how to spell Sanskrit ----------------------------------------- ←

chunk 77: manuscript spelling

→ Exotic letters found only in this website

manuscript spelling
ch cch spelling
about the dotdot letter
About the visarga word.
Clusters of nasal plus similar.
blue nasals
the topdot letter


manuscript spellingmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1379

There are some differences between the way Sanskrit is spelled in old manuscripts, and the way it's spelled nowadays in printed books.

The pronunciation has not changed at all.

(A) Old manuscripts use no spaces between words. But nowadays a space is written after words that end in vowels, topdot, or dotdot. Unless it would be an ugly space .

(B) Rules acorahA, anacica and others allow doubling certain consonants optionally. Those optional lengthened sounds are nowadays written as single, but in manuscript you will often find those doublings spelled out.

(C) Some words, such as pattram "leaf", that nowadays we spell with tt, were spelled randomly with t or tt.

(D) cch was sometimes written ch. For instance, they'd write gachati but still read it aloud as gacchati.

(E) You'll find that sometimes sandhi rules are not obeyed. Particularly at mid-verse, and after calling. See ch cch spelling .

(F) Many scribes wrote all b as v. Most likely because they pronounced b and v the same way. In some manuscripts, b and v appear swapped.

(G) The consonant m in manuscripts is written as a topdot when a pause follows (provided that the pause is written as a space, stick, or double stick).

(H) In old manuscripts, in- word nasal sounds that are before a similar Jay were almost always written with a topdot (sometimes, randomly, with their proper nasal letter). The crazy spelling rule says that a nasal before a Jay must be spelled with a topdot if the nasal sound was made by monusvA and anusvA, but with its proper letter otherwise.


ch cch spellingmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M+ C- 1380

For reasons that are long to explain, it appears that pANini thought that mAchidaH "do not cut!" and mAcchidaH "do not cut!" were two different pronunciations of the same sentence, both allowed by the rules.

In spite of that, it appears to be the case that, since as far as anyone can remember, the sound that is spelled acha is always pronounced as the sound that is spelled accha -- both are a very very strongly aspirated version of aca, that takes the same time to say as attha, aggha, addha.

This is why, in old manuscripts, you will find spellings like gachati, even in places where it is clear from the meter that the real pronunciation was gacchati. This happens because they always read aloud cha as if it were ccha.

In modern printing, however, you will find ccha or cha in the spelling not chosen randomly, but depending on what the pANini rules say. Yet the cha is always pronounced ccha anyway. As far as I know.

Back to manuscript spelling .


about the dotdot lettermmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1381

The dotdot is one of two letters that can represent different sounds. The other such letter is the topdot.

In devanAgarI the dotdot looks like a colon, and in this website it looks like " H ".

According to pANini, the dotdot letter must be pronounced --

When before pause, as an H sound (see kharava).

When before k kh p ph ts in saMhitA, as H sound (but see also kupvoKkaFpauca).

When before a zar in saMhitA, as the same zar (see vAzari).

According to vedic tradition --

When the dotdot letter is at the end of a verse, it must be chanted as an h sound followed by an echo vowel . Elsewhere, do what pANini says.

According to many 21st century teaching traditions,

You MUST pronounce all dotdot vedic style. Just ignore whatever pANini taught.

According to many other 21st century teaching traditions,

Both vedic style and pAnini style are good, do what you want. EXCEPT when chanting, then vedic style is compulsory at the end of a verse, and optional everywhere else. You may also, if you want, replace any dotdot that is in saMhitA with a small pause.


About the visarga word.mmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M- C+ 1382

The word visarga is used with two meanings nowadays --

Sometimes it means the dotdot letter, looks sort of like a colon.

Sometimes it means the H sound (sound of English H).


The H sound is always written with a dotdot.

The dotdot sound is not always pronounced H. See dotdot.


Clusters of nasal plus similar.mmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1383

These twenty-five sounds are all the possible clusters of nasal plus similar Jay --

Gk Gkh Gg Ggh GG

Jc Jch Jj Jjh JJ


nt nth nd ndh nn

mp mph mb mbh mm

Each of these can be written in two different ways (see CRAZY SPELLING RULE ).


CRAZY SPELLING RULEmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1384

In Sanskrit, the letters Md (a topdot above the previous syllable, plus a d) are invariably pronounced as nd. The letters nd, too, sound like nd. So, the sound nd can be written in two ways.

In old manuscripts (anything written in the 19th century or earlier) you will find both spellings used quite chaotically. There were no definite rules about when to spell one way and when the other way. And no one cared, because whichever way you choose, the reader will always say nd.

Nowadays, however, carefully printed books, as well as my website, use the CRAZY SPELLING RULE , which is is --

Spell the sound nd --

(1) as topdot + d if the n sound used to be a wordfinal m and turned into an m sound because of monusvA and anusvA.

(2) otherwise, spell it as nd.


Sound bindus "seed". Written bindus because the n sound is not wordfinal.

Sound azvAndadAti when it means "he gives horses". This sentence is made from azvAn + dadAti. It is written azvAndadAti, because the n sound is wordfinal, and it is not an m that turned into n.

Sound azvAndadAti when it means "he gives a mare". This sentence is made from azvAm + dadAti. It is written azvAMdadAti, because the n sound is wordfinal, and used to be m before rules monusvA and anusvA turned it into n.

I always tell my students that they should not worry too much about this rule, they are going to see Md mispelled for nd, and nd mispelled for Md, mostly everywhere (except in carefully printed books, such as the MMW dictionary).


blue nasalsmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1385

In this website, the nasals J m G N n are painted blue sometimes. As in --

ahaGMkAramM balanM darpaGM kAmaGM krodhaJM ca saMzritAH

Blue or no blue, you must pronounce both of nMt and nt always as nt. Do NOT pronounce M t as an anusvAra sound followed by a t sound. Ever.


the topdot lettermmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M- C+ 1386

The topdot is one of two letters that have different sounds. The other letter is the dotdot.

In modern Sanskrit, a topdot before...

(1) yaN or zal must be read as an anusvAra sound.

example: saMskRtam must be pronounced sa + anusvAra + skRtam

(2) a Jay must be pronounced as the nasal that is most-alike to the Jay (see CRAZY SPELLING RULE ).

example: the word sandhi must be pronounced sandhi, no matter if the spelling is sandhi, saMdhi, or sanMdhi.

(3) anything else is a misspelling for m, so pronounce it as m

example: read taM as tam when not in the situations (1) (2) above.

how to spell Sanskrit ----------------------------------------- ←

chunk 77: manuscript spelling

→ Exotic letters found only in this website