was that of the latest comers, who entered the Punjab like a wedge and thrust the others outwards in three directions.
As time went on, the population of the Midland expanded and forced the Outer Band into a still wider circuit. The Midland conquered the eastern Punjab, Rajputana with Gujarat (where it reached the sea) and Oudh. With its armies and its settlers it carried its language, and hence in all these territories we now find mixed forms of speech. The basis of each is that of the Outer Band, but the body is that of the Midland. Moreover, as we leave the Midland and approach the external borders of this tract, the influence of the Midland language grows weaker and weaker, and traces of the original Outer language become more and more prominent. In the same way the languages of the Outer Band were forced farther and farther afield. There was no room for expansion to the west, but to the south it flowed over the Maratha country, and to the east into Orissa, into Bengal and, last of all, into Assam.
The state of affairs at the present day is therefore as follows: There is a Midland Indo-Aryan language (Western Hindi) occupying the Gangetic Doab and the country immediately to its north and south. Round it, on three sides, is a band of mixed languages, Panjabi (of the central Punjab), Gujarati, Rajasthani (of Rajputana and its neighbourhood), and Eastern Hindi (of Oudh and the country to its south). Beyond these again, there is the band of Outer Languages (Kashmiri, with its Pisaca basis), Lahnda (of the western Punjab), Sindhi (here the band is broken by Gujarati), Marathi, Oriya (of Orissa), Bihari, Bengali and Assamese. There are also, at the present day, Indo-Aryan languages in the Himalaya, north of the Midland. These belong to the Intermediate Band, being recent importations from Rajputana. The Midland language is therefore now enclosed within a ring fence of Intermediate forms of speech.
We have seen that the word “Prakrit” means “natural” or “vernacular,” as opposed to the “purified” literary Sanskrit. From this point of view every vernacular of India, from the earliest times, is a Prakrit. The Rig-Veda itself, composed long before the birth of “purified” Sanskrit, can only be considered as written in an old vernacular, and its language, together with the other contemporary Indo-Aryan dialects which never attained to the honour of “purification,” may be called the Primary Prakrits of India. If we compare literary Sanskrit with classical Latin (see Brandreth, “The Gaurian compared with the Romance Languages,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society xi. (1879), 287; xii. (1880), 335), then these Primary Prakrits correspond to the old Italic dialects contemporary with and related to the literary language of Rome. They were synthetic languages with fairly complicated grammars, no objection to harsh combinations of consonants, and several grammatical forms strange to the classical speech. In the course of centuries (while literary Sanskrit remained stereotyped) they decayed into Secondary Prakrits. These still remained synthetic, and still retained the non-classical forms of grammar, but diphthongs and harsh combinations of consonants were eschewed. They now corresponded to the post-classical Italic dialects. Just as Sanskrit (and the Primary Prakrits) knew of a city called Kauśāmbī, which was known as Kōsambī to the Secondary Prakrits, so the real Umbrian name of the poet known to literature as Plautus was Plot(u)s. Again, as the Latin lactuca became lattuca, so the Primary Prakrit bhakta- became the Secondary bhatta-. In India, the dislike to harsh consonantal sounds, a sort of glottic laziness, finally led to a condition of almost absolute fluidity, each word of the Secondary Prakrits ultimately becoming an emasculated collection of vowels hanging on to an occasional consonant. This weakness brought its own Nemesis and from, say, A.D. 1000 we find in existence the series of modern Indo-Aryan vernaculars, or, as they may be called, Tertiary Prakrits, closely corresponding to the modern Romance languages. Here we find the hiatus between contiguous vowels abolished by the creation of new diphthongs, declensional and conjugational terminations consisting merely of vowels becoming worn away, and new languages appearing, no longer synthetic, but analytic, and again reverting to combinations of consonants under new forms, which had existed three thousand years ago, but which two thousand years of attrition had caused to vanish.
It is impossible to fix any approximate date for the change from the Primary to the Secondary Prakrits. We see sporadic traces of the secondary stage already occurring in the Rig-Veda itself, of which the canon was closed about 1000 B.C. At any rate Secondary Prakrits were the current vernacular at the time of the emperor Asoka (250 B.C.). Their earliest stage was that of what is now called Pāli, the sacred language of the Buddhists, which forms the subject of a separate article (see Pali). A still later and more abraded stage is also discussed under the head of Prakrit. This stage is known as that of the Prakrit par excellence. When we talk of Prakrit without any qualifying epithet, we usually mean this later stage of the Secondary Prakrits, when they had developed beyond the stage of Pāli, but before they had reached the analytic stage of the modern Indo-Aryan vernaculars. The next, and final, stage of the Secondary Prakrits was that of the Apabhraṁśas. The word Apabhraṁśa means “corrupt” or “decayed,” and was applied to the vernaculars in contrast to the Prakrit par excellence, which had in its turn (like Sanskrit and Pali) become stereotyped by being employed for literature. It is these Apabhraṁśas which are the direct parents of the modern vernacular. The following is a list of the Indo-Aryan vernaculars, showing, when known, the names of the Apabhraṁśas from which they are sprung, and the number of speakers of each in the year 1901:—
|Apabhraṁśa.||Modern Language.|| Number of |
|A. Language of the Midland.|
|B. Intermediate Languages.|
|C. Outer Languages.|
|(a) North-Western Group.|
|Unknown||Kāshmīrī (with a Piśāca basis)||1,007,957|
|Unknown||Kōhistānī (with a Piśāca basis)||(unknown)|
|Unknown||Lahndā or Western Pañjābī||3,337,917|
|(b) Southern Language.|
|(c) Eastern Group.|
|Total More than||219,725,473|
Of these, the Pahāṛī languages are offshoots of Rājasthānī imported into the Himalaya. Kōhistānī includes the mixed dialects of the Swat and Indus Kohistans. The census of 1901 did not extend to these tracts. A full account of the Apabhraṁśas will be found in the article Prakrit.
Although the modern Indo-Aryan vernaculars are not derived from Sanskrit, and though all, or nearly all, are not derived from the language of the Rig-Veda, nevertheless, as these are almost the only sources of our information as to what the Primary Prakrits of India were, and as all Primary Prakrits were related to these two and were in approximately the same stage of phonetic development, they afford a convenient means for carrying out historical investigation into the origin of all the modern Indo-Aryan vernaculars to its legitimate conclusion. At the same time they are not always trustworthy guides, and sometimes fail to explain forms derived from other ancient contemporary dialects, the originals of which were unknown to the Vedic and classical literature. A striking example is the origin of the