.  mārᵃṇē̃, the act of killing.
 Infinitive  uṭṭhiuṁ  uṭhū̃, to rise.  mārū̃, to kill.
 Present Participle  uṭṭhantō, uṭṭhantaō   uṭhat, uṭhᵃtā, rising.  mārīt, māritā, killing.
 Past Participle  uṭṭhiallaō  uṭhᵃlā, risen.  mārilā, killed.
 Future Participle Active  uṭṭhaṇaaḍō  uṭhᵃṇār, about to rise.  mārᵃṇār, about to kill.
 Future Participle Passive   uṭṭhiavvaō  uṭhāwā, about to be risen.   mārāwā, about to be killed. 
 Conjunctive Participle  uṭṭhiu  uṭhūn, having risen.  mārūn, having killed.

The only form that requires notice is that of the conjunctive participle. It is derived from the Apabhrarṁśa form uṭṭhiu, to which the dative suffix n (old Marathi ni, niyā̃) has been added.

Various tenses are formed by adding personal suffixes to the present, past or future passive participle. When the subject of the verb is in the nominative the tense so formed agrees with it in gender, number and person. We may note four such tenses: a present, uṭhᵃtō̃, I rise; a past, uṭhᵃlō̃, I rose; past conditional, uṭhᵃtō̃, had I risen; and a subjunctive, uṭhāwā, I should rise. In the present, the terminations are relics of the verb substantive, and in the other tenses of the personal pronouns. In these latter, as there is no pronoun of the third person, the third persons have no termination, but are simply the unmodified participle. We thus get the present and the past conjugated as follows, with a masculine subject:—

  Present, I rise. Past, I rose.

 Singular.   Plural.   Singular.   Plural. 

 1  uṭhᵃtō̃ uṭhᵃtō uṭhᵃlō̃ uṭhᵃlō̃
2 uṭhᵃtōs uṭhᵃtā̃ uṭhᵃlās uṭhᵃlā̃
3 uṭhᵃtō uṭhᵃtāt uṭhᵃlā uṭhᵃlē

The feminine and neuter forms differ from the above: thus, uṭhᵃtēs, thou (fem.) risest; uṭhᵃlīs, thou (fem.) didst rise; and so on for the other persons and for the neuter.

It will be observed that, in the case of transitive verbs, while the present participle is active, the past and future passive participles are passive in meaning. The same is the case with the future passive participle of the intransitive verb. In tenses, therefore, formed from these participles the sentence must be construed passively. The subject must be put into the instrumental case, and the participle inflected to agree with the object. If the object is not expressed, or, as is sometimes the case, is expressed in the guise of a kind of ethic dative, the participle is construed impersonally, and is employed in the neuter form. Thus (present tense) mulᵃgā (nom. masc.) pōthī vācitō, the boy reads a book, but (past tense) mulᵃgyānē̃ (instrumental pōthī (nom. fem.) vācilī (fem.) the boy read a book, literally, by-the-boy a-book was-read; or mulᵃgyānē̃ pōthīlā (dative) vācilē̃ (neuter), the boy read the book, literally, by-the-boy, with-reference-to-the-book, it-(impersonal)-was-read. Similarly in the subjunctive formed from the future passive participle, mulᵃgyānē̃ pōthī vācāwī, the boy should read a book (by-the-boy a-book is-to-be-read) or mulᵃgyānē̃ pōthīlā vācāwē̃, the boy should read the book [by-the-boy with-reference-to-the-book, it (impersonal)-is-to-be-read]. As an example of the subjunctive of an intransitive verb, we have twā uṭhāwē̃, by-thee it-is-to-be-risen, thou shouldst rise. As in intransitive verbs the passive sense is not so strong, in their case the tense may also be used actively, as in tū̃ uṭhāwās, thou shouldst rise, lit., thou (art) to-be-risen. It will be noted that when a participle is used passively it takes no personal suffix.

