transliterations ←

chunk 80: PRONUNCIATION -------------------------------------

→ phonetics jargon

Pronunciation guide.
pronunciation of vowels
wrong pronunciations of R RR L
about glides
Hiatus are two vowels in different syllables with no pause in between.
glottal stop
pronunciation of R
pronunciation of RR
pronunciation of L
Diphthongs and monophthongs.
pronunciation of consonants
pronunciation of r
about slowdown
ell is never dark
h sound
pronunciation of jJ
pronunciation of v

(pronunciationguide) (g)

Pronunciation guide.mmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1492

pronunciation of vowels

pronunciation of consonants

about the topdot letter

about the dotdot letter

common mispronunciations --

h plus echo

pronunciation of jJ

effects of hindI accent

Many language tutorials say there's no way of explaining in words how to make sounds one's not used to, and that instead of relying on written descriptions in a book, you should just pay attention to how people say that sound and try to imitate it.

That's mostly good advice, but it won't work for Sanskrit. Sure you have to do the imitation part, that's always a good thing. Yet, what the ancient grammarians said about tongue position, timing, etc, must be followed no matter what. Unlike in English, the "correctness" of a pronunciation is not determined by agreement with a majority of speakers, but by agreement with the ancient rules.

Example. Some people in some regions say the Sanskrit word etat as if it were yetat. No matter how many people do that, etat is Sanskrit, and yetat is a mistake. And it is still a mistake even if everybody around understands you when you say yetat.

See also --

videos to learn pronunciation

897 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 2 -- popularity 2

1 contents

(pronunciationofvowels) (vo)

pronunciation of vowelsmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1493

long aN'' vowels (the long vowels last twice as much as the short vowels, see mAtrA) --

A like A of "fAther", but dropping your jaw.

I like EE of "sEEd". But without a glide.

U like OO of "fOOd". But without a glide.

short aN'' vowels --

a is a Wikipedia on Schwa (the sound of the (a) (e) (i) (o) (u) (y) of "(a)bout stol(e)n penc(i)l mem(o)ry s(u)pply vin(y)l"). No jaw-dropping allowed.

i like Sanskrit I, but shorter.

u like Sanskrit U, but shorter

ec vowels (they are always long) --

e roughly like "A", but without a glide.

o roughly like "O", but without a glide.

ai roughly like "EYE". It always glides.

au roughly like the OU of "OUch!". It always glides.

Rk vowels --

pronunciation of R

pronunciation of RR

pronunciation of L .

See also wrong pronunciations of R RR L .

This video here gets most of the above thirteen vowels right --

The First Sanskrit Lesson- Mastery of Sound

Caveat lector: the L sound this guy says sux. But his description of it should be pronounced is correct.

Back to pronunciation guide .

704 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 549 -- popularity 4

(wrongpronunciationsofR) (wr)

wrong pronunciations of R RR Lmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C- 1494

Because of reasons that are very reasonable, but quite boring, the vowels R RR L are, more often than not, replaced with

ri rI lri

in North India, and with

ru rU lru

in South India, by people that haven't been taught Sanskrit properly. Which are about 99 percent of Sanskrit users.

Experts say that those replacements are wrong. Yet, in these times of kaliyuga, they are so widely taught by "Sanskrit teachers" that got their teaching license from the goverment, that most people that had some Sanskrit in highschool will mock you if you use the correct versions.

448 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 581 -- popularity 1

1493 pronunciation of vowels

(@glide) (@gli)

about glidesmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M+ C- 1495

A vowel sound is said to be a "glide" if the tongue or lips move while saying it. Instead of "glide", you may say, if you which, " diphthong", which sounds more hifalutin but means the same thing.

For instance, the English sound EYE is a glide.

In most dialects of English, the sounds of nEEd and fOOd are glides, as the tongue moves from start to end. Yet, Sanskrit I U do not glide at all.

296 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 820 -- popularity 1

1493 pronunciation of vowels

(@hiatus) (@hia)

hiatus are two vowels in different syllables with no pause in between.mmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ M- C+ 1496

Example in English --

"the idea" has four syllables, thee - eye - dee - uh. Here the sounds ee-eye and ee-uh are hiatuses.

"the idea of it" has six syllables, thee - eye - dee - uh - uv - it. Here the sounds uh-uv might be a third hiatus. But in many English dialects that is replaced with thee - eye - dee - ur - uv -it, adding an 'r' that avoids the hiatus.

Example in Sanskrit --

arjuna::uvAca has six syllables, a - rju - na - u - vA - ca. Here a-u is a hiatus.

The sound na::u is a na sound followed inmediately by an oo sound, and it is not the same as the sound of nau, which is like English "now". The two vowels a::u are said to be a hiatus, while the one vowel au is a diphthong.

In Sanskrit the hiatus sounds happen mainly when a wordfinal s or y is dropped by some sandhi rule, like arjunas + uvAca turning into arjuna::uvAca or vane + uSTras turning into vana::uSTraH (by rules bhobhago, lopazzA).

