Urdu/Hindi diphthong میں/मैं میں/में

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by AbuHasan, Jun 13, 2013.

  1. AbuHasan New Member

    American English
    Hi, I'm new to the forum and I wanted to ask a question on Hindi-Urdu vowels. Without diacritical marks, the Urdu script doesn't indicate the vowel sounds as precisely as the Devanagri script so that the pronunciation of certain words can only be determined from the context. Do you believe the pronunciation of certain vowels differs between Hindi and Urdu speakers? If it does, is it more geographic, historical or could the increased literacy in two different scripts have an influence on pronunciation. When I think about the above words, मैं sounds like "men" with the n nasalized. In Urdu I would pronounce it the same but I would also pronounce it as a diphthong like "mãy" "مَیں" which I hear more often among Hyderabadis.
  2. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    ^ Welcome to the forum, AbuHasan SaaHib/ah.

    I don't believe there is a difference in pronunciation between Urdu and Hindi for the word "meN" (in) unless one comes across some people who may not nasalise it. But this word in both languages is "meN".

    For "maiN", the diphthong is uttered slightly differently depending on the region one is connected with.

    Regarding the fact that in Urdu, these two words are normally written identically,I don't believe this has any effect on pronunciation. Please don't forget that there are completely illiterate people who would employ both "maiN" and "meN" without ever having set their eyes on the written word.
  3. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    This is not Hyderabadi Urdu but Standard Urdu pronunciation of مَیں which many of us here transliterate for ease of typing as maiN. You'll find many threads where this occurs.
  4. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole
    In Sanskrit this was a dipthong. In the typical standard Hindi you hear spoken in movies and on the news (western Hindi), it is a fairly pure vowel sound. This sound does not occur often in English, does not occur in all English dialects, and in English, it is not quite the same as the sound as in Hindi/Urdu. (It is not the short-e sound in "men") In parts of India "ai" remains a true dipthong (pronounced uh-i ), but I would not consider this pronunciation as the standard, prestige pronunciation. And I would not recommend a learner learn this style of pronunciation first (although it would be easier for an English speaker).
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
  5. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    The diphthong is the standard Urdu pronunciation. Urdu pronunciation was standardized a long time ago! If people choose not to use this standard pronunciation (just as they fail to for other words) then it is their choice but the true diphthong is how it should be pronounced and it definitely is not restricted to Hyderabad.

    مَیں {مَیں (ی لین)} (سنسکرت)

    1. وہ کلمہ جس سے اپنی ذات پر اطلاق کیا جاتا ہے، خود، من، آپ۔

    اسم مجرد



    مَیں مَیں، مَیں مَیں تُو تُو، مَیں واری
  6. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    ^ I agree completely with the above.
  7. AbuHasan New Member

    American English
    Thank you all for your replies. I was actually most interested in "maiN" (I) and the diphthong, since "meiN" (in) has not sounded differently to me based on the origin of the speaker. I didn't mean to imply that they could be pronounced the same. I cited Hyderabadi/Deccani pronunciation since it was the pronounciation I was most familiar with apart from the media Hindi pronounciation of the vowel which to me sounds closer to eN in the English words men or hen. Is there still a diphthong in the "standard" or "prestige" pronounciations you cite. And what about كيسا/कैसा?
  8. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    In terms of media pronunciation, I think /ai/ most closely resembles the English /a/ in 'cat,' 'hat,' etc. Colloquial pronunciation varies but is probably similar to the media pronunciation in the large urban areas.
  9. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    AbulHasan SaaHib/ah, I wonder if your perception of what constitutes a diphthong is the same as others. I am saying this because I got caught out over this issue a while back.

    For me kaisaa's kai is very close to the ca in cat (as Wolverine 9 has pointed out). But for some kaisaa is almost ka'ii (as in many) + saa. Some people would only regard this as a diphthong. There is yet another pronunciation which is somewhere in between these two. For me, that is probably the standard or to use your wording "prestige" pronunciation. I regard all three pronunciations as "diphthong" pronunciations. You may find this thread useful.