We have seen that the present tense is formed by compounding the present participle with the verb substantive. Further tenses are similarly made by suffixing, without compounding, various tenses of the verb substantive to the various participles. Thus mī uṭhat āhē̃, I am rising; mī uṭhat hōtō̃, I was rising; myā uṭhāvē̃ hōtē̃ (impersonal construction), I should have risen. In the case of tenses formed from the past participle, the auxiliary is appended, not to the participle, but to the past tense, as in mī̃ uṭhᵃlō̃ āhē, I have risen; myā mārilā āhē (personal passive construction) or myā mārilē̃ āhē (impersonal passive construction), I have killed. Similarly mī uṭhᵃlō̃ hōtō̃ (active construction), I had risen. The usual forms of the present and past of the verb substantive are:—

  Present, I am.  Past, I was (masc). 

 Singular.   Plural.   Singular.   Plural. 

 1  āhē̃ āhē̃ hōtō̃ hōtō̃
2 āhēs āhā̃ hōtās hōtā̃
3 āhē āhēt hōtā hōtē

The past changes for gender, but the present is immutable in this respect. Ahē̃ is usually considered to be a descendant of the Sanskrit asmi, I am,[8] while hōtō̃ is derived from the Pr. hoṁtaō, the present participle of what corresponds to the Skr. root bhū, become.

A potential passive and a causal are formed by adding av to the root of a simple verb. The former follows the first, or intransitive, and the latter the second or transitive conjugation. The potential passive of a neuter verb is necessarily construed impersonally. The causal verb denotes indirect agency; thus, karᵃnē̃, to do, karavᵃnē̃, to cause a person to do; tyācyā-kaḍūn myā tē̃ karavilē̃, I caused him to do that, literally, by-means-of-him by-me that was-caused-to-be-done. The potential, being passive, has the subject in the dative (cf. Latin mihi est ludendum) or in the instrumental of the genitive, as in malā (dative), or mājhyānē̃ (instr. of mādzhā, of me), uthᵃvatē̃, I can rise, literally, for-me, or by-my-(action), rising-can-be-done. So, Rāmālā, or Rāmācyānē̃, pōthī vācᵃvalī, Rām could read a book (by R. a book could be read).

Several verbs are irregular. These must be learnt from the grammars. Here we may mention hōṇē̃, to become, past participle dzhālā; yēṇē̃, to come, past participle ālā; and dzāṇē̃, to go, past participle gēlā. There are also numerous compound verbs. One of these, making a passive, is formed by conjugating the verb dzāṇē̃, to go, with the past participle of the principal verb. Thus, mārilā dzātō, he is being killed, literally, he goes killed.

Literature.—As elsewhere in India, the modern vernacular literature of the Maratha country arose under the influence of the religious reformation inaugurated by Rāmānuja early in the 12th century. He and his followers taught devotion to a personal deity instead of the pantheism hitherto prevalent. The earliest writer of whom we have any record is Nāmdēv (13th century), whose hymns in honour of Vithoba, a personal form of Vishnu, have travelled far beyond the home of their writer, and are even found in the Sikh Àdi Granth. Dnyānōbā, a younger contemporary, wrote a paraphrase of the Sanskrit Bhagavad Gītā, which is still much admired. Passing over several intermediate writers we come to the period of the warrior Sivaji, the opponent of Aurangzeb. He was a disciple of Rāmdās (1608–1681), who exercised great influence over him, and whose Dāsbōdh, a work on religious duty, is a classic. Contemporary with Rāmdās and Sivaji was Tukārām (1608–1649), a Śūdra by caste, and yet the greatest writer in the language. He began life as a petty shopkeeper, and being unsuccessful both in his business and in his family relations, he abandoned the world and became a wandering ascetic. His Abhangs or “unbroken” hymns, probably so called from their indefinite length and loose, flowing metre, are famous in the country of his birth. They are fervent, but though abounding in excellent morality, do not rise to any great height as poetry. Other Marathi poets who may be mentioned are Śrīdhar (1678–1728), the most copious of all, who translated the Bhāgavata Purāna, and the learned Mayūra or Mōrōpant (1729–1794), whose works smell too much of the lamp to satisfy European standards of criticism. Mahīpati (1715–1790) was an imitator of Tukārām, but his chief importance rests on the fact that he collected the popular traditions about national saints, and was thus the author of the Acta sanctorum of the Marathas. Lāvaṇīs, or erotic lyrics, by various writers, are popular, but are often more passionate than decent. Another branch of Marathi literature is composed of Pāwāḍās or war-ballads, mostly by nameless poets, which are sung everywhere throughout the country. There is a small prose literature, consisting of narratives of historical events (the so-called Bakhars), moral maxims and popular tales.

