Sounds

Sounds

► Main Sounds

 

Main Sounds

 

“The Vedas come from certain fundamental sounds, and their variations. The slightest modification of the sound changes the meaning of what is said. No written language is able to represent all of the Vedic Sounds. It is impossible to write many of the words. The Vedas are God’s breath and can be transmitted from person to person only by voice.”

Conversation with Sai,

Chap. 8, by J. hislop

____________________

 

Mahāṣhi Pāṇinī states in his Pāṇinīya śhīkṣhā (Treatise on Grammar) how carefully and attentively the Vedic sounds are to be chanted: “Just as a tigress carries her children, her teeth biting without hurting, yet, without fear of them falling down. In like manner, express and utter the sounds.”

 

In this document, you will find:

  – a presentation of the positions of the tongue,

  – a presentation of the vowels,

  – a presentation of the consonants,

  – a presentation of the other sounds,

  – a recap chart,

  – an audio file for each example.

 

 

Positions of the tongue

 

– Below are the 4 main positions of the tongue, represented with a contact between the tongue and the organ of speech (throat, palate, teeth).

 


Guttural sound


Palatal sound


Cerebral sound


Dental sound

 

– This contact may be full or slight and brief. The tongue may also approach at a large or short distance towards the concerned area to allow an air flow.

 

Labial sounds are created with the lips joined or slightly opened or opened in a small circle and so on.

 


Labial sound

 

– Nasal sounds, which may also belong to one of the above families, imply an air flow in the nose.

 

 

16 vowels

 

 

short

long

ex­tended

long diph­thong

gut­tural

a

ā

ā3

 

 

pala­tal

i

ī

ī3

ē

ai

cere­bral

 

 

 

den­tal

 

 

 

 

la­bial

u

ū

ū3

ō

au

 

Guttural (without contact):   a   ā   ā3

e.g.:   bhagavān,   rudrāya

Please note the difference between ‘a’ (as in ‘up’, without effort from any part of the mouth) and ‘ā’ (as in ‘farther’, uttered with the mouth widely opened).  

 

Palatal (without contact):   i   ī   ī3   ē   ai

e.g.:   kavim,   vājinīvatī,   dēvī,   utainam

The sound ‘a’ + the sound ‘i’ give the sound ‘ē’.

The sound ‘ai’ is uttered as a brief ‘a’ followed by a long ‘ī’.  


 

Cerebral (without contact):     

e.g.:   pthivī,   amta

The tongue does not touch the top of the palate.


 

Dental (without contact):  

e.g.:   kptam

The tongue does not touch the teeth.


 

Labial (without contact):   u   ū   ū3   ō   au

e.g.:   guru,   sūktam,   namō,   asau

The sound ‘a’ + the sound ‘u’ give the sound ‘ō’.

The sound ‘au’ is uttered as a brief ‘a’ followed by a long ‘ū’.

 

 

 

25 consonants, organized in 5 co-phonic columns of 5 each

 

In order to utter them, the following vowel used in the recordings is ‘a’.

 

 

gut­tural

pala­tal

cere­bral

den­tal

la­bial

non asp.

k

ch

t

p

aspi­rated

kh

chh

ṭh

th

ph

non asp.

g

j

d

b

aspi­rated

gh

jh

ḍh

dh

bh

nasal

ñ

n

m

 

Guttural:   k   kh   g   gh  

e.g.:  kavīnām,  mukhā,  giri,  ghōṣha,  śhakara

 

 

Palatal:   ch   chh   j   jh   ñ

e.g.:  vachasā,  chhanda,  jam,  jhjhanam,  pañcha


 

Cerebral:      ṭh      ḍh  

e.g.:   kōi,   kāṇṭhāya,   mṛayati,   ḍhuṣhē,   gaapati


 

Dental:   t   th   d   dh   n

e.g.:   tīrthyāya,   ratha,   dēvī,   dhanvanē,   nātha


 

Labial:   p   ph   b   bh   m

e.g.:   paśhupati,   phalam,   bindu,   bhava,   maṅgalam


 

 

4 semi-consonants also called semi-vowels

 

pala­tal

cere­bral

den­tal

la­bial

y

r

l

v

 

e.g.:   sarasvatyai,   namō vrātapatayē

‘v’ is mostly uttered as a ‘w’. In case that ‘v’ is followed by another consonant, then the ‘v’ is harder, with a contact between upper teeth and lower lip.

 

 

3 sibilants & 1 aspirated consonant

 

pala­tal

cere­bral

den­tal

 

gut­tural

śh

h

s

&

h

 

e.g.:   śhiva,   puruṣha,   sītā,   saha,   hrasva,   hṛdaya

The tongue is very close to the contact point (palate, teeth, throat) in order to create the “whistling”.

 

 

Other sounds

 

1 jihvāmūlīya, noted [hk] (guttural sound)

e.g.:   nama[hk] kakubhāya,   du[hk]kha

The back of the tongue quickly approaches towards the throat till contact. The sound stops in a ‘k’, creating a ‘hhhk’ sound.



 

1 upadhmānīya, noted [fp] (dental-labial sound)

e.g.:   [fp] puruṣham,   na[fp] prachōdayāt

The upper teeth and lip approach towards the lower lip till contact. The sound stops in a ‘p’, creating a ‘fffp’ sound.


 

 

1 anusvāra, noted (nasal sound)

e.g.:   savatsarō vā,   vaiśhnavī lōka

Before ‘v’, it becomes a nasal ‘v’ with slightly opened lips. Before ‘l’, it becomes a nasal ‘l’.  


