Sanskrit: pronunciation of ष and श

mundiya

Senior Member
Hindi, English, Punjabi
What is the difference in pronunciation between ष and श in Sanskrit? Is the Hindi pronunciation of श correct as far as Sanskrit is concerned?

Thank you.
 
  • tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    What is the difference in pronunciation between ष and श in Sanskrit? Is the Hindi pronunciation of श correct as far as Sanskrit is concerned?

    Thank you.


    Tongue position. The first is retroflex the second is alveolar.

    Most people do not pronounce retroflex sh in Hindi unless in a conjunct with another retroflex consonant,
    but there are probably some people that have adopted this pronunciation and others that claim they do.
     

    marrish

    Senior Member
    اُردو Urdu
    Dear mundiya,

    I don't think i can answer your question properly. I am certain that the matter of pronunciation in Sanskrit has been aptly described and from there we can get the idea of the right pronunciation. I think it has been important but I don't know or have access to these resources.

    What I can say is that श is a very soft sound, often softer than in Hindi however it's negligible. On the other hand, ष in Sanskrit has been a distinct consonant, which is not equal to the former. It can be described as a "hard" sh.

    For the rest I agree with tonyspeed about Hindi. ष is normally not pronounced as it is supposed to be in Sanskrit, but equals ष.

    Consider two male names in Hindi : महेष and राजेश. I think there is no difference on the last consonant, but I being an outsider, would like to have some feedback from you and others.

    In Sanskrit, this used to be definitely pronounced in a different way otherwise there had been no separate signs. I will try to recollect which Slavic language retained this difference. Possibly we can end up with some aural material.
     

    Dib

    Senior Member
    Bengali (India)
    I think it is generally agreed that ष was retroflex /ʂ/, as pointed out above - i.e. pronounced with the tongue tip curled backwards, just as for T in Hindi "moTaa" (fat).

    It is also generally agreed that श was post-alveolar. Indian traditional grammar mentions its place of articulation as same as that of ch, j, etc. But I have my doubts how precisely it can be determined whether it was an /ʃ/ as in Hindi or a /ɕ/ as Wikipedia claims. They have pretty much the same place of articulation - "post-alveolar" in modern terms (i.e. just behind the upper alveolar ridge), differing only in the shape of the tongue - the part of the tongue behind the blade is lower in /ɕ/ than in /ʃ/. Of course, Wikipedia is not the last word, and given the long and varied history of Sanskrit, it is probably futile to try to resolve this question definitely one way or the other.


    Consider two male names in Hindi : महेष and राजेश. I think there is no difference on the last consonant, but I being an outsider, would like to have some feedback from you and others.

    I agree with your point; but I am afraid your example is wrong. The word is महेश.

    I will try to recollect which Slavic language retained this difference. Possibly we can end up with some aural material.

    Maybe you had Polish in your mind? Polish, as the champion of fricatives and affricates among the IE languages, of course (!) has the /ʂ/~/ɕ/ contrast. I doubt it is "retained" though, as Indo-Arian /ɕ~ʃ/ would normally correspond to Slavic /s/, I believe (Skt. shata-, Russian/Polish sto). I'd guess it's independent innovation in both the groups. Among other, Kandahari Pashto seems to have the /ʂ/~/ʃ/ contrast.
     

    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    I think some Hindi speakers do carry this difference. My mother, who has no knowledge of Sanskrit, always pronounces the word "ShatkoNR" (षटकोण) with the retroflex "sh" and that is how she taught us to pronounce all such words. However, very few words in Hindi exist with this character itself, and it is no wonder that most people have abandoned the retroflex.
     

    marrish

    Senior Member
    اُردو Urdu
    I agree with your point; but I am afraid your example is wrong. The word is महेश.
    [...]
    Maybe you had Polish in your mind? Polish, as the champion of fricatives and affricates among the IE languages, of course (!) has the /ʂ/~/ɕ/ contrast. I doubt it is "retained" though, as Indo-Arian /ɕ~ʃ/ would normally correspond to Slavic /s/, I believe (Skt. shata-, Russian/Polish sto). I'd guess it's independent innovation in both the groups. Among other, Kandahari Pashto seems to have the /ʂ/~/ʃ/ contrast.
    I'm grateful for the correction, it's essential not to make points on basis of wrong examples :)
    Let's take संतोष and राजेश as an example.