  10. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    I do understand your query and indeed your reference to (current) Hyderabadi / Deccani Urdu and the fact that you are familiar with it. What I was emphasizing was that unlike some might believe (either because of the experience of the media or movies, neither of which can be relied upon entirely for good pronunciation all the time - it does depend on what / who you are listening to) in the standardized Urdu pronunciation which doesn't just exist in lexicons but is actually used, the diphthong in मैं مَیں maiN is very much alive, hence my bringing in this:

    Let me dig into my archive for Youtubes links that I could forward you by PM. Please, no Youtube links are allowed in the forum! These videos were made recently so you can hear for yourself how it is being pronounced by those follow the standard pronunciation.

    Let us not derail the thread by going any further into discussions about كيسا/कैसा kaisaa but since you ask, the short answer is that this too is pronounced by us with a standard, clear diphthong. However, I'm well aware that kaisaa (like maiN) is also "mispronounced " without a diphthong, i.e. kesaa.

    If you wish to pursue كيسا/कैसा kaisaa any further then do please make a separate thread. We of course need to keep this thread restricted to the pronunciation of maiN (I) and meN (in). In fact this comparison (between maiN and meN [in]) is good because that is the way I always try illustrate how differently the two are meant to be pronounced - one with a full diphthong, the other not, but this difference is something that you don't always hear.
  11. AbuHasan New Member

    American English
    Thank you for your reply. I appreciate the input it is very valuable. For me the latter example you gave "a'ii" is more like what I perceive as a diphthong and I tend to hear it as almost like "kaysa" or "mayN". I used the label prestige only because that's what tonyspeed used. I looked through the post on diphthongs and many of them referred to Arabic origin words like قَوم or جَيب, which are pronounced as diphthongs in their source language. I was looking for insight on words common to both languages that were "desi" in origin. The funny thing is that the word I use for to swim is "teernaa" which isn't a diphthong for me at all.
  12. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    The diphthong in maiN is very close / the same as in baiThnaa / baiTHaa and not ka'ii (many) and the diphthong of baiThaa or kaisaa is not like ca in cat or ba in bat, which is not true diphthong anyway! To pronounce baiThnaa as "baThnaa" (with ba as in the English bat and ca as in cat) is common in the Punjab. Nearly all my Punjabi friends pronounce it that way when speaking Urdu except those who get to learn the way it should be pronounced.

    To illustrate further, if it helps, the diphthong I am talking about is the same found in the Urdu pronunciation of name of the city of Rai / Rey / Ray - like رَے , and never the "diphthongless" English ray = beam.
  13. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    ^ I agree that the most common -ai- pronunciation that is probably typical of the Punjab is the "a" in cat/bat/sat/rat etc. (I thought this was a diphthong too. It seems I was wrong.) I do know the true/accurate/standard/prestige pronunciation of -ai- which I have described in my previous post as being in between the cat/bat one and ka'ii, ma'ii (month) one. Am I correct in my description? Could you please copy me into the post when you send AbuHasan a Youtube link. I don't think I have ever heard an Urdu speaker pronounce Rai, the Iranian city but I most certainly would n't pronounce it as in "ray of light"!:)

    Perhaps you would be kind enough to send me something for the -au- diphthong too.
  14. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    Diphthongs can be sharp or shallow! The one in ka'ii (many) is sharp but the one in maiN is shallower! ...and yes, it is pairnaa (to swim) and tairnaa (to float), both with diphthongs (think of pair = foot, Ghair = stranger etc.), but you often hear pernaa / and ternaa ('e' here being stretched a little or given a very shallow diphthong ). We always say these with a proper diphthong but not as sharp as in the word ka'ii.

    Incidentally, we also have a transliteration issue here since many (I certainly) stopped differentiating between the ai and ay as separate diphthong sounds, opting for the former due to my training in Classical Greek diphthongs!
  15. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    I'm sure not you, but I've actually heard people pronounce it as ray (of light)! For 'au' the examples that come to mind are Urdu pronunciations of fauran (at once), jaushan (breast plate armour), dauraan (circulation).

    I think we might eventually have to merge this thread with the diphthong thread!

