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middle Indic languages and dialects that are continuations of the ancient Indic stage of development of the Indo-European dialects and that formed the basis for the modern Indic languages. Although the first written record in Prakrits dates to the third century B.C., borrowings from Prakrits were recorded even earlier, in the Vedas. The Prakrits were originally colloquial dialects and only later received literary form; hence, the opposition of Prakrits (prakrta, “natural “) to Sanskrit (samskrta, “cultivated,” “refined”).

Three stages are distinguished in the development of the middle Indic languages. The early stage is represented in part by Pali, the more archaic language of the Buddhist canon, which stands apart from other Indic languages. It is also represented by the Prakrit stone inscriptions of King Asoka in various parts of India, early Paisaci, and certain epigraphic texts. The middle stage—literary Prakrits—is represented by Sauraseni in northwestern India, Magadhi in eastern India, and Maharashtri in Maharashtra. Also included here are Ardhamagadhi, the Jain variants of Sauraseni and Maharashtri, inscriptions of the first to fourth centuries, Paisaci, and Culika-Paisaci. The late stage is represented by Apabhramsa, spoken from the fifth century. The mixed northwestern Prakrits of documents in Kharoshthi from Eastern Turkestan stand apart from other kinds of Prakrits. The literary Prakrits acquired special significance. In the classical plays of Kalidasa, Bhasa, and others, the kings and noblemen speak in Sanskrit, the noblewomen speak in Suaraseni, the women and men of lower condition speak in Magadhi, and the women sing in Maharashtri.

The Prakrits differ from both Sanskrit and Pali. Phonetic features include the absence of syllabic sonants and diphthongs, the systematic simplification of most consonant groups, and the change of consonants in intervocalic position (especially in Maharashtri). The quantity of the vowel depends on the two-syllable law. There is a tendency toward open syllables, with all words ending in vowels, for example. In morphology, the Prakrits are characterized by the disappearance of the dual number, the loss of the middle voice to a considerable extent, and the absence of personal forms in the past tense. There is a tendency to standardize stem types in the noun and verb. A number of case forms coincide, and there is increased influence of the pronominal paradigm on the nominal paradigm. The syntax is marked by a tendency toward analytic constructions—the use of auxiliary words to convey case meanings, and the use in the past tense of participles expressing aspect and gender (but not person). The past tense of the transitive verb has a construction that is passive in form but active in meaning—a future ergative construction.


Vertogradova, V. V. Strukturnaia tipologiia sredneindiiskikh fonologicheskikh sistem. Moscow, 1967.
Jacobi, H. Ausgewählte Erzählungen in Maharashtri: Zur Einführung in das Studium des Prakrit. Leipzig, 1886.
Pischel, R. Grammatik der Prakrit-Sprachen. Strasbourg, 1900.
Woolner, A. C. Introduction to Prakrit, 3rd ed. Lahore, 1939.
Katre, S. Prakrit Languages and Their Contribution to Indian Culture. Poona, 1964.
Mehendale, M. A. Historical Grammar of Inscriptional Prakrits. Poona, 1948.
Bloch, I. Les Inscriptions d’Asoka. Paris, 1950.


References in periodicals archive ?
Urdu is an Indo-European language which derived from Sanskrit into the Prakrit languages and at a later stage was influenced by Persian and Arabic languages, due to both, cultural and religious' influences.
Historically, Sanskrit had developed into the Prakrit languages such as Marathi, Gujarati, Oriya, Bengali and Khari Boli, a branch of Western Hindi and Hindvi from which Urdu as well as Hindi had developed.
However, very similar forms are found in many other modern Indo-Aryan languages, and there is Prakrit riccha-.
The e may be due to epenthesis, compare Niya documents kareti, Prakrit karei, karai 'does' and Tirahi present tense karem, [?
also von Hintiber 2001: 178), who assumed a transfer of the -ha contained in the genitive form of the 1st person pronoun maha (from the CH dative mahyam) already attested in the Prakrits (cf.
In addition, the author provides an outline of the various Prakrit dialects not only of the Carudatta itself but also of the other "Trivandrum plays," furthermore supplemented by two welcome indices (both an index verborum and an index locorum) to Wilhelm Printz's Bhasa's Prakrit, until recently the most comprehensive and important work on that subject.
2) Buddhist monks, however, in both texts and inscriptions called such places viharas or aramas, and these Sanskrit terms, or their Prakrit equivalents, would have had very different associations.
The chapter by Oberlies on Asokan Prakrits and Pali has no discussion of syntax, and the chapter on Sanskrit itself, the work of one of the editors, has less than two pages on syntax (although they are a model of information-laden succinctness and may be sufficient).
The pioneering European scholars of Jainism focused on the early Prakrit literatures, especially the Svetambara literature in Ardha-Magadhi and Maharastri.
From the Indian side, this hypothesis has gained so much credibility as to inhibit the consideration of other Prakrits or mixtures of Prakrits as possible source languages.
In other words, this is a study, a detailed study indeed, on how Vedic and Sanskrit verbal adjectives evolved, via the Prakrits, into Hindi verbal forms: gata [right arrow] gada [right arrow] gaya [right arrow] gaya/gaya hai.
1), does not attempt to cover all of the Middle Indo-Aryan languages, but to concentrate on the Prakrits proper, i.