Modern Spoken Sanskrit


Senior Member
England, English (UK)
I was on YouTube the other day and a video of Doordarshan's Sanskrit news programme caught my eye. I watched a few, and it got me thinking a bit about modern spoken Sanskrit.
What I'm essentially interested in getting people's opinions on is this: how close do you think Sanskrit like this is to 'authentic', ancient Sanskrit, and to what extent has it been influenced by modern Indian languages?

For example, there is very little saṃdhi, but then this isn't poetry, nor are the newsreaders chanting, they are speaking clearly to be understood, so perhaps that's unsurprising. It's often remarked in Sanskrit grammars that it's unlikely that all Sanskrit saṃdhi rules could have been consistently applied by everyone all the time in ordinary speech. But at the same time, although I often joke that the saṃdhi rules (and much of the Sanskrit language) were put there to make my life difficult (yes me personally), I know that that's not really true and that many of the simplest saṃdhi rules are almost unavoidable phonological transformations, as likely to be heard in regular speech as imput for input in English. The apparent complete lack of any visarga saṃdhi at all strikes me as a bit artificial, but perhaps that's for the benefit of the audience.

The accent and rhythms also seem modern to me, or at least quite removed from what you hear in Sanskrit recitation. But again that is recitation of poetry and religious works - a quite different style is only to be expected.

Of course, none of this is intended to say anything either for or against Doordarshan's programming - that was just intended as a point of reference and it's what got me thinking about modern spoken Sanskrit in general. Of course I'm aware that ancient languages can be revived (and in the course of that revitalisation, changes are inevitable, even desirable). Hebrew is a good example, but I'm aware that in the case of Sanskrit as well there are some Indian villages where efforts have been made to use Sanskrit for everyday communication. I'm not really talking about that, nor the pros and cons of that.

I'm just interested in hearing the opinions of my fellow forum members as to how similar the sounds of those programmes are likely to be to the sounds of a court during India's golden age (when people were just conversing normally), for example (accepting and allowing for the fact that of course Sanskrit had a long history and was spread over a very wide area and variation with time and place was inevitable).
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  • After hearing part of this news bulletin, I was happy to note that the articulation was good, but श was consistently being pronounced as a sound close to ष.