phonetics jargon ←

chunk 82: pronunciation guide anusvAra visarga

→ videos to learn pronunciation

ahA in chanting
pronunciation of M and H
effects of hindI accent
the endverse exception
echo vowel
anusvAra sound
H sound
jihvAmUlIya sound
upadhmAnIya sound


ahAmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1424

Even though according to pANini and according to the descriptions of ancient grammarians the H sound is the same as English H, you will rarely, if ever, hear anyone nowadays in India pronounce it as English H.

Most people will pronounce anything that is spelled as H as an h sound followed by an echo vowel --






Doing that is not kosher, but it is very widely tolerated, so feel free to do it if you want. No one will complain.

Until someone complains, of course. If you find someone that complains, count yourself lucky -- you found someone that knows the pANini grammar. So, bow to their lotus-feet, and do whatever they advise you to do.


ahA in chantingmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ 1425

When chanting all kinds of verses or sUtras, including pANini rules, any H that is right before a pause MUST be replaced with an h sound followed by an echo vowel.

This is not a pANini rule and pANini never mentions such a sound replacement, but veda chanters have been doing this since forever. If you don't do it, you will be summarily executed.

Pauses in verses and sutras are compulsory at the end. If the verse has two equal parts, or is a zloka verse, pausing at mid-verse is theoretically optional, but most people do a full pause at the middle whenever possible.

vahan mUtramM purISaJM c/Apy apAnaH parivartate

If we stop after api, the first half has nine syllables and becomes unsingable. So, this sort of verse must be read in one breath. This sort of verses tell us that the custom of always pausing at the middle is modern, and that in the times of the epics, the pause was not always done. Maybe it was never done.


pronunciation of M and Hmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1426

Pronunciation of the topdot letter a.k.a. " M letter" --

(1) If the M letter appears before of any of the twenty-five Jay, it reresents the sound of the most-alike nasal letter. So you must always pronounce --

kuMbhaH as kumbhaH

saMdhiH as sandhiH

saMgaH as saGgaH

paMca as paJca

pAMDuH as pANDuH

Do the same thing when the topdot letter and the Jay belong to different words --

tanM dadAti as tandadAti

That only works if the M is in saMhitA. If you decide to make a pause in the middle of tanM dadAti, then the M turns into an m sound --

tam pause dadAti,

usually spelled tam | dadAti,

sometimes wrongly spelled as taM | dadAti.

(2) If the M letter is before a yaN or a zal, pronounce it as an anusvAra sound.

(3) All other M letters are before a vowel or a pause, and are misspellings for an m sound.

Pronunciation of the dotdot letter a.k.a. " H letter" --

(1) the combinations Hz HS Hs must always be pronounced as zz SS ss.

(2) All other H letters are before k kh p ph ts or pause.

(A) According to the pANini system of grammar, they all may be pronounced like the English H sound (a.k.a. visarga sound).

(B) Most Indians nowadays replace such H letter with an ahA sound, particularly when they are embedding a Sanskrit word into any language other than Sanskrit. This arguably @sucks, but so many people do it that no one is going to complain if you do it.

(C) Peeps with more knowledge of the grammar replace that H sound with K (if it is before k or kh but not before kS) or with F (if it is before p ph). Rule kupvoKkaFpauca says that's kosher.

(D) Even if you are in the (C) group, you must use ahA when you are chanting and the H is before a pause, that is, at the end of a verse, sUtra, or half-verse (but only if you decide to pause at the half-verse). This is not grammatical according to pANini, but it is Vedic chanting custom, most likely older than pANini.


effects of hindI accentmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M+ C- 1427

You will notice the following quirks in the Sanskrit spoken by people from NW india. Not all of them are grammatically incorrect.

(1) Some people replace the e at the start of a word with ye.

This is common in Hindi, but very bad Sanskrit. Because eSAm means "of these" and yeSAm means "the ones whose".

(2) Most people will erase the final aH or a of a word.

This is fine when you speak Hindi, but it's a no-go in Sanskrit, first because it can get you misunderstood, and second because it makes your verses sound like prose.

(3) The v of Sanskrit is pronounced as English W before and after consonants, and as Hindi v elsewhere.

This is not incorrect. It is also not compulsory. Do that if you like, or pronounce that letter like English W everywhere, or like Hindi v everywhere. See also pronunciation of v .

(4) Some people mispronounce the Sanskrit ai au as if they were Hindi ai au.

That one is utter blasphemy. If anyone does that in my class, I make them say aloud "eye cow" in English a hundred and eight times.

(5) The r will be tapped in some positions, and rolled in others.

