(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 Balbadh (“ teachable to children, ” i.e. “ easy ”) character. A cursive form of Nagari called M adi, 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 Nagaril
Origin of the Language.-The word “ Marathi ” signifies (the language) of the Maratha country. It is the modern form of the Sanskrit M ahdrastrt, just as “ Maratha ” represents the old M aha-rastra, or Great Kingdom. M ahardstri was the name given by Sanskrit writers to the particular form of Prakrit spoken in Maharastra, 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 Maharastri 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 (kavya). 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 Sattasai, or Seven Centuries of verses, compiled at Pratisthana, on the Gédavari, the capital of King Hala, at some time between the 3rd and 7th centuries A.D. Pratisthana 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 Pimkiur. In the Prakrit stage of the Indo-Aryan languages we can divide the Prakrits into two well defined groups, an Inner, Sauraséni and its connected dialects on the one hand, and an Outer, Maharastri, Ardhamagadhi, and Magadhi 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? 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 Maharastri and Ardhamagadhi, but which are hardly ever met in Sauraséni. 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. ro3) well describes Marathi as possessing “ a very decided individuality, a type quite its own, arising from its comparative 1 See B. A. Gupte in Indian Antiquary (1905), xxxiv. 27.
- For details see Dr Sten Konow's article on Maharastri and
Marathi in Indian Antiauary (r9o3), xxxii. 180 seq. isolation for so many centuries.” Elsewhere (p. 38) he uses language which would easily well apply to Maharastri 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 ossessed 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 o 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 Apabhramsa—before it took the form current at the present day. While we know a good deal about Maharastri and very little about Sauraséni Prakrit, the case is reversed in regard to their respective Apabhramsas. The Sauraséna Apabhramsa 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 Maharastra Apabhramsa, we should often be travelling upon insecure ground, and it is therefore advisable to compare Marathi, not with the Apabhramsa from which it is immediately derived, but with its grandmother, Maharastri 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 Sauraséni 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 défyas, descendants of the old Primary Prakrits spoken outside the Midland, and strange to Sanskrit. Maharastri Prakrit, the most independent of the Outer languages, was distinguished by the large proportion of these désyas .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 dééya words has often rendered such borrowing unnecessary, and has saved Marathi, although the proportion of tatsamas to tadbhavas3 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 Vaidarbhi) 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. 'lyhe 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 Mussu mans till a fairly late period, nor was it so thoroughly occupied by them as were Sind, the Punjab, and the Gangetic valley. Phonetics!-In the standard dialect the vowels are the same as in Sanskrit, but Z and 1 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 n 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 3 For the explanation of these terms see INDO-ARYAN LANGUAGES. Abbreviationsz Skr. = Sanskrit. Pr. = Maharastri Prakrit. M. = Marathi. »