Many speakers will always replace these a::u a::i with ayu avu ayi avi, which are not always correct, but they find them easier to say. Some will insert a glottal stop between the two vowels.

If we interpret rule lopazzA to be optional, then arjunayuvAca and sayicchati are grammatical. Otherwise, we can still use the lighter-effort y there. The avu avi always suck.

The words tita::unA "with a sieve" (vedic rarity!) and pra::ugam "triangle" (of dubious validity) have a hiatus inside the word. No y allowed inside these, lighter-effort or not. Yet, you CAN use the extra y in the middle of compounds such as mana-icchA, where a s disappeared.

1162 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 940 -- popularity 11

(@glottalstop) (@glot)

glottal stopmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C- 1497

A glottal stop is a "throat catch" sound. To learn about it, read --

wikipedia on glottal stop

and maybe watch --

youtube video on global stop

Some pro chanters say the glottal stop sound in the middle of every hiatus. I don't think the ancient grammarians ever mentioned that, but do it anyway if you feel like it.

200 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1114 -- popularity 1

(pronunciationofR) (R)

pronunciation of Rmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1498

The R sound is quite near the r sound. It sounds mostly like a Wikipedia on Close central rounded vowel aka Japanese "u", or like a Wikipedia on Close central rounded vowel aka Polish "y". There is however one difference: near the start of that vowel, the tongue does a tapped-r movement.

You can hear the correct R sound four times in this video --

bhg 11 32 sri sri

The R sound is mispronounced more often than not. North Indians almost always replace it with ri, and South Indians with ru. Doing that is incorrect according to the ancient writers on phonetics, but if you do that, everybody will understand you anyway.

See also Pronunciation of "Vlk zmrzl, zhltl hrst zrn" in Czech

See also pronunciation of RR .

Back to pronunciation of vowels .

605 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1197 -- popularity 3

1554 /Rk are {R q L}

(pronunciationofRR) (RR)

pronunciation of RRmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1499

The RR vowel sounds like the R, but with the vowel part lengthened. The tap is still near the beginning.

You can hear the correct RR sound two times in this video --

bhg 1 26 sri sri

In the same video, the suhRdazcaiva is mispronounced as suhrudazcaiva. That is a mistake. The R should have been pronounced there like in the video you can find at pronunciation of R .

Back to pronunciation of vowels .

303 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1244 -- popularity 3

1554 /Rk are {R q L}

(/L) (/L)

pronunciation of Lmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1500

The sound L appears only in a few derivatives of the root kLp, such as kLpta-.

This video explains how the ancient grammarians explained the pronunciation of L. The vowel L, they say, must be pronounced just like R, but the tongue is a bit forward and touches the teeth. Please listen to only six seconds of the video, from 3:35 from 3:41 --

Mastery of sound.

Right after explaining the correct way of pronouncing the L, this guy mispronounces it as an l consonant followed by a regular R vowel that does not touch the teeth. For some reason, mostly everybody in India appears to do that, with some exceptions among veda reciters.

Many people misspell the L vowel as a la consonant with an R vowel below it. Experts scoff at the practice, but most typewriters just don't have an L key. Computers do have a combination of keys that will make an L, but most people don't bother to google for it.

In inria you must spell kLpta, but in the auroville dictionary you must spell klRpta.

754 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1251 -- popularity 4

938 (@Stammer of) !nij !vij !viS to /guNa before /zlu.

1493 pronunciation of vowels

1510 @position is the part of the mouth that obstructs the air most.

1554 /Rk are {R q L}

(@diphthong) (@di)

Diphthongs and monophthongs.mmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1501

In phonetics, the word diphthong means a gliding vowel. For a clearer explanation --

wikipedia on diphthongs.

In correct Sanskrit, ai au do glide (they are diphthongs), and the other vowels don't (they are monophthongs).

Some Western grammarians use the word "diphthong" to mean ec, that is, the four vowels e o ai au. Event though e o are not diphthongs in the phonetics sense. That's a stupid thing to do, just call them ec, that's shorter.

All of e o ai au are long vowels.

348 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1295 -- popularity 4

1425 rules that delete the @calling

1495 about glides

1496 @Hiatus are two vowels in different syllables with no @pause in between.

(pronunciationofconsona) (cons)

pronunciation of consonantsmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1502

Sanskrit has thirty-five consonant sounds. Here is a quick and dirty guide to their pronunciation, for absolute beginners. Use these instructions if you are in a real hurry to read something aloud. They sometimes give an incorrect pronunciation, but people will understand you anyway.


read this one as if it were m


read this letter as ha if it is after a, as hi if it is after i, etc etc.

t d

like French t d, that is, sort of like English, but tongue touches teeth


like English T D


like English N but tongue touches as far back as you can


like English N but tongue touches teeth


like English CH, but much softer

th dh bh Th ph gh kh ch jh Dh

like the t d b T p g k c j D but with a stronger puff. Do not read the th as English TH nor the ph as English PH.


like the T of diabeTes or the DD of laDDer (in most American accents). NEVER like English R.


always clear L, never dark L


read va as WA or VA. Some people do wa only after consonants, but you can use wa everywhere.

