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RE: Re[2]: [Pali] Accent in Pali

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  • Kumaara Bhikkhu
    Dear All, Here comes another non-expert to share what he learnt from others and thought out himself. 1. The niggahita (overdot/underdot m) This something that
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 24, 2002
      Dear All,

      Here comes another non-expert to share what he learnt from others and thought out himself.

      1. The niggahita (overdot/underdot m)
      This something that I've given quite some thought about. I was at first quite puzzled as to the way the Sri Lankans render it. There's absolutely no difference in pronunciation between the overdot/underdot m and the overdot n. They both sound like 'ng' as in 'sing'. The Burmese on the other hand pronounces it just as 'm'.

      Now this doesn't make sense to me. As in the way languages evolve, the spoken word comes before the written. So, if "m and "n (or "m and m) are pronounced the same, how did one sound split into two characters?

      A couple of years ago, I have the good chance of meeting a Burmese monk studying in India. Upon my asking, he told me that it is pronounced as a nasalized m. Like .n, it's nasalized, but the lips are closed at the end.

      It seemed very reasonable to me. Furthermore, questions that I have about the peculiarity of sandhis involving the niggahita begin to fall into place. I'll not illustrate them. Rather, I'd like to invite members of the group to take this as a hypothesis and test it in your reading of the Pali texts, bearing in mind always that Pali was more of a spoken language.

      A related issue is whether the niggahita is better romanized as an overdot or underdot m. Considering that it is nasalised and not retroflexed (like .t, .d, .n), I personally prefer the dot on top for the sake of consistency.

      2. Vocal emphasis
      I do not know how the emphasis should be done technically. However, having chanted verses with my teacher, keeping what should be chanted long long, and short short, the idea of how to put the stresses at the right syllables seems to fall into place by itself. It's easier to get a feel of it through chanting verses, whereby the words are specially arranged so that there's a particular pattern as to the long and short syllables, producing a consistent rhythm throughout the verse. (A side-effect of such a special arrangement is that poetic license is liberally used, making Pali verses hard to understand and translate.)

      3. Pali Pronunciation
      There's obviously such a thing as long and short syllables. E.g.:
      bala means strength; power; force
      baala means young in years; ignorant; foolish; child; fool.
      baalaa means girl.

      Another example: vata & vatta, which are two very different words.

      For dukkha, you could say that the 'k' sound occurs twice, or that there’s a pause between the two 'k's. So, it's pronounced as duk-kha, as not doo-kha as I often here from native English-speakers.
      Many native English-speakers also say Boo-dha. Any Sri Lankan can tell you that's wrong, and that the right way to pronounce it is Bud-dha.

      While the Buddha must have known that the teaching would move to different cultures, it wouldn't make sense for him to modify current speech suit everybody, everywhere, then and now. The people then would have trouble understanding him.

      It's common for people of different cultures have difficulty producing certain sounds of a foreign language. What may be difficult for someone to pronounce may not be so with another. Many Chinese learning English as a foreign language have a tough time trying to pronounce "the" correctly, simply because the "th" sound is not within their vocal scheme.

      At 04:13 AM 11-06-02, Andy wrote:
      >a) What was the nationality of the person who created romanized Pali?

      I think they were English. They later on established the Pali Texts Society.

      >b) What year did that person create it?

      Probably in the 19th century.

      >c) What form of English (British, American, India) did they know?



      Ven Kumâra
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