Lesson 9A


The next three sections may be considered as informational only; they are provided for completeness.


9.A.1 Vowel Accents

Accent is the sounding of a vowel at a higher or lower pitch or tone (svara). There are three tones: raised (udātta), not raised (anudātta), and a combination of the two or moving tone (svarita). These are only marked in the Veda, for example:

स॒त्यं ज्ञा॒नम॑न॒न्तं ब्रह्म॑

The horizontal bar under the syllable indicates anudātta; the vertical line above the syllable indicates svarita; and udātta syllables are not marked.

In classical Sanskrit texts, the accent is not marked.

Where these are marked in the dictionary in Roman transliteration, the udātta and svarita will be indicated by the acute and grave accent marks respectively. Thus the above example in transliteration would be:

satyáṃ jñānámanantáṃ bráhmà

In practice, the accent system is not as simple as illustrated above: firstly, in continuous speech the accent is affected by the accents on adjacent syllables; secondly, the marking system may be simplified so that many anudātta are also not marked; finally, the notation system differs among the various Vedas. (For a fuller treatment of the subject see Vedic Accents (PDF))

English has a stress accent system (e.g. listen to the “to” syllable in “photograph” and “photographer”), but there is no stress system in Sanskrit (indeed there should be no stress at all in the study of Sanskrit!); Sanskrit is either sounded with the pitch accent described above, or in ekaśruti, a neutral accentless tone.


9.A.2 Variations in Devanāgari Alphabet

Just as there are variations in the Roman alphabet (e.g. a and a), so there are variations in devanāgarī: some of the less obvious ones are illustrated below:

Alternative form of अ This is the alternate form of , and just as one has derivatives of the familiar form as आ ओ औ, so one has Alternative form of आ Alternative form of ओ Alternative form of औ.
Alternate form of ए This is a variation of the form .
Alternative form of ऋ This is another form of , similarly Alternative form of ॠ for .
Alternative form of झ An alternative form of .
Alternate form of झ Another variant of , but far less common.
Obviously the same as .
Alternative form of ण A radically different form of
Alternative form of ज्ञ An alternative form of ज्ञ (jña).
Alternative form of क्ष This is a variation of the form for क्ष (kṣa).
ग्ं Another form of the Vedic anusvāra (see 8.A.1).
Alternate vedic anusvāra A rarer form of the Vedic anusvāra.
Vedic form of .
ळ्ह Vedic form of .

The following are variations in the numerals:

Alternative form of १ = = 1 Alternative form of ४ = = 4 Alternative form of ५ = = 5
Alternative form of ६ = = 6 Alternative form of ८ = = 8 Alternative form of ९ = = 9


9.A.3 Variations in Saṃyoga

As was mentioned in Lesson 7, there are no hard and fast rules governing the formation of a saṃyoga; however, there are a few that are sometimes not obvious:

दृ This is a quite common form of दृ (dṛ).
A variation of ह्न (hna).
An alternative form of ह्ल (hla).
Another form of ह्व (hva).

9.A.4 Review

The chart below has a summary of the information about the alphabet, and after that is a reference sheet of the character shapes of the alphabet.

This would be a good time to lightly revisit all the notes about the alphabet, starting from Lesson 1: now that you are more familiar with the alphabet, you may find that much of the information now is clearer.




Lesson 9B


9.B.1 Types of Words

Sanskrit grammarians traditionally describe four types of words: kriyā (verb), nāman (noun), upasarga (verbal prefix), and nipāta (particle). The nāman and kriyā have the fundamental notions of “being” and “becoming” respectively.

The kriyā type includes the basic kriyā (verbs derived from a dhātu) and the nāma-dhātu (verbs derived from nouns), which conjugate according puruṣa, vacana, and lakāra, as well as the verbal qualifier (kriyā-viśeṣaṇa) which is indeclinable (avyaya).

The nāman type includes the basic nāman (common noun etymologically derived from a dhātu), the saṃjñā (proper noun, personal name or technical term whose meaning cannot be etymologically determined), the sarva-nāman (pronoun), and the nominal qualifier or adjective (viśeṣaṇa): all these decline according to liṅga, vacana, and vibhakti.

The upasarga (verbal prefix) has been discussed in 7.B.1, and the nipāta (particle) is a catch-all for the remaining types of word. The nipāta are avyaya (indeclinable), and although they are separate words they are not used by themselves: words of this class are ca (and) and he (vocative particle).


9.B.2 Use of iti

The nipāta iti means “thus”: it lays stress on what precedes it, typically referring to something that has been said; it is the Sanskrit equivalent of inverted commas1. For example:

aśvena gacchāmi iti vadati
“I am going by horse,” he says.

There is no system of indirect or reported speech in Sanskrit, so the above may equally be translated as: He says that he is going by horse.

Note that iti grammatically isolates the phrase or sentence before it, from what follows: in the above example, the tṛtīya vibhakti of aśvena is not related to the kriyā vadati, even if the word “gacchāmi” were omitted. This isolating function of iti may also be used to separate a definition from the word being defined, or a grammatical rule from an example of its application, and so on.


9.B.3 Exercises

  1. Practice sounding the alphabetical order (which should be familiar by now) following it through the diagram in 9.A.4; once familiar with the relationship of the alphabetical order to the diagram, thereafter practice sounding the order while following the alphabet chart in 9.A.4. Associating the sound / letter with its position on the chart provides a visual “short-cut” to where a sound / letter is in relation to the alphabetical order as a whole: this will prove to be a very useful trick when using the dictionary.
  2. Write out the alphabet once per day, in the form given in the chart in 9.A.4 (ideally should be on a line by itself).
  3. Write the following sentences in Roman transliteration:
    1. नरः फलानि लभते इति बाले वदतः । १ ॥
    2. हे गुरो बाले नयसे इति अल्पः नरः वदति । २ ॥
    3. अश्वः वृक्षस्य फलानि बालायै वहति । ३ ॥
    4. फलम् वृक्षायात् अश्वेन नराय वहतः । ४ ॥
    5. वृक्षम् अल्पौ अग्नी अश्वैः शीघ्रम् वहामि । ४ ॥
    6. नदी अल्पम् वृक्षम् सुन्दरीम् बालाम् वहति । ६ ॥
  4. Now translate the sentences in #3 into English.
  5. Translate the following sentences into Sanskrit using Roman transliteration:
    1. “I am taking the fruit (plural) to the horse,” the girl says to the teacher.
    2. The man says to the girl that he is carrying the tree to the river.
    3. You (plural) are quickly taking the girl’s fruit (two) to the man.
    4. We (two) take the fruit (plural) from the girl’s tree.
    5. The man and girl go to the handsome teacher by river.
    6. The beautiful girl leads the horse to the small trees (plural) for fruit (plural).
  6. Now write your answers to #5 in devanāgarī.

The answers to #3, #4, #5, and #6 can be found in Appendix 2.

  1. Editor’s Note: Inverted commas is a Britishism meaning “quotation marks”.