INDOLOGY FAQ. Re. Varanasi

Allen W Thrasher athr at LOC.GOV
Wed Feb 17 20:11:25 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.


Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
Senior Reference Librarian
Team Coordinator
South Asia Team, Asian Division
Library of Congress, Jefferson Building 150
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4810
tel. 202-707-3732; fax 202-707-1724; athr at
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of Congress.

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