    EDIT: Just thought of this! The ai diphthong in maiN we pronounce the same way as the Urdu pronunciation of mai (= wine), mai-xaanah and regrettably, pai-xaanah - and we all know what that means.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  16. AbuHasan New Member

    American English
    Faylasoof Sahib. Thanks again. I have a much better understanding of the vowel in مَیں. It is the variety in pronounciations and the retention and loss of certain aspects that is the most interesting to me. As I mentioned before, my greatest exposure is to Hyderabadi pronounciation. Both within the community of speakers and among speakers from other areas there is the belief that dialectical or regional variants are sub-par or corrupted versions of the literary standard or the dominant national variety. It is clear that it is not always the case.
  17. AbuHasan New Member

    American English
    Thanks again Faylasoof. I can't say I've heard mai-xaanah outside of the recitation of Urdu poetry. I have heard pai-khaanah before. I would say paixaanah, but I have heard paxaanah a lot too. I guess this pronunciation may be more common among Punjabi-Pakistanis. (Punjabi-Indians may say TaTTi, but I suppose that's definitely a different thread.)
  18. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    I know AbuHasan Saahib! I was only trying to give the example of the ai diphthong here.
    We discussed this too in another thread!
    Anyway, I'm just about to send you (and QP SaaHib) a PM with the video link I promised. It is long but fortunately the ai diphthong of maiN and maa-bain occur very early on, as I point out. You'll be able to hear more later in the same video.

  19. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole

    I believe that in modern times prestige pronunciation is defined by the average pronunciation one hears on movies and news. If not, how else can we define it?

    The definition of a dipthong is clear. It starts with one vowel sound and ends with another. Your definition of "shallow" dipthong seems like to me this might be no dipthong at all. But, once again, without any Youtube titles (you don't have to post the links) this conversation seems worthless to me. We can argue all day about one thing only to find out we are in agreement. (Although I do think I know what you mean by shallow dipthong. I would categorise it as vestigial dipthong even)

    Interestingly, you categorise yourself as a Lucknow speaker. I am not sure about what is considered prestigious in Urdu (Lucknow is an Urdu city), but as far as Hindi goes, the Eastern pronunciations are not the prestige pronunciations. Now we have to make a distinction it seems between Lucknow and Old Delhi (Hydrabad cannot be considered prestigious since it is outside the Hindi/Urdu belt can it?). Which is the prestige pronunciation for Urdu in India? For Hindi, the media pronunciation seems to me based on Delhi with slight variations (like not replacing ph with f as it common in Delhi, and pronouncing the X on occasion).
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  20. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    Please re-read my earlier posts! I'm talking about Urdu not Hindi! ... and diphthongs do vary in sharpness between languages for the same combinations of vowels. Urdu aulaad is pronounced differently to Arabic aulaad and same for bain in maa-bain etc.
  21. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    The pronunciation of maiN in the Urdu of Delhi and Lucknow has always been the same! These questions have been discussed before.
  22. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    In your opinion, is the typical pronunciation of maiN in Bollywood dialogues and songs incorrect?
  23. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    If I understand correctly what you mean by the typical pronunciation of maiN in Bollywood dialogues - and I guess the modern movies esp. - where there is hardly a diphthong (or at best one very light, depending on who is speaking as it is not uniform in movies either), then I think it is incorrect because according to the pronunciation guides in grammars (old and new) we are supposed to have a diphthong.
  24. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I have noticed the flattening of diphtongs in those movies but since I don't follow them I am unable to say anything qualitative in this respect however I can recall Bollywood Urdu movies from not so long ago preserving the proper diphthongs.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 15, 2013
  25. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    I quite agree, marrish SaaHib! In earlier movies when the Urdu component was higher and people were more inclined to follow the already established rules of diphthong pronunciations you do not see this flattening of diphthongs. Now it is quite common which is why using present day Bollywood movies as a pronunciation guide is not recommended. Though there is still a large Urdu component in these dialogues, many words, not just those with a diphthong like maiN, are mispronounced.
  26. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    I wonder if the flattening of diphthongs is due to the influence of Punjabi or English, or because of the lack of proper education in Hindi and/or Urdu amongst many in the industry.
  27. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    No question of Punjabi influence as it is a marginal part of the Indian population, no matter how they have been trying to infuse those films with Panjabi. English has different diphthongs which are mostly not pronounced by Indians (i know it is a stereotypical statement!). Education, education, education! And following the established norms of Urdu is lacking! The same, in a lesser format is happening in Pakistan, where Panjabi's monophthongs are in use popularily.

