The Pronunciation of Words & Vocabulary
In this Unit we have so far learnt and practised the pronunciation of all the Pali characters. We have also seen that the sound of each of these characters is constant, irrespective of the words in which it occurs. Thus, we can now read any Pali text with the correct pronunciation.
In this unit, we will learn a few concepts about spelling the words correctly.
|Gutturals / Velars
|Retroflex / Cerebrals
We have seen that among the 33 consonants, 6 are nasals. These are ṅ, ña ṇa, na, ma and ṃ.
Any Pali word with a nasal sound in it, will have one of these characters in it. The specific nasal used in any word is determined by the consonant following the nasal. If the consonant (sound) after the nasal sound is a guttural, the nasal used will be ṅ (the nasal consonant from the group of gutturals), if the consonant after the nasal sound is a dental, the nasal used will be na (the nasal consonant from the group of dentals), and so on.
In other words, the nasal and the consonant immediately following it would always belong to the same group of consonants.
Let us see a few examples to understand this point.
The words saṅgha and saṅkhāra are spelt with the nasal ṅ, as it is followed by consonants (gha and kha, respectively) which are gutturals.
The words pañca and añjali have the nasal ña, as it is followed by consonants (ca and ja, respectively) which are palatals.
Consider the following words with nasal sounds :
kaṇṭaka, paṇḍita – (ṭa and ḍa are cerebrals and ṇa is a nasal from the same group)
panta, andha – (ta and dha are dentals and na is a nasal from the same group)
amba, kampati – (ba and pa are labials and ma is a nasal from the same group)
saṃvara, saṃsāra – (va and sa are miscellaneous consonants and ṃ is a nasal from the same group)
Whenever a word ends in a nasal sound, the character denoting that sound is ṃ
e.g. evaṃ me sutaṃ.
One more point to note is the use of the two nasals ṅ and ṃ. As we have already seen, the sound of both these nasals is the same. However, there is a difference in the way they feature in Pali words. The nasal ṅ is always followed by a guttural, whereas the nasal (or niggahīta) ṃ can be followed by a miscellaneous consonant, or it can be the last character in a word.
This can probably be best explained by the word maṅgala. Please note the following phrases with respect to their spelling and pronunciation.
Bhavatu sabba maṅgalaṃ,
In all these cases (marked in bold) the sound of the nasals is exactly the same. But while writing the word, ṅ features in the word maṅgala, as the consonant ga which follows it is a guttural, and the ending nasal sound of the words is denoted by ṃ.