 

 

1 visarjanīya, noted (guttural sound)

e.g.:   namaa,   dhanuu,   śhāntii,   khamācharāa

The sound ḥ is followed by a vowel uttered as an echo (half powered) of the vowel preceding the ḥ.


 

1 other cerebral consonant:

e.g.:   iaspadē


 

 

3 gm-kāras noted gm, ge and g’ge

e.g.:    sarvagm,   paśhūgestāgeśhchakrē,   priyag’geśhraddhē

They occur only in the taittirīya Vedic branch. The ‘gm’ is uttered with joined lips. The ‘e’ is very short.


 

 

1 svarabhakti

e.g.:   sammarśhinaḥa,   sahasraśhīrhā,   barhihi

If the ‘r’ sound is followed by ‘śh+vowel’, ‘ṣh+vowel’, ‘s+vowel’ or ‘h+vowel’, it is uttered as the vowel ‘’, with a very slight contact tongue-palate. This sound occurs in other śhākhās (Vedic branches) also, but is best preserved by taittirīya chanters.


 

 

The sound ‘jñ’

e.g.:   āna,   yaēna

The sound ‘’ is uttered by positioning the tongue for a ‘j’, and immediately creating the sound ‘ñ’. Hence, before uttering the ‘ñ’, the tongue is in the palatal position with a large contact with the palate.


 

 

Recap Chart

download

Recap Chart

 

 

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► Pronunciation Guide

 

Pronunciation Guide

 

“When all words emanating from you are sweet, your breath becomes Ṛg Vēda. When you restrict what you listen to and prefer only sweet speech, all that you hear becomes Sāma Gāna. When you do only sweet deeds, all that you do is Yajur Hōma. Then, you will be performing every day the Vēdapuruṣha Yajña, the yajña which propitiates the Vedic Spirit.”

– Bhagavān Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Discourse on 2 October 1981

____________________

 

In this document, you will find:

– two charts with examples to help with pronunciation,

– some advice for the beginners,

– a list of specific sounds.

 

 

Charts

 

The charts below provide some elements of pronunciation for each letter used in the learning documents of Vedic prayers.

 

a:

up (short)

ā:

father (long)

i:

fill (short)

ī:

feed (long)

u:

full (short)

ū:

tool (long)

ē:

prey (long)

ai:

I (very short ‘a’ + ‘ī’)

ō:

go (long)

au:

cow (very short ‘a’ + ‘ū’)

ṛ:

acre, chr(i)stmas,
when ‘i’ is not pronounced

ṝ:

as a prolongation of ‘ṛ’

ḷ:

fl(i)p, when ‘i’ is
not pronounced

 

k:

come

kh:

khaki

g:

good

gh:

aghast

ṅ:

monkey (fig. 1)

ch:

chum

 

chh:

Church-hill
(with a special stress)

j:

jump

jh:

j + aspirated ‘h’

ñ:

onion

ṭ:

similar to the series below,
but with contact between
the tongue and the
upper part of the palate

ṭh:

ḍ:

ḍh:

ṇ:

t:

tea

the tongue touches
 the upper and
the lower teeth

th:

ant-hill

d:

deed

dh:

d + aspirated ‘h’

n:

net

p:

pin

ph:

p + aspirated ‘h’

b:

big

bh:

b + aspirated ‘h’

m:

mum

y:

yes

r:

is rolled, as in the
Italian word cantare

l:

class

v:

van

h:

hot (aspirated ‘h’)

śh:

sugar (without contact tongue/palate)

ṣh:

sharp (without contact tongue/palate)

s:

sing

 

 

For the beginners

 

As a first step, in order to make the learning easier, the pronunciation of certain letters may be simplified:

– ‘’ may be pronounced as a very brief and rolled ‘r’ (or a sound somewhere between ‘ri’ and ‘ru’);

– ‘śh’ and ‘ṣh’ may be pronounced as ‘sh’, as in dish;

– ‘’ may be pronounced as a classical/dental ‘n’;

– ‘’ and ‘ḍh’ may be pronounced as a classical/dental ‘d’ (and ‘dh’);

– ‘’ and ‘ṭh’ may be pronounced as a classical/dental ‘t’ (and ‘th’).

The second step is to acquire the proper pronunciation for each sound, so that the Vedas are chanted as accurately as possible, which is essential.

Note : - the importance of the aspirated ‘h’ (kh, gh, ṭh, ḍh, th, dh, ph, bh, chh, jh);

- the difference between ‘a’ (uttered without any effort from any part of the mouth) and ‘ā’ (uttered with widely open mouth) should be very clearly audible, especially when both these letters occur in the same word.

 

 

Specific sounds

 

– ‘gm’ is a nasalized sound uttered with closed mouth, right from the uttering of ‘g’;

– in ‘ge’, the ‘e’ (small sized) is uttered very briefly;

[fp] indicates a ‘fffffp’ sound;

[hk] indicates a ‘hhhhk’ sound;

– ‘’ is a brief aspirated ‘h’; the following vowel is uttered as an echo (half-powered);

– ‘’ is uttered by positioning the tongue for a ‘j’, and immediately creating the sound ‘ñ’;

– ‘’ followed by ‘l’ is uttered as a nasalized ‘l’;

– ‘’ followed by ‘v’ is uttered as a nasalized ‘w’, with slightly opened lips.

 

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