His capital was at what is now Patna, and his language has since been. called Magadbl
from Magadhai the ancient name of South Bihar. As might he expected, the language
had widely departed from standard Sanskrit. Inflexions had become worn down, and
inconvenient compound consonants had become simplified. Like a sensible man, As'oka,
who wished what he had written to be understood, spelled his words as they were
pronounced, and not in the old Sanskrit fashion, which no longer represented the actual
sounds of the language. We next get a view of the vernacular spoken in Eastern India
in the works of the Grammarians whose last and best representative for our present
purpose was Hema-chandra, who flourished in the middle of the twelfth century AJ).
In the interval which had expired since Asoka's time, the language had developed
greatly. The very vocal organs of the people had undergone a change and they found it
difficult to pronounce letters which had been easy to their forefathers. As they
pronounced them differently, they spelled them differently, and owing to the record
left by Hema-chandra we know how they did pronounce them. When the y wanted
to talk of the Goddess of Wealth, whom their Sanskrit-speaking ancestors had called
Lakshmi, they found the tshm too much trouble to say, and so they simplified matters
by saying, and writing, Lakkhi. Again when they wanted to ask for cooked rice,
which their ancestors called bhakta,tliQy found the ht too hard to pronounce, and so said,
and wrote, bhatta> just as the Italians find it too difficult to say/adwra, and say, and
write, fatto. Again, they could not pronounce an s clearly, they had to say sh. When
they wanted to talk of the sea, they could not say aagara» but said and wrote, shctgara
or sh&y&ra} As a last example* if they wanted to express the idea conveyed by the word
1 external,5 they could not say bahyat and so they said and wrote, bajjha.
Now, there is no doubt about the fact that it is from some eastern form of this
MagadhI language (or Prakrit, as it is called) that Bengali is directly descended* The
very same incapacities of the vocal organs exist with Bengalis now, that existed with
their predecessors eight hundred years ago. A Bengali cannot pronounce kshm any
more than they could. He cannot pronounce a clear a, but must make it sh. The
compound letter Cheats him, and instead -he has to say jjh These are only a few
examples of facts which might be multiplied indefinitely. Nevertheless, a Bengali
when he borrows his Sanskrit words writes them in the Sanskrit fashion, which is, say,
at least two thousand years out of date, and then reads them as if they were Magadhi
words. He writes Latolmi, and says Lakkhi. He writes aagara9 and says altfigar> or,
if he is uneducated, shayar. He writes bahya9 and says bajjha.* In other words, he
writes Sanskrit, and reads and talks another language. It is exactly as if an Italian
were to write factum, while he says fatlo, or as if a Frenchman wore to write the Latiu
sicca, while he says aiete*
The result of this state oE affairs is that, to a foreigner, the great difficulty of Bengali
is its pronunciation, Like English, but for a different reason, its pronunciation is got
The meaning of the d will be explained subsequently. It represents the sound of the a in ' hat.'
1 1 should not wish it to he understood that Bengali pronunciation always reverts to exactly the same stage as that at
which MagadhI had arrived when it was illustrated by Ecma-chandra, Bengali has preserved many other forms o!
pronunciation, all of which it impartially represents by Sanskrit spelling* Thus in Sanskrit the word for truth is tatyx.
This the Bengali pronounces *W5, the small y above the line being hardly audible, which is, however, a development on
altogether a different line from that followed by the MSgadhi ijtofcfo (**). Such forms are no doubt due to false analogr,
nrfytt becoming Mtft, because (in this following Mftgadh!) words like t»tyfl, a sentence, become ISkVd. In other words,
while Bengalis speak modem Mftgadhi without knowing that they do so, they speak it badly.