J, also spelled ñ

this is the ñ sound of Spanish. It is most often before c ch j jh, as in paJca "five", which sounds like English "puncher".


Pronounce Gk Gg as the NK NG of "baNK" and "baNG".

Elsewhere, G sounds like the NG of "siNGer" (in a Midwestern accent), and NEVER like the NG of "fiNGer".


like English SH


a sort of SH sound made with the tip of the tongue as far back as possible (so, use your normal SH until you learn such tongue acrobatics).


this is sort of like English H, but softer, like the Arabic h of "huwa". Pronounce it as English H until you learn better.

For better advice, see --

anusvAra sound

h sound

H sound

h plus echo

pronunciation of v

pronunciation of r

ell is never dark .

pronunciation of jJ




1337 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1348 -- popularity 3

1492 Pronunciation guide.

(pronunciationofr) (r)

pronunciation of rmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1503

Described quickly and informally, the Sanskrit r sound has nothing to do with the English R sound, and is quite similar to the DD of "ladder" and the T of "diabetes" in some American accents. That sound is called a "tapped R" or "tap R". It is also like the Japanese R, and like the Spanish R that comes between two vowels (that's the R of "pero", NOT that of "perro").

More tecnically speaking, the Sanskrit r sound is the "tapped r" described at Wikipedia on Voiced dental and alveolar taps and flaps. It is a Wikipedia on Postalveolar consonant.

Some people sometimes replace the "tapped r" with some "trilled R" (see Wikipedia on Voiced dental, alveolar and postalveolar trills for description). That replacing is not kosher, but it's not too bad, and I don't think anyone cares, or even notices the difference.

The Bengali R is like the Sanskrit R, except in words like zrI. Saying the r of zrI as a tap is quite hard for Bengalis. The way to train oneself is starting by saying zirI, then trying to make the first i shorter and shorter, without changing the tongue movement of the R.

828 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1425 -- popularity 1

1502 pronunciation of [@consonant]s

(@slowdown) (@sl)

about slowdownmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1504

Youtube videos have a gear icon under them. You can use it to set speed to 75 percent of normal.

Doing this helps students a lot when listening to Sanskrit that is being pronounced too fast, that is, at normal speed. Please set the speed to 75 whenever you have trouble hearing some letters.

Setting speed to 50 percent is mostly always useless, because the sound comes out too distorted.

305 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1481 -- popularity none

(ellisneverdark) (el)

ell is never darkmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C- 1505

Sanskrit l always sounds like the "clear L" of English, never like the "dark L".

If you don't know the difference between the "clear" and "dark" ells, please see Wikipedia on Voiced dental, alveolar and postalveolar lateral approximants.

about Dark L at Umanitoba

Back to pronunciation of consonants .

291 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1481 -- popularity 1

(hsound) (hs)

h soundmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C+ 1506

The sound of the Sanskrit letter h (lowercased) is the same sound of Hindi or Bengali H, and of the Arabic h sound in "haram" meaning "pyramids" (not the H of "Haram" meaning "holy"). It also appears in the word "behind" of some English dialects.

It is a voiced sound, described at Wikipedia on voiced glottal fricative.

The h sound is a consonant and is written with the

devanagari letter ha

Do not confuse it with the H sound , which is like English H, and is written with the

devanagari sign visarga

In Sanskrit words, I always spell the English H sound with an uppercase H, and the softer h sound with a lowercase h.

435 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1505 -- popularity 2

1502 pronunciation of [@consonant]s

(pronunciationofjJ) (jJ)

pronunciation of jJmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C- 1507

According to Sanskrit grammarians, the jJa combination should be pronounced as a j sound followed by a Ja sound.

Yet, because of the influence of local languages, many people mispronounce that combination as gna gnya dnya jna gya.

Watch this video --

How to Pronounce jJA in Sanskrit - 'gya' or 'gnya' or 'dnya' or 'jna'

and if that video is too long for you to watch, just remember: j always sounds like English j, and J always like Spanish ñ.

Someone told me once that instead of saying jJa (jña) you may also say JJa (ñña). I guess that's true, because ñ is nothing more than a nasalized j, and hardly anyone will be able to tell the difference.

Back to pronunciation of consonants .

510 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1527 -- popularity 2

1492 Pronunciation guide.

(pronunciationofv) (v)

pronunciation of vmmmmmmmmm glosses glosses ^ C- 1508

According to the descriptions of ancient grammarians, the v sound is made by approaching the lips to each other, but not so much that they touch.

That description fits the way the v is said in veda recitation. You can hear that one in the rudra video and in the 108 names of sarasvatI .

Oddly, that description ALSO fits the way English W is pronounced. So, if you find yourself incapable of imitating the sound the Indians make when they say ziva, you may replace that v with English W, as in "ziwa", but you may NEVER use an English V sound.

424 letters. -- 37900pronuguide.bse 1613 -- popularity 2

1502 pronunciation of [@consonant]s

1517 effects of !hindI accent

transliterations ←

chunk 80: PRONUNCIATION -------------------------------------

→ phonetics jargon