Vedic Sanskrit - Principal Differences From Classical Sanskrit

Principal Differences From Classical Sanskrit

Vedic Sanskrit differs from Classical Sanskrit to an extent comparable to the difference between Homeric Greek and Classical Greek. Tiwari ( 2005) lists the following principal differences between the two:

  • Vedic Sanskrit had a voiceless bilabial fricative (/ɸ/, called upadhmānīya) and a voiceless velar fricative (/x/, called jihvāmūlīya)—which used to occur when the breath visarga (अः) appeared before voiceless labial and velar consonants respectively. Both of them were lost in Classical Sanskrit to give way to the simple visarga.
  • Vedic Sanskrit had a retroflex lateral approximant (/ɭ/) (ळ) as well as its aspirated counterpart /ɭʰ/ (ळ्ह), which were lost in Classical Sanskrit, to be replaced with the corresponding plosives /ɖ/ (ड) and /ɖʱ/ (ढ). (Varies by region; Vedic pronunciations are still in common use in some regions, e.g. Southern India, including Maharashtra.)
  • The pronunciations of syllabic /ɻ̩/ (ऋ), /l̩/ (लृ) and their long counterparts no longer retained their pure pronunciations, but had started to be pronounced as short and long /ɻi/ (रि) and /li/ (ल्रि).
  • The vowels e (ए) and o (ओ) were actually realized in Vedic Sanskrit as diphthongs /ai/ and /au/, but they became pure monophthongs /eː/ and /oː/ in Classical Sanskrit.
  • The vowels ai (ऐ) and au (औ) were actually realized in Vedic Sanskrit as hiatus /aːi/ (आइ) and /aːu/ (आउ), but they became diphthongs /ai/ (अइ) and /au/ (अउ) in Classical Sanskrit.
  • The Prātishākhyas claim that the dental consonants were articulated from the root of the teeth (dantamūlīya), but they became pure dentals later. This included the /r/, which later became retroflex.
  • Vedic Sanskrit had a pitch accent which could even change the meaning of the words, and was still in use in Panini's time, as we can infer by his use of devices to indicate its position. At some latter time, this was replaced by a stress accent limited to the second to fourth syllables from the end.
  • Vedic Sanskrit often allowed two like vowels to come together without merger during Sandhi.

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