Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide


Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide

                     
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The following simplified guide to pronunciation of Sanskrit phonemes is largely from the work of Charles Wikner, with help from Indian friends Vikas Alathur and Anima Pundeer. I then simplified the scheme based on my (mis)understanding and for ease of recall. Sanskrit sounds are produced primarily from one of five parts of the mouth cavity: guttural (from the back of the mouth as it narrows to form the throat; the 'a' vowel is an example) and successively toward the front of the mouth, palatal ('i'),  cerebral ('r'), dental (behind the teeth; 'l'), and labial (with the lips; 'u').  Wikner lumps the cerebral and dental consonants together, since the sounds are difficult for the Westerner to distinguish. (Cerebrals are written with a dot under them in Sanskrit and are capitalized in the ITRANS representation, which Wickner otherwise follows.) See A Practical Sanskrit Introductory by Charles Wikner for more detailed information. You may also be interested in taking a look at a Sanskrit dictionary (for which you'll need the alphabetical order described by Wickner).

Eng.

Phon.

Approximate pronunciation:

a

u

u as in but; NOT bat; final 'a' is not pronounced

a

aa

a as in arm, harm; NOT ham; long-a, sometimes written as a with a horizontal line over it; indicates duration, NOT two syllables

ai

ai

i as in fight, aisle, pie

au

au

down, hound

b

b

be, cab, imbibe; labial

bh

bh

clubhouse ('club-bhouse'); labial

c, ch

ch

cello, chair, church; palatal

ch

chh

like the 'chh' in coach-horse ('coa-chhorse'); palatal

d

d

day, dog, god; cerebral, dental

dh

dh

redhead ('red-dhead'); cerebral, dental

e

e

English long-a as in fate, fair, eight

g

g

goal, give, bug; guttural

gh

gh

loghouse ('log-ghouse'); guttural

h(a)

h

unvoiced aspirate: like the initial release of breath before the 'h' in hurry; or, following a consonant with a puff of audible breath before the next sound begins, as in pit and kit

h

H

an unvoiced breath following a vowel; e.g., aH would be pronounced as the 'uh' in uhh!

i

i

i as in bit, pink

i, ee

ee

ee as in peep, meet; long-i, sometimes written as i with a horizontal line over it; indicates duration, NOT two syllables

j

j

just, jolly, joy; palatal

jh

jh

hedgehog ('hej-jhog'); palatal

jn

j^n

whenever j is followed by palatal ^n, they are pronounced as one syllable j^n (the 'j' much like the French j in 'Jean', along with the strongly nasalized ^n); NOT ja-na (two syllables)

k

k

kiss, kiln, back; guttural

kh

kh

bunkhouse ('bung-khouse'); guttural

ksh

k^sh

whenever k is followed by cerebral sh, they are pronounced as one syllable k^sh; NOT ka-sha (two syllables)

l, li

l^

table for the vowel 'l'; l^d would be uld, NOT lid

l(a)

l

luck for the consonant (partial vowel); dental

m

m

amble, mumble; labial

m

M

a nasal sound following a vowel; e.g., aM would be pronounced as the 'um' in numb

n

n

gentle, hand, gain; cerebral, dental

n

^n

enjoy, canyon, pinch; palatal; sometimes written with a tilde (~) over the n or as N^

n, ng

ng

sing, long, tongue; guttural; sometimes written as n with a dot under it or as JN

o

o

between owe and awe

p

p

pick, pat, tap; labial

ph

ph

uphill ('up-phill'); labial; NOT 'ph' as in phone

r, ri

r^

acre for the vowel 'r'; r^d would be urd, NOT rid

r(a)

r

rum for the consonant (partial vowel); cerebral

s

s

seek, kiss; dental

s

sh^

like the German ich, reich; palatal; sometimes written as an s with an acute accent over it

sh

sh

ship, wish; cerebral; sometimes written as s with a dot under it

t

t

tub, top, cut; cerebral, dental

th

th

anthill ('an-thill'); cerebral, dental; NOT 'th' as in this

u

u

u as in put

u, oo

oo

oo as in boot; long-u, sometimes written as u with a horizontal line over it

v(a)

v

water (labial); somewhat between the English 'v' and 'w' sounds; sometimes written as w in the English

y(a)

y

yum; palatal

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