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HU,Beng,Guj: Mispronouncing kh as "X" and th as "ϑ"

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by jakubisek, Mar 31, 2013.

  1. jakubisek Junior Member

    Native Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, what do you find worse:

    a) If foreing learners pronounce kh as X (as in German "auch", Hebrew "Tanach", Arabic "Xaliifa") and th as in English "thick"
    b) If they pronounce "kh" identically as "k" and "th" identically as "t" ?

    I believe the first option, albeit weird sounding, is still understandable, while the latter option is worse, as the distinction between pairs of different letters is lost (and as those learners will also pronounce T identically with t, we get 4 disctinct phonemes merged in one in the b-option). But want to know opinions.

    This decision needs to be taken for an online transcription tool, which is meant to use same system (nothing but the basic alphabet, no diacritics, capitals or other signs) for many languages. This system is using "th" to denote both the English th in "thick" and a sequence of t+h, and likewise uses "kh" to represent both the sequence of k+h and Arabic خ I have chosen to keep the usual transcription "th" "kh" for the south Asian aspirates, but this will inevitably result in some users pronouncing khaanaa as Xaanaa (here X means خ ) and thiik almost as "thick". Is anybody of the opinion that in the context of gross approximation "k" and "t" would be better instead?
  2. greatbear Senior Member

    India - Hindi & English
    I am of the opinion, based on my experience of listening to several foreign speakers using Hindi, that option b is the better choice - this is from the point of view of only what would jar me more or less. Option b jars/irritates me less than option a does.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  3. Chhaatr Senior Member

    For me (a) is acceptable but not (b).

    If someone were to pronounce "kharaab" (bad) as "xaraab", it would still be understandable. However, if "thoRaa" (less) is pronounced as "toRaa" (broke) it changes the meaning of the word! Similarly if "khareednaa" (to buy) is pronounced as "kareednaa", it loses all meaning.

    I strongly feel (b) will lead to serious comprehensibility issues.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  4. greatbear Senior Member

    India - Hindi & English
    I think each native speaker will have a different opinion here; I also see the point of Chhatr. For me, if someone will say "tiik hai" or "Tiik hai" for "Thiik hai", that is more tolerable; but "thiik hai" will make me wince: rather than everything going on ok, it will make me think of "thuuk" (saliva)!
  5. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Let's take a real example. khaaNsii (cough) > xaaNsii, thaalii (plate) > theta-aalii

    xaaNsii is tolerable.( but there will be others where there is change in meaning khaal/animal skin, xaal/mole on skin). thaalii with a theta sound may not be understood.

    Moving onto b, khaaNsii > kaaNsii (bronze), thaalii > taalii (clapping of hands).

    What is important is to avoid this kind of mix-up wherever possible. Clearly kh/x, th/theta, kh/k and th/t are not equivalent. People wishing to learn Urdu or Hindi will no doubt have the incentive to get their pronunciations right so they are understood even if some of the so called natives are oblivious of these finer points. What is most important is that foreigners should not lump Urdu and Hindi together under HU or UH as if they stood for one and the same language under all situations and circumstances. One clear example that emerges from some of the posts of this Forum is that a lot of Hindi speakers do not have "ph" in their repertoire of consonants. So, all ph words end up as f words. Urdu speakers on the other hand distinguish between a ph and a f.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  6. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole
    By extension, what if they pronounce CHuut as chuut?

    Then "chuut kii biimaarii" takes on a completely different connotation.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  7. jakubisek Junior Member

    I'm sure you wanted to say the opposite: Lot of Hindi speakers do not have the "f" sound in their repertoire ... (as is the case with X and Q too).

    Or are there really genuinely Hindi areas with f substituting ph everywhere? ( I thought this was the case only outside the "Hindi belt", as in eastern Bangla or in Gujarati)
  8. jakubisek Junior Member

    And what does that mean? If it is too unacceptable in the forum, pl. send me PM :)

    This won't happen to the SaypU.com users though, as it's approach is to transcribe ch as "tsh"
  9. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    No, I meant what I said.

    I would n't say everywhere but it does seem quite endemic. You will find plenty of examples of ph > f in this Forum, the latest being "fuuT fuuT kar ronaa". Once again if I may refer you to this thread.


  10. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole

    tch will not help you to say CH vs ch. CH is aspirated, meaning a gust of air comes out of the mouth, and ch is non-aspirated, meaning no gust of air comes out the mouth.
    This has to be learnt by controlling your lungs and muscles. (And for non-Desis this usually means holding something over your mouth as well to measure the flow of air) No script will help you whether it's tsh, ch, xch. This concept is completely foreign to English and most other non-South Asian languages.

    CHuut with strong aspiration means contagion or something that makes impure.
    chuut is a vulgar word for the female reproductive organ.

    (For completeness, I should add that the 't' in these words is the 't' where the tongue touches the lower part of the front teeth)
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013
  11. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    TS jii, just a thought, I hope jakubisek being a Sanskritist, knows the difference in articulation between च and छ.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013

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