The Pronunciation of Words & Vocabulary

Conjunct consonants

One more small point which helps in spelling the Pali words correctly, is about conjunct consonants. Conjunct consonants, as the name suggests, are more than one consonant combining or coming together to produce a sound. Usually two consonants form a conjunct consonant, but at times three consonants might come together to form a conjunct consonant.

Consider the words mettā and Buddha. The bold characters are conjunct consonants formed by joining of two consonants (followed by a vowel, to make the sound complete).

In the word mettā, the two consonants forming the conjunct consonant are ta and ta, and in the word Buddha, the two consonants forming the conjunct consonant are da and dha.

(Please note that dha is a single consonant as it denotes one sound.)

The consonants from the same group (gutturals, palatals, cerebrals, dentals and labials) combine together to form conjunct consonants. Thus, a palatal will not combine with a guttural or a labial to form a conjunct consonant. Similarly, a cerebral will not combine with a consonant from any of the other groups.

(The words with the nasals, that we studied earlier, can be considered as an extension of this rule. In each of these words, we have conjunct consonants - with the nasal being one of the consonants.)

However, the miscellaneous consonants can combine with any of the consonants (with consonants from the other five groups or with other miscellaneous consonants).

Let us see a few examples of conjunct consonants from different groups.

Gutturals (ka-vagga) : sakka, dukkha, magga, byaggha, maṅgala

Palatals (ca-vagga) : sacca, micchā, vijjā, majjhimā, paññā

Cerebrals (ṭa-vagga) : paṭṭhāna, vuḍḍhi, aṇḍa, paṇṇa

Dentals (ta-vagga) : satta, satthā, sadda, saddhā, bhinna

Labials (pa-vagga) : sappa, puppha, sabba, abbha, sammā

Miscellaneous (with other miscellaneous consonants) : sissa, seyya, salla, āruyha, rūḷha

Miscellaneous (with other groups) : tatra, brāhmaṇa, byādhi, taṇhā, kvaci

Audio for pronunciation of Conjunct consonants 1
Audio for pronunciation of Conjunct consonants 2

There is a method which can be followed for the correct pronunciation of conjunct consonants.

Please consider the word – magga.

It can be divided in two parts : mag-ga.

In other words, we break the conjunct consonant in two; former part joins the previous part of the word and the latter, along with the vowel, is pronounced separately.

Similar to the word mag-ga, we can divide the words sab-ba, duk-kha.

Let us try the pronunciation, considering this point.

Audio for pronunciation of Conjunct consonants 3

We will now pay homage to the Buddha using this method of pronunciation

Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa

We will mark the syllables as :

Na-mo tas-sa bha-ga-va-to a-ra-ha-to sam-mā-sam-bud-dhas-sa

Audio for pronunciation of Conjunct consonants 4

Note : All the rules / observations mentioned above are only meant to help in writing the Pali words correctly. The participants are not expected to memorise these rules. Moreover, these concepts are not essential for reading Pali, where we just concentrate on correct pronunciation of each syllable.

Last modified: Wednesday, 11 January 2023, 11:18 AM