INDOLOGY FAQ. Re. Varanasi

JKirkpatrick jkirk at SPRO.NET
Wed Feb 17 21:25:37 UTC 2010

 "And, these lines, I always take pains to teach students to
pronounce "phala" 
with an aspirated "p" sound, and not to confuse it with the "f"
sound that is represented by "ph" in English (as in "nephew").
This year, however, I have a student (a native Bengali speaker)
who pronounces it as as "fala".  I hesitate to "correct" him (I
spend enough time trying to "get" his pronunciation of initial
"a"-s which, of course, he pronounces [as do tens of millions of
his countrymen] as "o-s").  When we discussed this, he cheerfully
informed me that we really never can be sure exactly how native
Sanskrit speakers pronounced their words."

I once had a similar Bengali student.  For some idiosyncractic
reason, the thing that really got my goat was not his pronouncing
"ph" as "f" but pronouncing kS as kkha, though that is a very
ancient equivalence, as in yakSa/yakkha or jakkha.


May I add to this that, at least in Bangladesh, former east
Bengal (and E. Pakistan), 'j's are ordinarily (not necessairly by
elites) pronounced as zeds. Raajaa is pronounced Raazaa. I
enjoyed learning how to pronounce words their way. There is so
much more of interest in the Bengali pronunciation of, say,
vishvavidyalaya, as "biishobiidaloi"; satya is shotto; as from
Laalon Shah Fokiir: "aamaar mon shotto bon". It's a whole
different world.
Joanna K.

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