Lesson 45 – Vedic Sanskrit – Accents – 3

A short YouTube version is available here. [Expand to the full article to be able to click on the link].

In the last lesson, Lesson 44, we continued looking at Vedic accents. We looked at accents of single words, lack of accent and double accents. We also started looking at the use of accents in various situations. We covered how accents behave in Sandhis and in declensions.

Let us take our investigation of accents further and see how the accents behave in other situations. We will look at the accent in declinable stems, the accent in compounds and verbal accents

The accent in declinable stems

In Lesson 36, we saw how declinable stems are derived from roots using primary and secondary suffixes. There are no hard rules on how accents manifest in these derived stems. But some rules can be stated.

  1. The primary suffix as अ॒स्, when added, accents the root when the resulting stem is a neuter action noun and the suffix if masculine agent noun.

ápas अप॑स् (n) “work”; apás अ॒पस् (m) “active”

2. Stems with the adjective superlative suffix iṣṭha इ॒ष्ठ॒, accent the root.

yájiṣṭha यजि॑ष्ठ “sacrificing best”. Exceptions are: jyeṣṭhá ज्ये॒ष्ठ (eldest), but jyéṣṭha ज्येष्ठ॑ (greatest) and kaniṣṭhá क॒नि॒ष्ठ (youngest), but kániṣṭha कनि॑ष्ठ (smallest). Note that when the stem is compounded with a preposition, the preposition is accented. ā́gamiṣṭha आग॑मिष्ठ

3. Similarly, the comparative suffix īyāṃs ई॒यां॒स् also accent the root.

jávīyāṃs जवी॑यांस् (swiftest). As above, a prefixed preposition is accented.

4. Stems with tar त॒र् accent the root when participial and the suffix when nominal.

dā́tar दात॑र् (giving), but dātár दा॒तर् (giver)

5. The suffix man म॒न् behaves normally like as अ॒स्. kárman कर्म॑न् (n) (action) but darmán द॒र्मन् (m) (breaker).

But many a time, the accent changes with meaning and gender.

6. The secondary suffix in इ॒न् accents the suffix: aśvín अ॒श्विन् (possessing horses)

7. Secondary suffix ma म॒ accent the suffix: adhamá अ॒ध॒म (lowest) aṣṭamá अ॒ष्ट॒म (eighth)

Accents in compounds

In Lesson 23, Lesson 24 and Lesson 25, we looked at compounds. The accent of compounds is various and there are irregularities even within the same kind of formation. But, there are some rules that work in some cases.

All possible varieties occur.

  • Each member of the compound retains its separate accent. We saw this in lesson 44 in “double accents”

mitrā́váruṇā मि॒त्रावरु॑णा (Mitra and Varuna); mātárāpitárā मा॒तरा॑पि॒तरा॑ (mother and father); dyā́vāpr̥thivī́ द्यावा॑पृथि॒वी (heaven and earth)

Also first member has a genitive meaning: Example: bŕ̥haspáti बृह॒स्पति॑

  • The accent of the compound is that of the prior member. This is the case of the class of possessive compounds (bahuvrīhi compounds); and determinative compounds ( tatpuruṣa compounds and karmadhāraya compounds) having a participle in “ta” or “na” or a verbal noun in “iti” as final member or beginning with the negative “a” or “an”.

rā́japutra राज॑पुत्र (bahuvrīhi compound meaning “having kings as sons”); but note rājaputrá रा॒ज॒पु॒त्र (tatpuruṣa compound meaning “king’s son”). See how the accent makes the difference!

agnítejas अ॒ग्निते॑जस् (“having the brightness of fire”); sahávatsa स॒हव॑त्स “accompanied by her calf”; rājanyàbandhu रा॒ज॒न्य॑बन्धु “having Kshatriyas as relatives” (note the independent svarita as the main accent); jīváputra जी॒वपु॑त्र “having living sons”; dhr̥tárāṣṭra धृ॒तरा॑ष्ट्र “of firmly held royalty” etc.

(All above bahuvrīhis. Note that there are some exceptions in the case of bahuvrīhis)

hástakr̥ta हस्त॑कृत (tatpuruṣa) “made with the hand”; sómapīti सोम॑पीति “drinking of Soma”

ákr̥ta अकृ॑त “not done”; ánadant अन॑दन्त् “not eating”

(All above tatpuruṣas)

Note: Repeated word compounds take the accent on the first member: divédive दि॒वेदि॑वे (day by day, daily)

  • The accent of the compound is that of the final member. This is normally true of compounds having a verbal noun or adjective as final member (including tatpuruṣa compounds of this type); in compounds beginning with the numerals “dvi” and “tri” or the prefixes “su” or dus”.

somapā́van सो॒म॒पाव॑न् “soma drinking”; pāpakŕ̥tvan पा॒प॒कृत्व॑न् “evil doing” (both tatpuruṣas)

dvipád द्वि॒पद् “two footed”; trinā́bhi त्रि॒नाभि॑ “having three navels”; subhága सु॒भग॑ “well endowed”; durmánman दु॒र्मन्म॑न् “ill disposed” (all four bahuvrīhis)

  • The compound takes an accent of its own, independent of that of either of its constituents. This new accent is taken on the final syllable of the compound. This is normally followed by tatpuruṣa compounds and the karmadhāraya compounds having a noun as final member; bahuvrīhi compounds beginning with the negative prefix, and some others.

amitrasenā́ अ॒मि॒त्र॒से॒ना “army of enemies” (note accent of sénā सेना॑ when not compounded); mahādhaná म॒हा॒ध॒न “great wealth” (see dhána धन॑); ajñātayakṣmá अ॒ज्ञा॒त॒य॒क्ष्म “unknown disease” (see yákṣma यक्ष्म॑) (all tatpuruṣas or karmadhārayas)

anantá अ॒न॒न्त “having no end” (see ánta अन्त॑); abalá अ॒ब॒ल “not having strength” (see bála बल॑) (both these are bahuvrīhis)

  • Normally simple words on becoming member of a compound retain their original accent (if it keeps the accent in the compound; that is the compound does not take an accent of its own as in the fourth case above). But there are some words that regularly alter their accent in compounds.