So rAm will have a rolled R, because here r starts a word, but param will have a tapped R, because the r is between two vowels.

No one knows if this is incorrect or not, but you will hear it often. Most veda reciters use the tapped r only.

Anyway, feel free to use a rolled r if it is easier to say for you. It might be incorrect technically, but it will not cause misunderstandings.

People from other regions of India have other quirks. For instance, Bengali people will more often than not mispronounce v as b. They will say bhogobAn (with short 'o') for bhagavAn. That b is good Bengali but bad Sanskrit. The short o sound is good Bengali, and very likely to be good Sanskrit too.


the endverse exceptionmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1428

Because of an old custom, when chanting or singing verses or sUtras, the H sound that is before a pause must be replaced with an h sound followed by an echo vowel . This is against the grammar, which says that the H sound that is before a pause is an H sound , but the custom of chanting the veda overrides grammar.

Example. The line zAntizH zAntizH zAntiH is from the veda. As far as anyone remembers, it has been always sung as zAntizH zAntizH zAntihIII. Even though according to the grammar rules, the H of the word zantiH, WHEN SPEAKING NORMALLY, must be an H sound .


echo vowelmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M- C+ 1429

When for any reason we decide to replace an H sound with an h sound , we must say after the h an echo vowel.

This echo vowel must be a repeat of the vowel before the h, and can be long or short, you choose.

Examples --

azvaH = azvahA

kapiH = kapihI

guruH = guruhU

mAtRRH = mAtRRhR

kukkuTIH = kukkuTIhi

kapeH = kapehe

guroH = guroho

The exceptions to this are aiH auH, that turn into aihi auhu --

azvaiH = azvaihi

gauH = gauhu

When chanting verses or sUtras (A) this replacement is compulsory (B) the echo vowel must be long if the vowel before the h is short, and vice versa.

When not chanting, this replacement is optional according some oral traditions, compulsory according to some others. It is always forbidden by pANini.


anusvAra soundmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M- C+ 1430

The arguments about the correct pronunciation of the anusvAra sound have been going on for centuries. So I won't take a side and I'll just tell you what I have heard.

(A) SOFT ANUSVARA. Some people pronounce the anusvAra sound as a nasalized sound that either has the same position as the next consonant, or is a bit less closed than the next consonant.

Example. The M sound of saMskRtam is sometimes pronounced as a nasalized sound with a tongue position very close to s position.

(B) HOLY ANUSVARA. Some people pronounce the anusvAra sound by closing the lips and humming for a slightly longer time than an ordinary consonant would last.

Example. saMskRtam is often sammskRtam.


H soundmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1431

The sound of the Sanskrit letter H (uppercased) is the same sound of English H. It is an unvoiced sound, and is described here --

unvoiced glottal fricative -- Wikipedia

This sound also goes by the nicknames --

English H sound



In the devanAgarI alphabet, it is written with a dotdot (which looks like a colon).

Do not confuse it with the h sound .

Many people always replace every written H letter with an ahA sound. Doing that is grammatically incorrect, but you will hear it very often, so be warned.


jihvAmUlIya soundmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M- C+ 1432

The jihvAmUlIya ("tonguerootish") sound is a variant of the H sound. It is allowed by rule kupvoKkaFpauca before k and kh that are not followed by S.

It is a hissy sound made by forcing air between the tongue put in k-position, and the palate.

It is a "velar fricative", and it is voiceless. This description applies --

Voiceless velar fricative

The sound is near the "ch" of the German word "Ich", the"ch" of Scottish "loch", and most variants of the Spanish "j", excluding however the North Spain variant, which is much too gargly.

Sometimes, I write the K sound as K in this website, but no one else does that. Being a free variant, it is invariably written with the letter H -- except in editions of pANini, where it is written with some special letter in the rule kupvoKkaFpauca.


upadhmAnIya soundmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1433

The F (or upadhmAnIya "blowing sound"), technically a Wikipedia on Voiceless bilabial fricative, is a variant of the H sound.

It is allowed by rule kupvoKkaFpauca before p and ph.

It is a hissy sound made by forcing air between the lips (NOT between lower lip and upper teeth, like English F). It sounds sort of like the "f" of the German word "Pferd".

Sometimes I write this sound as F in this website, but no one else does that. It is always written with the letter H. Whenever you see the letter H, and it is before p ph, you may pronounce that H letter either as H or as F, your choice. Personally I use F because I find it easier to say.

You can hear a F in this verse, just before the word pArtha --


phonetics jargon ←

chunk 82: pronunciation guide anusvAra visarga

→ videos to learn pronunciation