    Yes, Polish is the one of course. Again, my words are unfortunate - "retained", but my point is that it can be easily heard in Polish. I think Kandahari Pashto's retroflex ښ sh is even 'more' retroflex than the Polish "sz".
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    I think some Hindi speakers do carry this difference. My mother, who has no knowledge of Sanskrit, always pronounces the word "ShatkoNR" (षटकोण) with the retroflex "sh" and that is how she taught us to pronounce all such words. However, very few words in Hindi exist with this character itself, and it is no wonder that most people have abandoned the retroflex.

    littlpond-ji

    Do you know if any other Indian languages fastidiously preserve the retroflex SH (i.e. Marathi maybe?).
     

    gagun

    Senior Member
    Telugu-TS, Deccani-TS
    i was taught श as shay and ष as sha in telugu and also in hindi as ष is used in words which are derived from sanskrit only. like षटकोणम् shatkonham not shetkonham षणमुखम् ,भाष etc and we have more words in telugu like संतोषम् (happy) santosham,dvesham etc
     
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    Dib

    Senior Member
    Bengali (India)
    littlpond-ji

    Do you know if any other Indian languages fastidiously preserve the retroflex SH (i.e. Marathi maybe?).

    The only modern Indo-Aryan languages that, I know, have the systematic three-way /s/~/ʂ/~/ʃ/ distinction, are the Dardic languages spoken in Gilgit-Baltistan, like Khowar, Shina (which is also spoken in Ladakh in a few villages - I have been there! :) ), etc.
     

    mundiya

    Senior Member
    Hindi, English, Punjabi
    Monier Williams says that in Sanskrit श is pronounced like the "s" in "sure", and ष is pronounced like the "sh" in "bush" or "shun". Does this seem like a correct description? I feel the Hindi श also sounds like the "s" in sure. For ष in Hindi I guess it depends on the speaker and also on where the sound occurs in a word like Tony jii said. Personally I would pronounce the final consonant of संतोष and राजेश the same way.
     

    gagun

    Senior Member
    Telugu-TS, Deccani-TS
    for श it's iso sound is 'ś' (jihvamadhyam)and for ष its ipa sound is '/ʂ/' (jihvagram).
     
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    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Monier Williams says that in Sanskrit श is pronounced like the "s" in "sure", and ष is pronounced like the "sh" in "bush" or "shun". Does this seem like a correct description?

    In standard English there is no difference between the /ʃ/ in sure, and that in bush and shun.
     

    nineth

    Senior Member
    Hindi, Telugu
    Dear mundiya,

    Consider two male names in Hindi : महेष and राजेश. I think there is no difference on the last consonant, but I being an outsider, would like to have some feedback from you and others.

    When I say Mahesh, my tongue ends up in the retroflex position for the last 'sh' (exactly in the same position as for Ta, Da, or kaShT, spaShT). When I say Rajesh, it's straight. A listener may have to pay a lot of attention though to notice the difference. DIstinguishing the two sounds I feel is an elegant technicality of the language -- one can derive the spelling from the phonetics by checking what the natural position of the tongue is while articulaing the 'sh' with the surrounding consonants. For eg., for kaShT, the T is anyway retroflex, so it's natural to use the retroflex 'sh'. For shaTkon, again T is retroflex, and thus the retroflex 'sh'. So it's both - the preceeding and the following phonemes that will let you guess what 'sh' is in use.
     

    nineth

    Senior Member
    Hindi, Telugu
    I think some Hindi speakers do carry this difference. My mother, who has no knowledge of Sanskrit, always pronounces the word "ShatkoNR" (षटकोण) with the retroflex "sh" and that is how she taught us to pronounce all such words. However, very few words in Hindi exist with this character itself, and it is no wonder that most people have abandoned the retroflex.

    This is partly true and in certain contexts. But in many common contexts, the distinction is important -- in particular, when the retroflex half 'sh" comes in front of the retroflex plosive 'Ta'. Hindi speakers pronounce these correctly (with tongue in retroflex) and articulate it different from the alveolar 'sh'. "--shTa" is part of commonly used words -- kashTa, spashTa, drishTi, srishTi, santushTa. Hindi speakers will invariably write these down correctly.

