accent on the penultimate, owing to the following imperfect vowel (see below). When the first syllable of a word has not the main stress-accent, it also takes a secondary one, as in dè-kha-li-ai-nhi. When the letter a follows a syllable which has the accent (secondary or primary) it is only half pronounced, and is here denoted by a small a above the line. In Mth. (but not in Mg. or Bh.) a final short i or u is often similarly very lightly pronounced, and is then represented by the same device. Before such an “imperfect” i or u the preceding syllable has a secondary accent, if it has not already got the main one.
When a word ends in a preceded by a single uncompounded consonant, the a is not pronounced; thus, kisȃna, sounded kisȃn. This vowel is sometimes pronounced with a drawl, like the a in “ball,” and is then transliterated å. When a has this sound it can end a word, and in this position is common in the second person of verbs; thus, dēkhå, see thou. This sound is very frequently heard in Bhojpuri, and gives a peculiar tone to the whole dialect, which at once strikes the casual hearer. The usual short form of the letter ā is a, but when this would lead to confusion it is shortened in Mth. and Mg. to a sound like that of a in the German Mann, and is then transliterated ả. In Bh. it is always shortened to a. As an example, from pānī, water, is formed the word paniyā, but (in Mth. and Mg.) from the word mārab, to strike, we have Mth. mảralī, Mg. mảralī′, I struck, because maralī (-lȋ) would mean “I died.” In Bh. maralȋ actually has both these meanings. The letters e and o may be either long (ē, ō) or short (e, o). In Skr. the diphthongs āi and āu (here transliterated āī, āū) are much longer than the Bihari ai and au, which are contractions of only a + i and a + u respectively. We may compare the Sanskrit, or tatsama, āī with the English “aye,” and the tadbkava ai with the English “I.” In counting syllables in Bihari, ai and au count each as two syllables, not each as one long syllable. The Skr. ṙ appears only in tatsamas. Nasalization of vowels is extremely frequent. In this article it is represented by the sign ~ over the vowel, as in mūh, mảralȋ and dekhalahū.
As regards consonants, ḍ and ḍh, when medial, are pronounced as strongly burred ṛ and ṛh, and are then transliterated as here shown. There is a constant tendency to change these to an ordinary dental r and rh; thus, ghōḍā, pronounced ghōṛā or ghōrā. The semivowels y and v are always pronounced like j and b respectively, unless they are simply euphonic letters put in to bridge the hiatus between two concurrent vowels; thus yāūvana pronounced jāūban, and maliyā for mali-ā, ghoṛawā for ghoṛa-ā. The sibilants ś and s are both pronounced as a dental s, but (a relic of the old Mg. Pr.) are both invariably written as a palatal ś in the Kaithi character. Thus, the English word “session” (seśan) is written śeśan and pronounced sesan. The cerebral ṣ, when uncompounded, is pronounced kh. When compounded, it generally has its proper sound. Thus, ṣaṣṭha, sixth, is pronounced khaṣṭh. As a general statement we may say that Bihari spelling is not fixed, and that there are often many ways of writing, and sometimes two or three ways of pronouncing, the same word.
The main typical characteristics of Mg. Pr. are that western Pr. s becomes ś, and that western Pr. r becomes l. We have seen that the change of s to ś occurs in Bengali but not in Bihari, and have given reasons for the change back to s in the latter language, although the Mg. Pr. ś is retained in writing. In both Bengali and Bihari, a western r is not now represented by l, but is represented by r. This deviation from the Mg. Pr. rule is only apparent, and is due to the letter r representing two distinct sounds. In Skr., in the western Prakrits, and in the modern western languages, r is a cerebral letter, with a cerebral sound. In the modern eastern languages, r is a dental letter, with a dental sound. Everywhere, both in old times and at the present day, l was and is a dental letter. The meaning, therefore, of the change from western Pr. r to Mg. Pr. l was that the western r lost its cerebral sound, and became a dental letter, like l. That dental character is preserved in the r of the modern eastern languages. In fact, in Bihari r and l are frequently confounded together, or with n, another dental letter. Thus, we have kālī or kārī, black; phar or phal, fruit; Skr. rajju-, B. leju-rī a string; Lakhnaur, the name of a town, quite commonly pronounced Nakhlaul; and the English names Kelly and Currie both pronounced indifferently karī or kalī. Compare Assamese saril for Skr. śarīra-.
The genius of the Bihari language is adverse to the existence of a long vowel in a tadbhava word, when it would occupy a position more than two syllables from the end. Thus, ghōṛā, but ghoṛawā; mārel, but mảralī. This is subject to various subsidiary rules which will be found in the grammars. The principle is a most important one, and, indeed, pervades all Indo-Aryan vernaculars of the present day, but it is carried out with the greatest thoroughness and consistency in Bihari. The whole system of declension and conjugation is subject to it. When ā preceding i or e is shortened, the two together become ai, and similarly a shortened ā + u or o become au.
