INDOLOGY FAQ. Re. Varanasi

JKirkpatrick jkirk at SPRO.NET
Tue Feb 16 17:09:50 UTC 2010

The most difficult sound for US English speakers to produce, it
has seemed to me over the years, is the dental t and d. What
sounds alveolar to speakers of Indian languages does not sound
alveolar to "us;" so when we learn the alveolar t & d in say,
Hindi and Sanskrit, to my ear we do it harder than maybe we need
to since we are unaware of our usual pronunciation of "our" t &
d. (Sorry I don't have diacritics on my PC.)
We can do the aspirated dentals OK but only after we are taught
about the aspirated consonants. Sometimes spoken English does
make for aspirated 't's (as in some pronunciations of the word
'matter'), but we don't notice it of course because it's not
phonemic for us. 

Yes, unless well-trained and unless we are alert about it, we
tend to botch most of the aspirated consonants. This is a real
tongue twister for most of us: tathatā -- but at least we could
get the long vowells right, for a change.
Joanna K

-----Original Message-----
From: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] On Behalf Of
Deshpande, Madhav
Sent: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 6:15 AM
Subject: Re: INDOLOGY FAQ. Re. Varanasi

I agree that it is important to have diacritics on romanized
Sanskrit to ensure at least the graphic representation of
Sanskrit sounds.  That however does not assure its pronunciation.
I remember attending the meetings of the AOS in old days where
American Sanskritists  pronounced the Buddhist tathatā as
"tatata" with all alveolar 't's and no distinction of vowel
length, and mahābhārata as "mabarata" with no aspiration for 'b',
alveolar 't', and of course no distinction of vowel length.  On
one of these occasions, my guruji Prof George Cardona was so fed
up, that he could not take the barrage of "tatata" and walked out
of the room.


Madhav M. Deshpande
Professor of Sanskrit and Linguistics
Department of Asian Languages and Cultures
202 South Thayer Street, Suite 6111
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104-1608, USA
From: Indology [INDOLOGY at] On Behalf Of Dominik
Wujastyk [wujastyk at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 7:15 AM
Subject: Re: INDOLOGY FAQ. Re. Varanasi

On 15 February 2010 22:45, george thompson <gthomgt at>

I agree about publishers, George.  Like many on this list, I'm
sure, I've had my share of arguments with publishers about
accents.  I've found it helpful to draw an analogy with French or
German.  It wouldn't be acceptable to print those languages
without their accents, and nor is it acceptable for Sanskrit.

You said,

> I would also like to complain about a decision that was made by
> editors of the Clay Sanskrit Library.  This is a great and
> collection of translations, but I think that they made a bad
> when they chose to ignore diacritic marks in their translatons.

There's lots to discuss about the various Clay decisions, but one
thing I quite like is the use of the acute accent to mark stress
or ictus.  While ictus isn't the same as vowel length, it's
pretty close to gauravam, and people who know nothing of Sanskrit
and don't have access to a teacher do rather well reading such
accented words out loud.


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