In the 19th century the facilities of the printing press are responsible for a great mass of published matter. Most of the best works have been written in English by learned natives, upon whom the methods of European scholarship have exercised more influence than elsewhere in India, and have given rise to a happy combination of western science with Oriental lore. No vernacular authors of outstanding merit have appeared during the last century.

Konkani once had a literature of its own, which is said to have been destroyed by the Inquisition at Goa. Temples and manuscripts were burnt wholesale. Under Roman Catholic auspices a new literature arose, the earliest writer being an Englishman, Thomas Stephens (Thomaz Estevão), who came to Goa in 1579, wrote the first Konkani grammar, and died there in 1619. Amongst other works, he was the author of a Konkani paraphrase of the New Testament in metrical form, which has been several times reprinted and is still a favourite work with the native Christians. Since his time there has grown up a considerable body of Christian literature from the pens of Portuguese missionaries and native converts.

Authorities.—Marathi is fortunate in possessing the best dictionary of any modern Indian language, J. T. Molesworth’s (2nd ed., Bombay, 1857). Navalkar’s (3rd ed., Bombay, 1894) is the best grammar. The earliest students of Marathi were the Portuguese, who were familiar only with the language as spoken on the coast, i.e. with the standard dialect of the northern Konkan and with Konkani. They have since devoted themselves to these two forms of speech. For the former, reference may be made to the Grammatica da lingua Concani no dialecto do norte, by J. F. da Cunha Rivara (Goa, 1858). For Konkani proper, see A. F. X. Maffei’s Grammar (Mangalore, 1882) and Dictionaries (ibid., 1883). These are in English. Monsenhor S. R. Dalgado is the author of a Konkan-Portuguese Dictionary (Bombay, 1893).

For further information regarding Marathi in general, see the list of authorities under Indo-Aryan Languages. For accounts of Marathi literature, see the preface to Molesworth’s Dictionary; also J. Murray Mitchell’s “The Chief Marathi Poets” in Transactions of the Congress of Orientalists, London, 1892, i. 282 sqq., and ch. viii. of M. G. Ranade’s Rise of the Maratha Power (Bombay, 1900). For Konkani literature, see J. Gerson da Cunha’s “Materials for the History of Oriental Studies among the Portuguese,” in the Proceedings of the Fourth International Congress of Orientalists, ii. 179 sqq. (Florence, 1881). A full account of Marathi, given in great detail, will be found in vol. vii. of the Linguistic Survey of India (Calcutta, 1905).  (G. A. Gr.) 

  1. The name is sometimes spelt Mahrāthī, with an h before the r, but, according to a phonetic law of the Aryan languages of western India, this is incorrect. The original h in “Māhārāṣṭrī,” from which the word is derived, is liable to elision on coming between two vowels.
  2. Shastri Vrajlal Kalidas, quoted by Beames in Comparative Grammar, i. 102.
  3. See B. A. Gupte in Indian Antiquary (1905), xxxiv. 27.
  4. For details see Dr Sten Konow’s article on Māhārāṣṭrī and Marāṭhī in Indian Antiquary (1903), xxxii. 180 seq.
  5. For the explanation of these terms see Indo-Aryan Languages.
  6. Abbreviations: Skr. = Sanskrit. Pr. = Māhārāṣṭrī Prakrit. M. = Marathi.
  7. Fuller information regarding all the above postpositions will be found in G. A. Grierson’s article “On Certain Suffixes in the Modern Indo-Aryan Vernaculars,” on pp. 473 seq. of the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung for 1903.
  8. See, however, Hoernle, Comparative Grammar, p. 364.