[INDOLOGY] Grammatical question

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at umich.edu
Tue Apr 21 02:49:58 UTC 2020

Dear George,

     As per Pāṇini's rules, a word-final *m* changes to *anusvāra *before
any consonant [*mo 'nusvāraḥ, hali*].  Then come option rules.  Before
*y/v/l*, an *anusvāra *can optionally change to nasal versions of *y/v/l*.
Before the stops, it can optionally change to a nasal homogeneous with
the following stop [*parasavarṇa*].  This leaves *r/ś/ṣ/s/h*, and before
these it remains *anusvāra*.  In some Vedic traditions, in this last
environment, it becomes *nāsikya *or *raṅga*.  Then there are rules which
change *n* into an *anusvāra *in some environments.  This is the general
description according to Pāṇini.  Some other grammars do allow an *m
*occurring at
the end of an occurrence before a pause to change into *anusvāra*,
reflecting some local variation.  Of course, the actual pronunciation
of an *anusvāra
*probably differed regionally as we notice today, and different Vedic
traditions have conventionally settled ways of its pronunciation.  Also
rules that are optional in Pāṇini don't necessarily remain optional in
various Vedic tradition.  In most Vedic recitations I have heard, the
change of an *anusvāra *into a *parasavarṇa *nasal is almost done


Madhav M. Deshpande
Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit and Linguistics
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Senior Fellow, Oxford Center for Hindu Studies

[Residence: Campbell, California, USA]

On Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 6:59 PM George Hart via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> I’ve been enjoying the discussion on Indology. A friend had a question
> about Sanskrit that I could not answer properly. It involves the
> pronunciation of anusvāra before various consonants. I believe that before
> y, r, l and v, it is nasalized. Assuming that is correct, is it also
> nasalized before ś, ṣ, s and h? Some people say samskṛta, with an m sound,
> but I always assumed it was a nasal sound. I think the nasal is put in the
> same phonetic category as the ś etc. — i.e.in aṃśa it is a palatal nasal,
> in saṃskṛta it is a dental nasal, and in siṃha it is sort of a velar nasal
> sound. The problem is, everyone seems to say simha (m sound), not the nasal
> sound. What do the grammarians say? Is there a correct pronunciation, or
> can one choose between the nasal and the “m” before ś, ṣ, s and h? George
> Hart
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