Sanskrit pronunciation guide

Guide to Sanskrit Pronunciation

Throughout the centuries, the Sanskrit language has been written in a variety of alphabets. The mode of writing most widely used throughout India, however, is called devanāgarī, which literally means “the city writing of the devas, or gods.” The devanāgarī alphabet consists of forty-eight characters, including thirteen vowels and thirty-five consonants. The ancient Sanskrit grammarians arranged the alphabet according to concise linguistic principles, and this arrangement has been accepted by all Western scholars. The system of transliteration used in this book conforms to a system that scholars in the last fifty years have almost universally accepted to indicate the pronunciation of each Sanskrit sound.

The short vowel a is pronounced like the u in but, long a like the a in far, and short i like the i in pin. Long ī is pronounced as in pique, short u as in pull, and long u as in rule. The vowel is pronounced like the ri in rim. The vowel e is pronounced as in they, ai as in aisle, o as in go, and au as in how. The anusvāra (), which is a pure nasal, is pronounced like the n in the French word bon, and visarga (), which is a strong aspirate, is pronounced as a final h sound. Thus aḥ is pronounced like aha, and iḥ like ihi.

The guttural consonants—k, kh, g, gh, and —are pronounced from the throat in much the same manner as in English. K is pronounced as in kite, kh as in Eckhart, g as in give, gh as in dig hard, and as in sing. The palatal consonants—c, ch, j, jh, and —are pronounced from the palate with the middle of the tongue. C is pronounced as in chair, ch as in staunch heart, j as in joy, jh as in hedgehog, and ñ as in canyon. The cerebral consonants—ṭ, ṭh, ḍ, ḍh, and —are pronounced with the tip of the tongue turned up and drawn back against the dome of the palate. is pronounced as in tub, ṭh as in light heart, as in dove, ḍh as in red-hot, and as in nut. The dental consonants—t, th, d, dh, and n—are pronounced in the same manner as the cerebrals but with the forepart of the tongue against the teeth. The labial consonants—p, ph, b, bh, and m—are pronounced with the lips. P is pronounced as in pine, ph as in uphill, b as in bird, bh as in rub hard, and m as in mother. The semivowels—y, r, l, and v—are pronounced as in yes, run, light, and vine respectively. The sibilants—ś, ṣ, and s—are pronounced, respectively, as in the German word sprechen and the English words shine and sun. The letter h is pronounced as in home.