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Welcome to the KKSongs Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide!

 

AUDIO CLIP: Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide

 

The Sanskrit language is one of the world’s oldest languages. All Vedic literature and a good number of bhajans featured in this website are in Sanskrit. Even though Sanskrit is not the spoken language of India, Sanskrit still finds a place in today’s world, through students studying it through inventing new words in the Sanskrit dictionary that correspond to items in today’s world of technology. The Sanskrit language recognizes thirteen vowels and thirty-three consonants, a nasal element, and an aspirate element.

 

VOWELS:

 

å

a

ā

i

ī

u

ū

ļ

e

ai

o

au

 

 

 

 

 

 

The letter “a” is pronounced as “u” in “but.”

 

The letter “ā” is pronounced as “a” in “father.”

 

The letter “i" is pronounced as “i” in “sin” (say “seen” with a shorter “ee” sound)

 

The letter “ī” is pronounced as “ee” in “seed”

 

The letter “u” is pronounced as “u” in “should” (say “shood” with a shorter “oo” sound)

 

The letter “ū” is pronounced as “oo” in “roof”

 

The letter “ṛ” is pronounced as “ri” in “rip” (say “reep” with a shorter “ee” sound)

 

The letter “ṛ ́” is pronounced as “ree” in “reed”

 

The letter “ļ” is pronounced as “lary” in “salary” (without the “a”)

 

The letter “e” is pronounced as “ay” in “pay” (avoid adding the “y” sound at the end)

 

The letter “ai” is a combination of the letters “a” and “i

 

The letter “o” is pronounced as “o” in “no” (avoid the u/w sound as the end)

 

The letter “au” is a combination of the letter “a” and “u”

 

CONSONANTS:

 

ka

kha

ga

gha

ńa

ca

cha

ja

jha

ña

ṭa

ṭha

ḍa

ḍha

ṇa

ta

tha

da

dha

na

pa

pha

ba

bha

ma

ya

ra

la

va

 

śa

ṣa

sa

 

 

ha

 

 

The first set of five consonants is known as the gutturals. They are sounds pronounced through the throat.

 

The letter “k” is pronounced as “k” in “kite”

 

The letter “kh” is pronounced as “ck-h” in “kick-hard”

 

The letter “g” is pronounced as “g” in “goat”

 

The letter “gh” is pronounced as “g-h” in “dig-hard”

 

The letter “ń” is pronounced as “n” in “song.” (Just the n, not the g. This is the nasal element for the gutturals)

 

 

The second set of five consonants is known as the palatals. They are sounds pronounced through the palette.

 

The letter “c” is pronounced as “ch” in “church.”

 

The letter “ch” is pronounced as “ch-h” in “staunch-heart”

 

The letter “j” is pronounced as “j” in “jiffy”

 

The letter “jh” is pronounced as “dge-h” in “hedge-hog”

 

The letter “ñ” is pronounced as “ny” in “canyon” (This is the nasal element for the palatals)

 

 

The third set of five consonants is known as the cerebrals. They are sounds pronounced through the tongue touching the roof of the palette.

 

The letter “ṭ” is pronounced as “t” in “hot”

 

The letter “ṭh” is pronounced as “t-h” in “hot-house”

 

The letter “ḍ” is pronounced as “d” in “road”

 

The letter “ḍh” is pronounced as “d-h” in “red-hot”

 

The letter “ṇ” is pronounced as “na” in “nut.” (This is the nasal element for the cerebrals).

 

 

The fourth set of five consonants is known as the dentals. They are sounds pronounced through the tongue touching the teeth.

 

The letter “t” is pronounced as “t” in “hot”

 

The letter “th” is pronounced as “t-h” in “hot-house” or “thick”

 

The letter “d” is pronounced as “d” in “road”

 

The letter “dh” is pronounced as “d-h” in “red-hot” or “th” in “though”

 

The letter “n” is pronounced as “na” in “nut.” (This is the nasal element for the dentas).

 

 

The fifth set of five consonants is known as the labials. They are sounds pronounced through the lips.

 

The letter “p” is pronounced as “p” in “popcorn.”

 

The letter “ph” is pronounced as “p-h” in “up-hill” (This is not pronounced like f. There is no “f” in Sanskrit.)

 

The letter “b” is pronounced as “b” in “baby”

 

The letter “bh” is pronounced as “b-h” in “tub-hot”

 

The letter “m” is pronounced as “m” in “mother.”

 

 

The set of letters are known as semi-vowels, or letters that will serve dual-functions as consonants and vowels.

 

The letter “y” is pronounced as “y” in “yes.”

 

The letter “r” is pronounced as “r” in “right.”

 

The letter “l” is pronounced as “l” in “light.”

 

The letter “v” is pronounced as “v” in “victory.” If “v” is the second half of a combined letter, then it will be pronounced like a “w.”

 

 

The next three letters are known as sibilants, or sounds based on a special hissing.

 

The letter “ś” is pronounced as “sh” in “shut.” (This is the palatial s)

 

The letter “ṣ” is pronounced as “sh” in “shine.” (This is the cerebral s)

 

The letter “s” is pronounced as “s” in “seven.” (The is the universal and dental s)

 

 

The letter “h” is pronounced as “h” in “heaven.”

 

The nasal element known as the anusvara is ḿ. It is pronounced as “n” in “wrong” (no “g” sound included). It assumes any appropriate nasal element.

 

The aspirate element known as the visarga is ḥ. It causes a “ha” sound to come. For instance, aḥ is pronounced as “aha” or iḥ is pronounced as “iḥ.”

 

UPDATED: April 1, 2009

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