The vowel .r/ri in Sanskrit and Hindi

Jakub Cejka Visitor-Sanskrit jakub at
Sat May 10 18:19:41 UTC 1997

I suppose the vowel .r in Sanskrit must have started to cause difficulties
in pronunciation as soon as in the mothertongues of the speakers this
sound did cease to exist. Already in Pali this sound was not there and
various vowels had taken place of it, as is well known. Well and the sound
of a syllable forming r in between consonants is indeed difficult to
pronounce - in my mothertongue, where this sound occurs quite frequently,
small children and people with speech defects tend to pronounce a "mixed
vowel" at its place. Now, knowing that a sort of r-sound must be heard
there in Sanskrit (and not just a/i/u) the MIA speakers in attempt to
pronounce it had to combine it with a vowel. 
  So the "ri"/"ru"/"ra" pronunciation must have gained currency pretty
early. After all, in some Asokan inscription I recall to have seen the
word for written so, that it might well be read as vraccha (and
not only vaccha), I think some editors also did read it so. In that case
we would have evidence for [r+vowel] from 3rd BC in Prakrit. And ofcourse,
speakers tend to pronounce a later learned language as they do their
mothertongue. (Few people bother not to pronounce their Sanskrit as their
Bengali, Malayalam, Hindi nowadays...)  
  For [ri] in particular I can't recall some evidence right now.
Only in Jayadeva's Gitagovinda, which is too late (there a .r si clearly
rhymed with ri) 

Jakub Cejka
Dept. of Sanskrit, University of Pune
Ganeshkhind, Pune, India  411 007

e-mail:  jakub at  
(valid till June 97 approx.) 

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