1. Manuscript material
The Swarprakriya of Pandit Ramchandra Shesh is one of the few independent text books on accents in Sanskrit which are based upon a manuscript of it in the collection of the Anandashram purne. The manuscript consists of 85 folios with the 12 lines on each side. Ramchandra shesh has himself written a commentary upon it which he has names as swarprakriyavyakhya. This commentary which is printed along is also in the fossession of the Anandashram purne. This manuscript consists of 60 folios which 11 lines on each side. Both the manuscripts are written fairly well and are in a good condition. The manuscript of the text (swarprakriya) bears 1814 (1758 A.D) as the date of its writing while the manuscript of the commentary bears 1815 as its date.
2. Spoken Sanskrit with accents
Sanskrit is not at present a spoken language in daily life and, hence, a direct study of its accent is not possible. It is found in use at present in lectures, discussions and talks of scholars of Sanskritshastras but its form therein is more or less artificial and the accentuation therein is not natural. There is sufficient evidence for believing that Sanskrit was a spoken language up to the time of Yask and Panini when as a language of the common people, it had accentuation as its natural feature. The literature of those days viz. the Sutras of different types, the Vartikas thereon, the Shisksha works and the philosophical writings of the type of the Upanishads, was something like literature of knowledge and naturally it had no accents could have been preserved. Besides, it is a well-known fact that a composition, committed to writing, no longer preserves its accents and hence it is, that accents are not marked in writing. It is only the text of the Vedic Samhitas and a few Brahmans which has come down to us by an unbroken oral tradition that has preserved its accents, and from it only, an idea as to how accented Sanskrit was spoken in ancient times, can be adequately formed. The Ashtadhyayi Sutras of Panini render a substantial help in this respect, as they have dealt with accents of a large number of words which are not found but which was uttered with accents in those days.
3. Treatment of accents in Panini’s Grammar
Accents in the Sanskrit Language present a Puzzle to many scholars in Indology, especially because they have been preserved only in the ancient and no trace of them is found in the later and classical literature, and as a result, scholars of Rhetories have gone to the length of saying that there are no accents in Sanskrit at all. From the use of the word Bhasha in the sense of spoken language in contrast with Chhandas, the ancient Vedic literature in verse form, it can be stated with a sort of definiteness that at the time of Panini, Sanskrit was a spoken language, and the Vedic Sanskrit different from it only in respect of certain forms of nouns and verbs which, in course of time had gone out of use, the general structure and the syntax remaining the same. Hence it was, that Panini did not undertake to write any special grammar of the Vedic language. The rules of Panini’s Ashtadhyayi are applicable only to the Sanskrit language in general, and the number of rules which are applicable only to the Vedic language, is very small. Regarding accents too, it can be said that although a majority of rules on accents are given together in the sixth adhyay from rule VI 1.159 of the first quarter to the end of the second quarter, there is no rule such as Chhadasi at the commencement of the topic of accents say before VI. 1.159. Hence, it can be said that all those rules except a few that are specified for Vedic literature, apply to the Vedic literature as well as to the spoken language. Besides, there are rules on accents not only in the sixth Adhyay, but scattered almost all over the eight Adhyay which are applicable universally. The plut vowel which was in use mostly in spoken language, is described as uddat or acute-accented under certain conditions and many rules are serially given by Panini in that respect in the eight Adhyay (from VIII. 2.82 to 108) for which hardly any instance could be available from Vedic literature excepting a few from the Shrot and the Griha Sutras. So also, when a whole word or a group of words is doubled in certain specified causes, Panini has laid down that the whole of the second part named becomes grave-accented or unaccented. Such cases of doubling are not few; but the instances can be supplied from spoken languages; Vedic instances are not many. In short, a large majority of Panini’s rules on accents have hardly any examples in the Vedic literature. The rules are frames by Panini on a close observation and minute study of Vedic texts and peoples conversations.
4. Accents, an essential natural feature of a spoken language
The word accent has got a general sense of tone or modulation of voice. In their conversations, people generally utter with a kind of emphasis, such words as they want to emphasize. In spoken languages, accentuation becomes a natural process in such a way that accented words, without any study appear to be escaping the lips without any conscious effort made for them. As a spoken language is learnt generally by means of hearing the words of other people who are speaking, accents naturally are caught by the hearer simultaneously with the sounds of the words that are heard, and he naturally reproduces them in his speech, the accents of Vedic literature as they obtain at present are a natural reproduction of the words recited several centuries ago and passed on to the present time by an unbroken continuous traditional recital. Hence, it is that in a spoken language accent of almost all words uttered by various persons show a general agreement. There are no hard and fast rules in any spoken language for accentuation which are based on any fixed principles. A few rules can be laid down from observation of words in Veda and Peculiarities of utterance.
5. Accent caused by semantic and phonetic considerations
Both semantics and phonetics have got a governing hand in accentuation. Although importance of sense, given to a particular word in a sentence as also to a particular part of a word in a word, is generally noticed as the cause of stress, still, sometimes, phonetic considerations also seem to be at work in governing accent. For example, the affix, which is generally more importance than the base, which denotes an activity, has got a stress on it; at the same time it is not a rare phenomenon that a long vowel is accented in preference to the short one. So also, after a pause in a sentence the first word is always accented and generally the first syllable of it. Vocative cases and verbs although unaccented elsewhere are found accented at the beginning of a sentence or foot of verse.
6. Syllabic accents
Accent or tone can be said to have four kinds out of which the syllabic accent or stress on the vowel of a syllable is available in the usual talks and conversations of people in living languages. Usually, only one syllable in a word is accented, the accent in such cases being called acute. There are instances when no syllable in a word is accented. Such words are called enclitic. They are mostly verbs, nouns in the vocative case, second parts of doubled words and a few particles. It is worth noticing however, that these words are without accents or with the grave accent for all syllables, when they have not much importance attaching to their sense. But if they are used at the beginning of a foot or as a sentence, they have their usual accent. When they are unaccented they are, in a way, closely connected semantically with the accented previous word allowing no pause of utterance between them. This grave accent for the whole word as well as other accents which are caused on occasions by the presence of another word in a sentence, are named sentential accents by grammarians.
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