For example, víśva विश्व॑ always becomes viśvá वि॒श्व in compounds.

  • Note that types of compounds not mentioned above, normally do not follow any rules and can have their accents in various ways.

Verbal accent

First of all, we should know, as we discussed before, that a verb in an independent clause is unaccented (loses its accent), unless it stands at the beginning of the clause – or, in metrical text, at the beginning of a pāda.

  • agním īḍe puróhitam अ॒ग्निम् ई॑डे पु॒रोहि॑तम्; sá íd devéṣu gacchati स इद् दे॒वेषु॑ गच्छति; (īḍe and gacchati are accentlesss)


  • āpnótīmám lokám आ॒प्नोती॒मम् लो॒कम् (accent on āpnóti, since it begins a sentence)

The verb is accented, whatever its position, in a subordinate clause.

yáṃ yajñáṃ paribhū́r ási यं य॒ज्ञं प॑रि॒भूर् असि॑ (ási is accented);

If the verb form has an augment, the augment bears the accent:

ábhavat अभ॑वत् (imperfect); ábhūt अभू॑त् (aorist); ájagan अज॑गन् (pluperfect); ábhariṣyat अभ॑रिष्यत् (conditional) [We will learn the pluperfect in a later lesson]

In forms where the augment is dropped (as in injunctives etc.);

  • The imperfect accents the same syllable as the present: bhárat भर॑त्
  • The pluperfect (normally with a few exceptions) accents the root: tatánanta त॒तन॑न्त
  • The “s” and “iṣ” aorists accent the root: váṃsi वंसि॑; śáṃsiṣam शंसि॑षम्
  • The root aorist (including the passive) accents the radical vowel in the singular active but the endings elsewhere: várk वर्क्; védi वेदि॑; nutthā́ḥ नु॒त्थाः
  • The “a” and “sa” aorists accent this syllable”: vidát वि॒दत्; dhukṣánta धु॒क्षन्त॑
  • The reduplicated aorist accent either the reduplicated syllable or the root: pī́parat पीप॑रत्; pīpárat पी॒पर॑त्

The present system [The present indicative, the imperfect, the optative, the imperative and the subjunctive (we will learn about the subjunctive in a later lesson)]:

Thematic verbs keep the accent on the same syllable throughout:

On the radical syllable in classes 1 and 4 (“a” and “ya” classes) and on the affixed “á” in the sixth class and on the first “a” of “áya” in the 10th class”: bhávati भव॑ति; náhyati नह्य॑ति; tudáti तु॒दति॑; coráyati चो॒रय॑ति.

This also goes for the passive, which adds the accented “yá” as an affix: kriyáte क्रि॒यते॑

The participles also keep the accent on these syllables.

[You would notice here that the real difference between class 1 and 6 is that class 1 adds an unaccented “a” as the thematic affix, but class 6 adds an accented “á”]

[In the same vein, the difference between the 4th class and the passive is that the 4th class adds an unaccented “ya” while the passive adds an accented “yá”]

The athematic verbs accent the stem in the strong forms and the endings in the weak forms. [The strong forms are: the singular present and imperfect active; the whole subjunctive (both active and middle); and the third person singular imperative active]

In the strong forms, class 2 accents the radical syllable, class 3 the reduplicative syllable and the other classes the class sign affix.

Strong: ásti अस्ति॑; bíbharti बिभ॑र्ति; kr̥nóti कृ॒नोति॑; yunájmi यु॒नज्मि॑; gr̥hṇā́ti गृ॒ह्णाति॑

Weak: bibhŕ̥máḥ बि॒भृमः; kr̥ṇvé कृ॒ण्वे; yuṅkṣvá यु॒ङ्क्ष्व

The present participles accent the reduplicative syllable in class 3, and others the suffix: ánt अन्त्, atī́ अ॒ती and āná आ॒न

[There may be some exceptions to rules above, especially in the optative]

The perfect system

The strong forms (singular 1,2 and 3 indicative, 3rd imperative active and the whole subjunctive] accent the radical syllable and the weak forms the endings:

Strong: cakā́ra च॒कार॑; mumóktu मु॒मोक्तु॑; jabhárat ज॒भर॑त्

Weak: cakrúḥ च॒क्रुः; cakr̥máhe च॒कृ॒महे॑

The participle accents the suffix: cakr̥vā́ṃs च॒कृ॒वांस्; cakrāṇá च॒क्रा॒ण

[We will learn in a later lesson that the perfect system, the aorists and others also have their various modes (optative, subjunctive, imperative etc.) and like the present system. The perfect also has an equivalent to the imperfect: the pluperfect]

We dealt with the aorist above.

The future

The accent always stays on the syá स्य or the iṣyá इ॒ष्य

eṣyā́mi ए॒ष्यामि॑; kariṣyáti क॒रि॒ष्यति॑

Secondary conjugations

Except the intensive, all these are thematic in conjugation (a conjugation), and hence they accent the same syllable throughout.

The causative, like the class 10 verbs, accent the “áya” throughout, the passive and the denominative, the “yá”,  The desiderative accents the reduplicative syllable.

The intensive behaves like the third class conjugation. It accents the reduplicative syllable in the strong forms (and the participle), and the endings in the weak forms (there are many exceptions to this).

This is the end of lesson 45. In this lesson, we continued looking at Vedic accents.


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