Hindi: अः

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by Gitano_Moreno, Jun 18, 2009.

  1. Gitano_Moreno Member

    Cuban Spanish
    When would one use this अः character in a word. I know that it isn't used in the word 'ahimsa', but I wonder where it would be used properly and why can't one just write अ with ह.
  2. meray_paas Member

    English - American/British
    I think this can be explained using the English 'long' vowel. For example sad (long) and sat (short). Its like that little extra aspiration on the a in sad. In the devnagri script a colon : following a vowel indicates that it is a long vowel. Example:

    अ short
    आ normal
    अ: long

    The : is called a Visarga.

    दुःख - usually spelt as dukh, but with the Visarga, you have the aspirate on the character it follows. So it this case, its like duhkh, with the extra aspiration on the u.

    नमः - maybe its nam? Not really. With the Visarga, it actually namah, because of the aspiration.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2009
  3. bakshink Senior Member


    What a beautiful explanation it is. Commendable really.
  4. Gitano_Moreno Member

    Cuban Spanish
    Thanks so much for your help! :)
  5. meray_paas Member

    English - American/British
    You are welcome Gitano. And thank you for the compliment bakshink.
  6. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I'd wish to rekindle this thread in the context of the transliteration chart I prepared a couple of days ago. In hindsight, I must admit that no justice has been done to ''visarga'' as I have simply left it out!

    May I kindly ask those friends who are familiar with Hindi what is the now-a-days perception of this character (I don't know whether it is read out at all so I feel it is safer to say 'character')

    Is it used, or advocated to be used in certain words? What is the attitude in schools towards it? Which words in Hindi use it? (dukh mentioned above, praaya: which I remember, those kinds of adverbs with the suffix -sha:, like kramasha:).

    What is and what should be actually the pronunciation of such words?

    Thank you in advance for the numerous responses :)
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2013
  7. Au101 Senior Member

    England, English (UK)
    If I may chime in: As most of you will know, the visarga originates in Sanskrit, where it is quite common as an allophone of स् s and र् r. In Vedic Sanskrit, it is known as Visarjanīya and its pronunciation varies depending on where it is found. In pausa, it is pronounced [h]. When it appears before क् k and kh ख्, it is pronounced as a velar fricative - [x]. This is known as Jihvāmūlīya and may occasionally be denoted by a different, Vedic symbol. When it appears before प् p and फ् ph, it is pronouned as a bilabial fricative - [ɸ]. This is known as Upadhmānīya and may occasionally be denoted by a different, Vedic symbol. By the time of Classical Sanskrit, it tended to be pronounced as an [h] with a slight echo of the preceding vowel, so इः iḥ would be pronounced [ihĭ]. This is the pronunciation we tend to use in the classroom and will be familiar to anyone who's chanted "Oṃ śānti śānti śāntiḥ" with the last word pronounced somewhat like "shaantih(i)". This conventional pronunciation is usually ignored in recitation, though, because it would destroy the metre, only being used at the end of a sentence (as above). Instead, people will either drop the visarga completely or revert to something more like the Vedic pronunciation before क् k, ख् kh, प् p and फ् ph. (Note: The visarga may never appear before a voiced sound or a vowel in Sanskrit, and is generally realised (and often written) as श् ś before palatal sounds, ष् ṣ before retroflex sounds and स् s before dentals. Before the sibilants श् ś ष् ṣ and स् s this also applies, or it can remain as h (hence the pronunciation śāntiśśānti, or - alternatively - śāntih śānti - although, unless pronounced very carefully, the long ś may not be realised.))

    This, then, is the origin of visarga. I believe - in response to marrish's question about which Hindi words use it - that it is only used in those Sanskrit words (like दुःख duḥkha) in which the visarga is part of the word, and not an inflectional ending (the visarga being an extremely common ending in Sanskrit). Here it is simply retained as a historical hangover from Sanskrit, much like the fact that English still spells night in the way that it does, with a 'gh', representing the original velar fricative [x]: a phoneme that has long been lost, except in parts of Scotland. However, I know very little Hindi, so this could be untrue. It is also possible that it is used analagously. Meray_paas has given a wonderful explanation of its use and it is possible that in some words, it reappears in light of how it is pronounced in those words where it belongs etymologically.

    Still, I hope some of you may be interested in the history and specualtions of a Sanskritist about its modern usage. नमः namaḥ, as Meray_paas has used as an example - by the way - is the nominative singular of the neuter noun नमस् namas - 'bow, obeisance, greeting'. This was a very common form in Sanskrit - hence its use in Hindi. Particularly, it is found in the greeting namas te (in Devanagari written as one word नमस्ते). ते is an enclitic form meaning 'to you' (dative singular) and so its literal Sanskrit meaning is 'homage/greetings to you'.
  8. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I'm indebted for your having shared this treasure of detailed information; especially about the various phonetic variations of visarga in Vedic.

    Could someone please comment on my question from the Hindi perspective?
  9. greatbear Banned

    India - Hindi & English
    ^ It's hardly used in Hindi anymore; as Au101 said, it remains as a historical hangover for certain words, but most people say "dukh" anyway with a short u, thus completely ignoring the visarg. There are only very few words like "namah" and "kramashaha", which are pronounced keeping the visarg and hence writing them with the visarg makes sense, not just history.

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