Hindi, Urdu: व و semivowel

MonsieurGonzalito

Senior Member
Castellano de Argentina
Friends,

I just noticed that, at all my posts in this forum, I have been transliterating the above letters indistinctly as "v" for all words (which didn't seem to hinder anybody's comprehension).

The transliteration guide at the beginning of the IIR forum suggests both "v" and "w" as Latin transliteration options, listing /ʋ/ (voiced labiodental aproximant) as the IPA equivalent.

But Wikipedia sees to think that there are 2 sounds for व و:

ʋवर्ज़िशورزشvarziśvat[5]
wपकवानپكوانpakvānwell[5]

one being, I guess, more properly semivocalic ( /ʋ/ voiced labiodental aproximant) and the other being a litte more consonantic (/w/ labialized velar approximant).
I can't differentiate between these 2 sounds, but I imagine that, in the case of the /w/, the lower lip goes a little further back or closes more.

Or maybe there is only 1 sound (/ʋ/ phoneme) and the perceived difference is just the consecuence of the context given by surrounding letters?
Is Wikipedia making too fine a point of all this?
 
  • MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    Those threads provide valuable information, but I don't think the subject is framed quite correctly.

    Let me summarize here what I understand, based on what I read in the threads, plus some reading (and lacking the most important part, which is the living knowledge of the language).

    There are 3 sounds in question:

    - /ʋ/ sounded labiodental aproximant, it is like hinting at pronouncing the English of French "v", slightly retracting the lower lip, but keeping the mouth open and never touching the front uper teeth witht the lower lip.

    - /w/ sounded bilabial approximant. Like the English "w" in "was". The lips are initially rounded and protruding forward, then relax to their natural position.

    - /v/ sounded labiodental fricative, the English/French "v" sound proper.


    My understanding is as follows:

    1. /ʋ/ is the base semivocalic sound, inherited from the sanskrit/prakrits/indo-aryan tradition

    2. /w/ is used as an allophone (i.e. interchangeably meaning-wise) with /ʋ/, for a wide variety of reasons:
    2.1. regional usage. Some regions (Hyderabard?) use /w/ everywhere.
    2.2. the influence of other dialects or languages such as Punjabi (although it is unclear how)
    2.3. certain specific word position patterns, such as "word starting with vowel + /w/"
    2.4. exceptional individuals who know the persoarabic substratum well enough, might want to highlight that a word has specifically Arab origin and it uses "waw".
    2.5. simple ease of use (the /w/ is much easier to articulate)


    3. the /v/ sound doesn't belong to the Hindi/Urdu language.
    3.1. many people with knowledge of English might use it for foreign words
    3.2 exceptional individuals who know the persoarabic substratum well enough, might want to highlight that a word has specifically Persian origin, and they use the /v/ sound of modern/standard Persian, which might be incorrect, since it is unclear if Persian had the /v/ sound at the time the word passed into Hindustani


    Is this summary more or less accurate?
     

    aevynn

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, Hindustani
    A useless technical point: It might be useful to understand the distinction between phonemes vs phones (and correspondingly, between IPA enclosed in slanted brackets vs square brackets). I bring this up because Wikipedia's IPA list (linked to in the OP) is a list of phones rather than phonemes (for example, one finds the short ɛ in this list, but short ɛ is an allophone of the phoneme /ə/ and is not an independent phoneme). In the context of the phones you're asking about, there isn't any disagreement that there is in fact just one relevant Urdu-Hindi phoneme. That phoneme is often denoted /ʋ/, and is the phoneme to which the graphemes "व" and "و" typically refer.

    That technical point doesn't at all address the question(s) you're ultimately wanting to ask (which seems to be about the phones that are used to realize the phoneme /ʋ/), but that's about all I feel comfortable saying. It could be that there's allophonic variation, where /ʋ/ is sometimes realized using [ʋ] or [v] or [w] depending on the phonetic context. It could be that there's dialectal/idiolectal variation in how this phoneme is realized. It could be that both are true, as you describe in your summary. I hesitate to pontificate about any of this, because I don't trust my ear about this. [I share in the following experience described by @Qureshpor jii:
    I remember going through a phase of pronouncing "wire" as "vire" (or close to it) and when corrected, I became quite self-conscious about this mispronunciation and every time I had to pronounce an English word that began with a v or w, I would think about it and try to pronounce it correctly.
    For me, the word that made me self-conscious was "wall" being pronounced (roughly?) as "vall." I eventually got it down, but even now, after a few beers, "wet veggie burritos" sometimes become "vet wedgie burritos" :)]
     

    MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    Have you personally ever found yourself thinking, when pronouncing "valii" as in "chief, ruler", something in the line of "oh, this word is Arabic, I better ensure to make that initial letter sound more like /w/!"?

    I am starting to think that I was reading too much into the previous answers, regarding cultured individuals being able to choose sounds according to the word's origin.
     

    aevynn

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, Hindustani
    Have you personally ever found yourself thinking, when pronouncing "valii" as in "chief, ruler", something in the line of "oh, this word is Arabic, I better ensure to make that initial letter sound more like /w/!"?
    Nope, I haven't ever. Not that I have a good ear for knowing when a given word comes from Arabic. But I do for knowing when a word comes from English; and despite distinguishing v from w when speaking English, I nonetheless typically merge the two when importing an English word into a Hinglish sentence.
     
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