Declension.—Bihari has a stronger sense of gender than the other languages of the Eastern Group. In the modern language the distinction is in the main confined no animate beings, but in the older poetry the system of grammatical, as distinct from sexual, gender is in full swing. Except in the case of the interrogative pronoun, there is no neuter gender—words which in Skr. and Pr. were neuter being generally, but not always, treated as masculine. The plural can everywhere be formed by the addition of some noun of multitude to the singular, and this is the universal rule in Mth., but in Mg. and Bh. it is generally made by adding n or (in Bh.) nh or ni to the singular, before all of which a final vowel is shortened. Thus ghōṛā, a horse, ghōṛan, horses.
As for cases, the Apabhraṁśa locative -hi (-hï) and the ablative -hu (see Prakrit) terminations have survived in poetry, proverbs and the like, and each of them can now be used for any oblique case; but in ordinary language and in literature -hï and -hi have become contracted to ẻ and ē, the former of which is employed for the instrumental and the latter for the locative case. Thus, ghar, house; gharẻ, by a house; gharē, in a house. The old termination -hu has also survived in sporadic instances, under the form ỏ, with an ablative sense. Cases are, however, usually formed, as elsewhere, by suffixing postpositions to a general oblique case (see Indo-Aryan Languages). The oblique case in Bihari is generally the same as the nominative, but nouns ending in n, b, l or r, and some others, form it by adding ā (a relic of the old Mg. Pr. genitive in āha). Thus, maral, the act of striking, obl. mảralā (Mg. Pr. mảri-allāha). Another set of verbal nouns forms the oblique case in ai, e or ả, thus, Bh. mār, the ace of striking, mārē-la, for striking, to strike. In Mg. every noun ending in a consonant may have its oblique form in e; thus, ghar, a house, ghar-ke or ghare-ke, of a house. The ai- or e- termination is another relic of the Apabhrarhsa -hi, and the ả is a survival of the Ap. -hu.
The usual genitive postposition is k, which has become a suffix, and now forms part of the word to which it is attached, a final preceding vowel being frequently shortened. Thus, ghōṛā, gen. ghōṛāk. Other genitive postpositions are ke, kar and kēr. These, and all other postpositions, are still separate words, and have not yet become suffixes. The more common postpositions are Acc.-Dat. ke; Instr.-Abl. så, sē; Loc. må., mē. The genitive does not change to agree with the gender of the governing noun, as in Hindostani, but in Bh. (not in Mth. or Mg.), when the governing noun is not in the nominative singular, the genitive postposition takes the oblique form kā; thus, rājā-ke mandir, the palace of the king; but rājā-kā mandir-mē, in the palace of the king. In Mth. and Mg. pronouns have a similar oblique genitive in ā. There is no case of the agent, as in Hindostani; the subject of all tenses of all verbs being always in the nominative case.
Every noun can have three forms, a short, a long and a redundant. The short form is sometimes weak and sometimes strong. Occasionally both weak and strong forms occur for the same word; thus, short weak, ghōṛ; short strong, ghōṛā; long, ghoṛawā; redundant, ghoṛauwā. This superfluity of forms is due to the existence of the pleonastic suffix -ka- in the Prakrit stage of the language (see Prakrit). In that stage the k of the suffix was already elided, so that we have the stages:—Skr. ghōṭa-ka-s, Pr. ghōḍ-a-u, B. ghōṛā (by contraction) or ghoṛa-wā (with insertion of a euphonic w). The redundant form is a result of the reduplication of the suffix, which was allowed in Pr. Thus. Skr. *ghōṭa-ka-ka-s, Pr. ghōḍa-a-a-u, B. ghoṛauwā (contracted from ghoṛa-wa-wa-a). The long and redundant forms are mainly used in conversation. They are familiar and often contemptuous. Sometimes they give a definite force to the word, as ghoṛawā, the horse. In the feminine they are much used to form diminutives.
As in other languages of the Eastern Group, the singulars of the personal pronouns have fallen into disuse. The plurals are used politely for the singulars, and new forms are made from these old plurals, to make new plurals. The old singulars survive in poetry and in the speech of villagers, but even here the nominative has disappeared and new nominatives have been formed from the oblique bases. All the pronouns have numerous optional forms. As a specimen of pronominal declension, we may give the most common forms of the first personal pronoun.
| Sing. Nom.
The important point to note in the above is that the oblique form singular is formed from the genitive. It is the oblique form of that case which is also used when agreeing with another noun in an oblique case. Thus, hamār ghar, my house; hamarā ghar-mẽ, in my house; hamarā-kē, to me. In Mth. the nominative plural is also the oblique form of the genitive singular, and in Bh. and Mg. it is the oblique form of the genitive plural. In Bengali the nominative plural of nouns substantive is formed in the same way from the genitive singular (see Bengali). The usual forms of the pronouns are ham, I; tṍ, tṹ, thou; Mth. apanahī, Bh. raurā, Your Honour; ī, this; ō, that, he; jē, who; sē, he; kē, who? Mth. kī, Mg.,
- The origin of the postpositions is discussed in the article Hindostani.