Subject: sanskrit Digest, Vol 42, Issue 7 Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2006 12:00:25 -0600

Date: 17 Oct 2006 17:46:34 -0000
From: "Shreyas P. Munshi"

Speaking about Panini's phonetics, there is a question to examine:
What is the correct pronunciation of the word Sanskrt....Sanskr'i't (as pronounced in UP etc) or Sanskr'u't (as pronounced in Maharashtra and Gujarat?....I submit that /mru.....mriyate/ seems to suggest that there are separate sounds and hence the different graphic symbols for /mru/ and /mri/ in the orthodox Devnagari script...because there are separate pronunciations for the vowels /hru/ and /i/...(and perhaps the difference in pronunciation is meant to be phonemic!); that is, the two sounds could have been used to convey distinctive meanings.

I notice that even Hrigveda is written as Rigveda.../hri/ is a vowel, while /r/ is a consonant..In Devnagari the word is written as the one corresponding to Hrigveda...a vowel, and not a consonant, in the 'word initial' position. ....Shreyas Munshi

Date: Tue, 17 Oct 2006 11:33:12 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jay Vaidya
Subject: [Sanskrit] pronunciation of the vowel R^i

Note: "R^i" is just the ITRANS internet standard for the special symbol in Indian script. It does not mean that the pronunciation is "ri". In the Harvard-Kyoto standard, the same symbol is written as "R" - but I am not used to writing in the Harvard-Kyoto scheme.

Message: None of the current pronunciations of the vowel R^i in modern Indian languages correspond to the pronunciation in sa.nskR^ita.

The pronunciations are all correct WHILE SPEAKING IN THE MODERN LANGUAGES, because each of these languages (Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu, etc) have their own independent rich grammar and literature and sound standardization.

In Western UP Hindi -> ra
In "standard" Hindi -> ri
In Marathi, Gujarati -> ru
In Tamil, Malayalam -> ri

Clearly, in all of these modern languages, these are two joined sounds, not one: (1) the consonant (vya.njana) "r" + a vowel "a"/"i"/"u"

The sound R^i is a vowel. Vowels can be sounded continuously for a long time without changing their sound-character. e.g.
similarly it is possible to say

The toungue-placement (sthaana) for R^i is the muurdhan (the highest part of the hard palate, the same part where the tongue is placed for T, Th, D, Dh, N. Also for the second "shh", but only a certain literate speaking tradition in Marathi make a distinctly different tongue placement for "sh" and "shh". I don't know about Gujarati. Most modern Indians do not pronounce "shh" as it was pronounced in sa.nskR^ita. This is quite OK while speaking their own modern language.)

The mouth effort ("prayatna") for R^i is "vivR^ita" on the inside, and "vivaara" on the outside. This means that the inner part of the throat is open, and there is a continuous flow of air from the throat through the mouth out of the lips. So when the tip of the tongue touches the muurdhan, it should not block the flow of air at any time. If it blocks the flow of air, this turns into the consonant (vya.njana) "r".

Of course, "ra", "ri", "ru" all break the continuous flow of air from the throat to the mouth as the tongue touches the palate to make the "r" sound, and then they all change from muurdhan to kaNTha (for "ra"), or taalu (for "ri"), or oshhTha (for "ru"). Which are all wrong while speaking in sa.nskR^ita. (But correct in those modern languages.)

Similarly for the vowel L^i, the tongue placement for which is near the teeth ("danta"), and the flow of air is unbroken.

R^i as a true vowel is used in modern mandarin chinese
L^i as a true vowel is used in modern standard English
(but not most Indian accented English)
For example the the word "simple"
This is correctly pronounced:
'sim-pl (the final "l" being a vowel)
Sometimes in Indian accented English, we say 'sim-pal
or 'sim-pel, in which case "l" is a consonant.

Shreyas-ji you should take your mri-yate argument further to see that that none of "ra", "ri" or "ru" are the same as R^i - all have separate symbols
1. (mother-worship) maatR^i + archanaa = maatrarchanaa = maat"ra"rchanaa -> "ra" not equal to "R^i"
2. (mather's wish) maatR^i + ichchhaa = maatrichchhaa = maat"ri"chchhaa -> "ri" not equal to "R^i"
3. (mother's service) maatR^i + upaasanaa = maatrupaasanaa -> "ru" not equal to "R^i"

However, do be careful. It is not a good idea to base your phonetics/pronunciation on script writing. There are 18 varieties of "i" in sa.nskR^ita, (similar number in maraThi) but mostly for convenience we use only two symbols "i" and "ii", which are taught to us at school. This is perfectly fine, because most readers who know the language choose the correct variety of the the vowel based on the context.