h after t and d in S. Indian transliterations

Chandan R. Narayan cnarayan at SOCRATES.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Jun 16 15:10:48 UTC 2000

I would argue that because Dravidian does not have an aspirated set of
obstruents, /h/ is written following dental (unaspirated) stops in order
to distinguish it from the retroflex.
I find this phenomenon most rampant in personal names, for example,
/gAyatrI/ > "Gayathri", /anantarAm/ > "Anantharam."  It is either
"hyper-Sanskritization" or simply a method of distinguishing the dental
stop from a retroflex.

The case of KannaDa, for example, becomes complicated, for it has
a complete set of aspirated consonants in its orthography.  I conducted an
informal study (on my parents) on the contrastive nature of aspiration in
KannaDa. Their pronunciation of Skt. borrowings varied freely between
aspirated and unaspirated when the Skt. original exhibited
aspiration.  For example, /ghaNTe/ > Ka. [ghaNTE] ~ [ganTE] 'bell',
/kathe/ > Ka. [kathe] ~ [kate] 'story', etc. There were no instances where
Skt aspirate was contrasted, semantically, with the unaspirated. This, to
me, calls into question the very notion of aspiration in
KannaDa.  Sociolinguistically, it is plausible that caste/education may
play a role in reproduction of a Skt. aspirated "original." Both my
parents are Iyengars with higher degrees, so I was a bit confused by this
apparent free-variation, for one would expect that education probably
implies knowledge of the historical antecedent of the borrowing.

Chandan Narayan

chandan r. narayan || cnarayan at socrates.berkeley.edu
                   || socrates.berkeley.edu/~cnarayan

"You couldn't fool your mother on the most foolingist day
of your life, even if you had an electrified fooling machine. "

On Fri, 16 Jun 2000, Allen W Thrasher wrote:

> I notice that South Indian publications when using Anglicisations or
> informal Romanizations of Sanskrit terms often add h after d dental
> and possibly t dental.  Why is this?  Could it be that since English t
> and d are alveolar rather than really dental and so are in between
> Indic dentals and retroflexes, the h brings the tongue forward against
> the teeth and so to the Dravidian speaker represents a dental better,
> whereas an English dental would sound closer to a retroflex?
> Allen Thrasher
> Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
> Senior Reference Librarian       101 Indendence Ave., SE
> Southern Asia Section               LJ-150
> Asian Division                            Washington, DC 20540-4810
> Library of Congress                     U.S.A.
> tel. 202-707-3732                       fax 202-707-1724
> Email: athr at loc.gov
> The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the
> Library of Congress.

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