    In the older days, all actors of Bollywood used to be trained in Urdu, especially the playback singers, which is the case nowadays in many instances!
  28. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    I don't think they're well-trained in Hindi either as most are now educated in English-medium schools, where English is the primary language of instruction and the conventions, standards, vocabulary, and grammar of Indic languages are not emphasized.

    Your comment about the possible Punjabi influence on diphthongs wasn't clear.
  29. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I meant the diphthongs ai and au are not extant in Panjabi. I shall elaborate later, not in this thread. Just to bring the topic back onto its right track, there is no diphthong in Panjabi "I" but it is still very different from Urdu "in".
  30. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole
    Rama Kant Agnihotri "Hindi an Essential Grammar"
    Spoken Urdu Volume 1 Muhammad Adb-Al-Rahman Barker

    There are several conclusions I have drawn from this. According to the book standard, there IS a difference between the pronunciation of ai between Hindi and Urdu.
    This is aided by the fact that Urdu sees this as two characters, whereas in Hindi this represented by only one character. In practice though, I think there may be a bit of overlap between the two. Even in the example the author concedes that in practice [æ ⁱ] can be simplified to [æ] by some speakers. Secondly, it is technically an offglide and not a full-dipthong as Faylasoof-saahib mentioned.

    As far as Bollywood goes, Bollywood primarily caters to India, second to Pakistan and then third to the world. Least on its mind at this point in time is Urdu pronunciation. However, I would not be quick to assume it doesn't care at all. At least for some movies, there are speech trainers on set. Obviously, some people like Kaif are going to speak bad Hindi to some extent, but that is to be expected.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2013
  31. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole
    English is mostly dipthongal in my opinion. Getting English speakers to stop using dipthongs is problematic.
  32. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    Thanks for your reply Tonyspeed SaaHib. One can start saying that something is / isn't a diphthong and "technically an offglide and not a full-dipthong", hopefully not forgetting that all the time we do hear Urdu diphthongs pronounced differently by "Urduphones" themselves of different backgrounds of course. Anyway, here is some more on the topic:

    A Grammar of the Hindustani or Urdu Language by John T. Platts (Pubs: Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, India)

    Under the section Long Vowels and Diphthongs (numbers 9-12, Pages 11-13) you read in section 11:

    "The short vowel fatha* before ي and و forms the diphthongs ai and au as exemplified in the English aisle, and the German haus (or the English house), e.g. حَيف haif, 'pity'; حَوض hauz ''reservoir'....."

    * fatH(a) = zabar

    Incidentally, there is also a paper (I think the title was 'Diphthong Identification in Urdu and their Acoustics') which said that although phonemically diphthongs may not exist in Urdu the result of their survey says that phonetically there are 13 diphthongs in Urdu (!) where the underlying vowels are long and that these are inevitably rising diphthongs with the duration of the offglide being greater than the onglide. So these researchers have upped the figure from just 2 (Platts and yours truly) to 13!

    I happen to know Agnihorti. We have even corresponded on various issues and most often as opponents! His suggestion that " ऐ ...is phonetically [æ] in most standard varieties of Hindi and is pronounced as a simple vowel....In some varieties, particularly Eastern Hindi, it has a dipthongal pronunciation" I feel has a lot to do with his view of trying to forget that once (and not that long ago) this was recognized as a diphthong although the prevalent (modern) Hindi pronunciation has lost it. His reference to Eastern Hindi is also interesting as he finds it hard to accept what I put to him that this "Eastern Hindi" he keeps alluding to is actually Urdu, esp. lakhnavi Urdu which, unlike dehlavi Urdu, has had a much longer life and thus influenced greatly how things are still uttered in the East, as were once pronounced by the educated at least in the west too - I mean western Urdu-Hindi speaking belt - since dehlavi Urdu and lakhnavi Urdu are representatives of the same language. They are respectively identified by the two schools known as dabistaan-e-dilli and dabistaan-e-lakhnau. These two we've discussed many times over the last 2-3 years in various threads -both being fine examples of the "prestige pronunciation" which has in many / most parts been replaced by what some might refer to as the modern "vulgate".

