Indian culture certainly gives the Indian mind, including the mind of the Indian scientist the ability to think out of the box - Roland Joffe

The Marathi language is an Indo-Aryan language just like Bengali and is spoken predominantly by the Marathi people residing in the Maharashtra region of India. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India, the official language of the state of Maharashtra and the joint official language of the state of Goa. As per the 2011 census, close to 100 million people speak the language. It is ranked 10th in the list of most widely spoken native language in the world and has the third largest number of native speakers in India after Hindi and Bengali. There are two types of Marathi dialect - the standard Marathi and the Varhadi dialect. Other languages that have been influenced by Marathi include Koli, Ahirani and Malvani Konkani.

Apart from Maharashtra and Goa, you will also find Marathi-speaking people in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka. There is also a significantly large Marathi diaspora residing in countries like Australia, Canada, Israel, Mauritius, New Zealand, USA, and the UK. Although the numbers are quiet less as compared to the Hindi or Bengali diaspora in the same countries.

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A Brief History of the Marathi Language

Chhatrapati Shivaji
Chhatrapati Shivaji is considered to be the Father of the Maratha people | Image Source: Visualhunt | Image Courtesy: Vishvesh

The Marathi language is derived from an early Prakrit language. There are many who argue that Sanskrit has greatly influenced this language but hardly any proof to substantiate this claim. Marathi is, however, derived from multiple languages and is heavily influenced by the Hindi language. Some of the words in both the languages even sound alike. If you can read and understand Hindi, it will be easier for you to then understand how to learn Marathi.

Characteristics of Marathi Language

Marathi is a very elegant language when it comes to its texture and vocabulary. The language is very old and dates back to almost 1,300 years. Although it has traces of many Sanskrit words, but one can't say for sure if it has evolved from the Sanskrit language.

The Marathi language has 36 consonants and 16 vowels. Its two main scripts are Modi and Devanagari. The latter being one of the most popular transcripts of all Indian languages.

Devanagari Script

The Marathi language use the Balbodh version of the Devanagari script. It is a segmental writing system containing 36 consonant letters and 16 initial vowels, written from left to right. The Devanagari script used in Marathi language differs slightly from its Hindi language counterpart. The former has a few additional alphabets and follows English punctuation rules.

Different Types of Marathi Dialect

Marathi
The Marathi dialect is distinct from the Hindi or Sanskrit languages | Image Source: Visualhunt | Image Courtesy: Baba Bhatkanti

Standard Marathi dialect is based on the ones used by the print media and the academia. According to scholars of Indian languages, there are as many as 42 distinct types of Marathi dialect. The fundamental difference between these dialects is lexical and phonological.

Varhadi

Spoken widely in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Varhadi is also known as the Vaidarbhi dialect. There are phonetic shifts in spoken Marathi that distinguishes each Marathi dialect from the other.

Zadi Boli

Pronounced as Zhadiboli, this dialect is widely used in the rich forest region of eastern Maharashtra, eastern Vidarbha, western-central Gondwana, and some parts of Nagpur as well. There is a Zadi Boli Sahitya Mandal that is working hard to preserve this old and distinct Marathi dialect.

Southern Indian Marathi

Marathi people who have migrated to Southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh speak many variations of the Marathi language that include,

  • Thankayur Marathi
  • Namadeva Shimpi Marathi
  • Arey Marathi
  • Bhavsar Marathi

Ahirani or Khandeshi

Jalgaon, Dhule, and parts of Nashik use this Marathi dialect mainly. Outside Maharashtra, parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat that share their borders with Maharashtra, also speak this type of Marathi.

Other Types of Marathi Dialect

Apart from the major types, you will also find the following dialects in Marathi:

  • Thanjayur Marathi
  • Judaeo Marathi
  • East Indian Marathi
  • Maharashtrian Konkani
  • Malvani
  • Sangameshwari
  • Agri
  • Andh
  • Warli
  • Samavedi
  • Vadvali

Also read about Telugu dialects.

