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

chunk 77: manuscript spelling

→ Exotic letters found only in this website

manuscript spelling
ch cch spelling
Pronunciation of H.
Pronunciation of M.
About the topdot letter.
about the dotdot letter
About the visarga word.
Clusters of nasal plus similar.
why I think this rule is crazy

(manuscriptspelling) (ma)

manuscript spellingmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1454

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.

1212 letters. -- 36005manuscriptspelling.bse 3 -- popularity 4

1436 odds and ends

(chcchspelling) (chcchs)

ch cch spellingmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M+ C- 1455

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 .

752 letters. -- 36005manuscriptspelling.bse 37 -- popularity 1

(pronunciationofH) (H)

Pronunciation of H.mmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C- 1456

Obsolete. See about the dotdot letter .

Before pause, kS or ts, pronounce H as a visarga sound, or, if you cannot, as an h plus echo .

Always pronounce Hz HS Hs as zz SS ss. Even if a space is in between.

Before k (that is not kS) or kh, pronounce H as K, visarga, or h plus echo .

Before p or ph, pronounce H as F, visarga, or h plus echo .

Before anything else, H is a misspelling.

279 letters. -- 36010spellingofzzSSss.bse 86 -- popularity none

(pronunciationofM) (M)

Pronunciation of M.mmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ 1457


See about the topdot letter .

31 letters. -- 36010spellingofzzSSss.bse 144 -- popularity none

(@topdot) (@top)

About the topdot letter.mmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C- 1458

.. this needs a reread

The topdot, a.k.a " M letter", is one of two letters that have different sounds (the other one is the dotdot, a.k.a " H letter").

I call it topdot because, in some alphabets, it looks like a dot written on top of a letter. In Bengali script it looks like a small circle with a backslash under it, and it is written after another letter.

The topdot always follows a vowel.

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

zaMkaraH as zaGkaraH

saMdhiH as sandhiH

kuMbhaH as kumbhaH

saMgaH as saGgaH

paMca as paJca

pAMDuH as pANDuH

The last four (kuMbhaH etc) are nowadays considered misspellings, because their M is not wordfinal. They must be spelled kumbhaH etc. But you will find them everywhere spelled both ways.

When there is a space in between, you still do the same thing --

tamM pazyAmi as tampazyAmi

tanM dadAti as tandadAti

ayaGM karoti as ayaGkaroti

zatruMdveSTi as zatrundveSTi

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. So if you find taM pazyAmi written somewhere, you can read that

either in one breath as


or as --

tam pause dadAti,

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

An anusvAra sound can be a sort of mm, or a nasalized version of the previous vowel.

For instance, saMskRtam stands for either

sa + a~ + skRtam



(3) All other topdot letters are before a vowel or a pause, and are misspellings for an m sound. So if someone wrote dadAti taM before a stick, you read that as dadAti tam, and then you pause.

Nowadays, many people believe that the only correct way of pronouncing what is printed as topdot is a lengthened mm sound. That belief is not too bad if the only thing you do with Sanskrit is praying while you read aloud from a well-printed sheet; in fact as far as I know it is likely to be kosher. But my students are warned that they'll get an F in the oral exam if they do that.

1618 letters. -- 36010spellingofzzSSss.bse 190 -- popularity 17

(@dotdot) (@dot)

about the dotdot lettermmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1459

The dotdot is one of the 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 , NOT as h plus echo .

When it is in saMhitA --

When before ts or kS, as an H sound (see zarpare).

When before k kh, as either an H sound or K ( kupvoKkaFpauca).

When before p ph, as either an H sound or F ( kupvoKkaFpauca).

Elsewhere, the H is a mispelling and must be replaced with the correct sound.

When before a zar in saMhitA,

either as the same zar (see vAzari)

or as an H sound .

(I teach my students to use the same zar option only, never the H sound option. It comes out way easier. Using h plus echo plus zar IST GANTS FERBOTEN.)

According to vedic tradition --

When the dotdot letter is before a pause, it must be chanted as h plus echo . Otherwise do whatever your particular school of vedic recitation teaches. zrIgurubhyo namahAAA.

According to many kaliyuga teaching traditions,

You MUST pronounce all dotdot as h plus echo . Just ignore whatever pANini taught.

See also h plus echo in chanting .

