Pronunciation of short a

Balaji Hebbar bhebbar at EROLS.COM
Wed May 26 20:25:37 UTC 1999

Dear  Messrs. Ganesan, Madhuresan,  Chandrasekharan  and  Narayan:

Just  to  add  my  2  cents  worth  to  your  very  insightful
discussions  on  the  issue  to  the  pronunciation  of  the  short  "a"
in  Sanskrit  and  the  vernacular  Indian  tongues,  we  might  want
to  consider  Sinhala.  The  Sinhalese  are  the  only  people  I  have
seen  pronounce  the  short  "a"  distinctly  either  without
unwarrantedly  elongating  it,  suffixing  it  or  cutting  it  short
(as  though  there  is  a  halant)  as  the  North-Indians  do.  In
short,  you  will  hear  them  pronounce  the  word  "Arjuna"  as
"Arjuna"  and  not  as  "ArjunA",  "Arjunan"  or  "Arjun".  Perhaps,
the  Sinhalas  are  the  only  "Northern  Indic"  peoples  who  are
truly  free  of  the  modern  "Hindi"  influence  which  reaches  down
(as  one  of  you  pointed  out)  well  into  the  Andhra  and  Karnatak

In  fact,  two  decades  ago  when  I  learnt  Pali  under  the  late
Venerable  Dr.  PiyAnanda  MahAthero  (a  Sinhalese  monk),  the
Venerable  would  laugh  at  the  the  Indian  prounuciation  of  the
final  positioned  Sanskrit  visarga.  For  example,  the  Indian
tendency  is  to  pronounce  "rAmaH"  as  "rAmaHa".  Ven. PiyAnanda
would  say,  why?  and  laugh.  Prounounce  it  as  exactly  as  it  is
"rAmaH"  and  nothing  more.  Next  time,  hear  the  Sinhalese
pronounce  Sanskrit  words.  In  fact,  just  hear  the  Sinhalese
speak  their  own  language,  the  short  "a"  is  very  clearly
audible  and  it  is  so  pleasing  to  the  ear.  It  gives  the  whole
language  a  certain  musical  lilt  which  some  of  our  beautiful
Indian  languages  seem  to  have  lost  because  of  unnecessary
elongation  or  equally  bad,  the  North-Indian  cutting  short.

I  have  praised  the  Sinhalas  in  front  of  a  whole  panapoly  of
Tamilian  savants.  I  only  hope  I  come  out  of  this  one
unscathed  and  in  one  piece!

Regards  to  all,

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