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The Different Types of Marathi Scripture

Devanagari hindi script
Marathi is written in the Devanagari script, just like Hindi | Image Source: VisualHunt

Historically, the Marathi language has used the Kadamba script and its variants to write inscriptions on stones and copper plates. Just like Hindi, Marathi also uses the Devanagari script and this version is called the Balbodh. Unlike other Indian languages that uses this script, Marathi language has retained the schwa. For example, the word "rang" or color in English, is pronounced as ranga in Marathi.

The Modi Script

Between the 13th and the 19th Century, before the British rule began officially, Marathi used the Modi script for administrative purposes. Devanagari for reserved for literary works. Since 1950, the Balbodh style was adopted. Historically, Marathi has been printed in the Devanagari script because William Carey who is considered the pioneer of printing in Indian languages, could only do so using this script.

Marathi Language Grammar

Marathi, being a part of the Indo-Aryan language family, shares similarities with other languages of this group when it comes to its grammar. In 1805, William Carey printed the first Marathi grammar book. There are three main forms of grammar used in Marathi -

  1. Agglutinative
  2. Inflectional
  3. Analytical

And unlike its other counterparts in the Indo-Aryan language family, Marathi uses the three genders namely masculine, feminine, and neuter. There is another distinct feature of the Marathi language that is not present in other Indo-Aryan languages. It uses an inclusive and exclusive we which is more commonly found in Dravidian and Austronesian languages. In fact, there are many scholars who have found Dravidian linguistic patterns in the Marathi language.

Types of Marathi Literature

Literature
Wondering how to learn Marathi? Start with Marathi literary works | Image Source: Visualhunt | Image Courtesy: Ivan Radic

Although not as old as Urdu or Bengali literature, Marathi literature holds its own place in the literary society of all Indian languages.

History of Marathi Literature

The Marathas won an age-old battle under the leadership of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja to form their own kingdom in the 17th century. And this accelerated the development of Marathi language and literature. Well-known poets who rose to fame during Shivaji's rule were Samarth Ramdas and Tukaram. Tukaram, who was a spiritual poet of the Bhakti movement later came to influence Maratha society greatly.

Modern Period

The standardization of Marathi grammar during the British colonial period is what stands out during the modern age of Marathi literature. Christian missionary, William Carey made a lot of effort to this end. His grammar dictionary was a pioneering work as was his translation work of the Bible into Marathi. But the most important compilation of Marathi-English dictionaries was done by Captain James Thomas Molesworth and Major Thomas Candy. Their work is still in printed circulation even two centuries later.

The works of modernist poet, B.S. Mardhekar stimulated a major paradigm shift in Marathi literature. The little magazine movement gained momentum in the mid-50's that published non-conformist writings that were often labeled radical and experimental. Thanks to its success, the Dalit literary movement also gained momentum under the able leadership of Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Best Tips on How to Learn Marathi

Analysing poetry is open to interpretation.
For the love of Indian languages, approach learning in a fun way.

Native speakers of the Marathi language can help immensely when it comes to unraveling the secret to how to learn Marathi. There are other ways to learn the language as well, like -

  • Memorize the primary pronouns.
  • Get yourself familiarized with the basic grammar rules.
  • Learn the indirect object form of each pronoun.
  • Learn how to construct sentences using the proper structure.
  • Don't forget the common nouns in Marathi.
  • Converse more and more with native speakers to expand vocabulary and learn new phrases.
  • Memorize each Marathi alphabet in sequence.
  • Learn Marathi in the traditional way.
  • Sign up for free Marathi classes online.
  • Find a good Marathi private tutor.
  • Read Marathi literature.
  • Look for recommendations on good Marathi language books.
  • Listen to podcasts in Marathi to improve pronunciation.
  • Master your comprehension skills.
  • Watch Marathi movies.
  • Listen to Marathi music.
  • Write regularly in Marathi.
  • Find a peer learning friend who is a native Marathi speaker.
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Pragnajyoti

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