I teach my students to do K and F whenever they are allowed. That's because most of them are English speakers and learn those two way faster than they can learn the H sound , and it sort of sounds smoother. Your mileage can vary.

1106 letters. -- 36010spellingofzzSSss.bse 280 -- popularity 13

(/visarga) (/vis)

About the visarga word.mmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M- C+ 1460

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.

224 letters. -- 36010spellingofzzSSss.bse 360 -- popularity 8

1014 (/H) to /H before !kS !ts.

1423 Optionality of !!vAzari.

1446 Spelling of !zz !SS !ss.

1448 blue /zar

1456 Pronunciation of !H.

1502 !h plus echo.

1662 eight-vowel style

(clustersofnasalplussim) (clusterm)

Clusters of nasal plus similar.mmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1461

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 ).

188 letters. -- 36020spellingofntmp.bse 1 -- popularity 2

1444 how to spell Sanskrit

(@crazyspellingrule) (@cr)

CRAZY SPELLING RULEmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C- 1462

The CRAZY SPELLING RULE says this --

" Spell the sound nd

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

(2) as nd, otherwise. "

This rule has been used by editors of printed Sanskrit books since 1850 or so, give or take a century. Not being a pANini rule, you don't have to follow it; it is merely a general agreement of professors and proof editors.

In the age of the manuscripts, there was another rule in general use, which I encourage my students to use, even though it will get them an F in highschool Sanskrit tests --

"Spell the sound nd however you feel like."

In this website I spell the n sounds that, according to the CRAZY SPELLING RULE, must written as n, this way --

tAn dRSTvA "after seeing them"

candraH "moon"

and spell those that are written as topdot this way --

tAnM dRSTvA "after seeing her"

sanMdhiH "junction"

So you have to remember that the blue n is spelled as a topdot, and that the blue n and the black n are both pronounced as n (when in saMhitA). If the blue n happens to be before a pause, pronounce it like m.

Of course, what I just said about nd also applies to the other twenty-four Clusters of nasal plus similar .

See also why I think this rule is crazy below.

966 letters. -- 36020spellingofntmp.bse 77 -- popularity 7

249 (After [/Am'']-ender,) add also /kR plus /liT.

1244 /pums- "man"

1444 how to spell Sanskrit

1449 blue [@nasal]s

1454 manuscript spelling

(whyithinkthisruleiscra) (why)

why I think this rule is crazymmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C- 1463

The CRAZY SPELLING RULE is easy to state and to remember, but so complicated to apply in practice, that not even fluent speakers with a firm grasp of the grammar can apply it correctly in all cases.

Also, in these times of kaliyuga, most Sanskrit users are neither fluent, nor grammar-aware, nor willing to waste their time looking up zaGkara in a dictionary to find out if the correct spelling is zaGkaraH with G or zaGMkaraH with topdot. That is why we find misspellings everywhere. Even in printed books.

To add insult to injury, when I write words in my whiteboard, spelling them correctly with Roman letters, such as "zaMkaraH", and ask my students to read them aloud, there is always someone that says "shammkarahaaa" with a doubled m sound. Of course, at the end of the year, they can use devanAgarI correctly and can pronounce zaGMkaraH correctly with a G sound. But if I use the "incorrect" spelling "zaGkaraH" at the start, they suffer less and learn faster.

I frankly can't see what is wrong with the rule used in manuscripts, which was --

" Always pronounce Gk, spell that sound as Gk or Mk as you wish, and always read aloud Gk and Mk as Gk."

That rule makes a lot of sense if you are using an Indian alphabet.

I teach my students that they must always pronounce Mk as Gk, that they should not worry about correct spelling, and that in the unlikely event that they are ever caught mispelling sandhiH or saGMgaH by some pedant, they should say "oopsie sorry", or apologize, or come out with some excuse. Worrying about spelling is a Westyern thing; worrying about correct pronunciation of Sanskrit is an ÇIndian thing, and much, much,. more important.

Final warning: nothing of what I just said applies to the veda. To learn vedic recitation, you need a qualified teacher, not me.

An exercise for the diligent student:

Explain in writing why it follows from the CRAZY SPELLING RULE that the G sound of zaGMkaraH and saGMgamya must be spelled with a topdot, not with G, but saGgaH must be spelled with G.

1589 letters. -- 36020spellingofntmp.bse 102 -- popularity 1

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

chunk 77: manuscript spelling

→ Exotic letters found only in this website