    Lastly, despite many people's enthusiasm for it, I wouldn't bother discussing any further dabistaan-e-Bollywood!:D
  33. Wolverine9 Senior Member

    American English
    ^ By "Eastern Hindi" I think he's referring to Awadhi and the like.
  34. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    Given that I know the author of this claim I do understand him quite well. Yes, Awadhi is included but he knows that the diphthong was there in the West too and its survival in the East has a lot to do with Urdu influence which has lasted a lot longer there than in the western parts. I also know Awadhi, the original language of Lucknow, which one can still hear in that city but this too is now being taken over by a "flattened" media Hindi.
  35. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole
  36. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
  37. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Good points, well made!
  38. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    This is not quite true. Dipththongs most certainly exist in Punjabi but once again it depends on the speakers. Please listen to Kartar Singh (Part 2) - 1959 Pakistani Feature film (at 07:00) on Youtube and you will hear a clear diphthong in "maiN" at least twice within a space of a few seconds. You will also know that "aukhaa" difficult, is pronounced with a diphthong by some people and plain "okhaa" by others. What is most certain is that however a Punjabi speaker pronounces the word "maiN" (I), s/he does not pronounce it as "meN" (in), either in Punjabi or in Urdu or Hindi!
  39. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole
    I know a Lucknow Urdu speaker that always uses ham as well.
  40. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole
    I should mention that I finally discovered why the "a" in "cat" never sounded to me like ऐ. It is because there is a difference and that difference is how far the mouth is opened. The mouth is opened much further for the "a" in cat. So if one shuts ones mouth considerably the sound becomes the same.
  41. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I will do it tomorrow if I can make some time.
    I fully agree with this!
  42. gagun Senior Member

    Telugu-TS, Deccani-TS
    in Deccan,the people's pronunciation of "मैं/mai'N/"ﻣﹷﻴﮟ is quiet different from standard level which can be written/writable but i do not know,but I can say that it is also different from "में/mei'N/."ﻣﻴﮟ
  43. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    Interesting, gagun. The most important for this thread is that it is different from 'in'. Thanks for your contribution.
  44. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    Yes, that is / has been true! It seems to be on the way down now though still common. Use of ham instead of maiN was discussed here. Having said this, when called upon to utter maiN, lakhnaviis say maiN as I've been describing it, clearly distinguishing it from meN.
  45. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    QP SaaHib my apologies for a late response. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I have listened to the film and I concur with your perception of a diphthong in there. I have revised my view of the Punjabi phonology with respect to diphthongs in maiN (I).
  46. tarkshya Senior Member

    I would like to bring to attention one more factor in the discussion on diphthongs in Hindi and Urdu. Could it be possible that the script employed by people speaking Hindi or Urdu actually affects their pronunciation? It appears to me that Urdu script naturally preserves and promotes the diphthong pronunciation while Hindi makes no such effort. For example, the words like میں ، کیسا (maiN, kaisaa) etc. are written with a median form of letter ی, which means that a reader subconsciously reads these words with a diphthong like sound, like ma-y-N, or ka-y-saa. This produces a natural diphthong like sound, and ultimately this form of pronunciation percolates into the default speech of the speakers.

    Same analogy can be given for words such as قوم ، کونسا (qaum, kaunsaa) etc, where the presence of letter و will promote a pronunciation as qa-u-m, or ka-u-nsaa as an alternate pronunciation.

    Now, coming to Hindi, the words like maiN or kaise will be written as मैं or कैसे. So a Hindi reader who has never known about the diphthong pronunciation of the diacritic mark ै, will always pronounce it as the straight vowel sound of /æ/.

    It is just a hypothesis all of my own. I would like to solicit the opinion of others on this line of thought.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2014
  47. mundiya Senior Member

    Hindi, English, Punjabi
    ^ I've already articulated my view in another thread, which is that script doesn't play much of a role in how one pronounces one's mother tongue (or a language one grew up with). It has to do with how the language was spoken at home, the environment in which a person was brought up.
  48. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    I'm afraid this hypothesis is not valid. For someone who can read the script but doesn't know the language or the words written, there's no way to tell whether قوم is qaum or quum, whether مين is main, meen or miin.
  49. tonyspeed Senior Member

    JA- English & Creole

    میں is myN not mayn
    کیسا is kysaa not kaysaa

    Your Hindi is confusing you into thinking there is a schwa there.
    But I see your point. With diacritics added, you would expect it to add a vowel, not modify it.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2014

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