    However, there are other contexts (like Mahesh as pointed out earlier) where speakers who are not in touch with reading and writing Hindi will have trouble determining that it's the retroflex sh that's to be used or vice versa. Besides Mahesh, other examples are when the sh follows a half r, like sanGharSh, sparSh, harSh, and then समावेश, अन्वेषण, visheSh, viSh, शेष, शीश -- one may have trouble figuring out which sh is to be used. It can be tricky, but these are commonly used words. If they are native speakers and their pronunciation is accurate, they should however be able to figure it out.
     

    gagun

    Senior Member
    Telugu-TS, Deccani-TS
    When I say Mahesh, my tongue ends up in the retroflex position for the last 'sh' (exactly in the same position as for Ta, Da, or kaShT, spaShT). When I say Rajesh, it's straight. A listener may have to pay a lot of attention though to notice the difference. DIstinguishing the two sounds I feel is an elegant technicality of the language -- one can derive the spelling from the phonetics by checking what the natural position of the tongue is while articulaing the 'sh' with the surrounding consonants. For eg., for kaShT, the T is anyway retroflex, so it's natural to use the retroflex 'sh'. For shaTkon, again T is retroflex, and thus the retroflex 'sh'. So it's both - the preceeding and the following phonemes that will let you guess what 'sh' is in use.

    This is partly true and in certain contexts. But in many common contexts, the distinction is important -- in particular, when the retroflex half 'sh" comes in front of the retroflex plosive 'Ta'. Hindi speakers pronounce these correctly (with tongue in retroflex) and articulate it different from the alveolar 'sh'. "--shTa" is part of commonly used words -- kashTa, spashTa, drishTi, srishTi, santushTa. Hindi speakers will invariably write these down correctly.

    However, there are other contexts (like Mahesh as pointed out earlier) where speakers who are not in touch with reading and writing Hindi will have trouble determining that it's the retroflex sh that's to be used or vice versa. Besides Mahesh, other examples are when the sh follows a half r, like sanGharSh, sparSh, harSh, and then समावेश, अन्वेषण, visheSh, viSh, शेष, शीश -- one may have trouble figuring out which sh is to be used. It can be tricky, but these are commonly used words. If they are native speakers and their pronunciation is accurate, they should however be able to figure it out.

    baaga cheppinaru nineth gaaru.
     

    mundiya

    Senior Member
    Hindi, English, Punjabi
    It is also generally agreed that श was post-alveolar. Indian traditional grammar mentions its place of articulation as same as that of ch, j, etc. But I have my doubts how precisely it can be determined whether it was an /ʃ/ as in Hindi or a /ɕ/ as Wikipedia claims. They have pretty much the same place of articulation - "post-alveolar" in modern terms (i.e. just behind the upper alveolar ridge), differing only in the shape of the tongue - the part of the tongue behind the blade is lower in /ɕ/ than in /ʃ/. Of course, Wikipedia is not the last word, and given the long and varied history of Sanskrit, it is probably futile to try to resolve this question definitely one way or the other.

    I think you're right because Wikipedia also says this:
    The palatal affricates and sibilant are variously classified by linguists as palatal or post-alveolar or palato-alveolar, hence the sound represented by grapheme श can be transcribed as [ʃ] or [ɕ]
     

    mundiya

    Senior Member
    Hindi, English, Punjabi
    When I say Mahesh, my tongue ends up in the retroflex position for the last 'sh' (exactly in the same position as for Ta, Da, or kaShT, spaShT). When I say Rajesh, it's straight.

    Mahesh is महेश and Rajesh is राजेश, with no retroflex in either.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    I think you're right because Wikipedia also says this:

    Rather than saying that our friend Dib is right "because Wikipedia also says" the same thing, I would say that Wikipedia is (for once) right because a knowledgeable person like Dib has confirmed it.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    In Urdu the phoneme ष does not exist, and therefore if and when Urdu speakers pronounce the word भाषा (language) they rhyme it with आशा (hope). Do Hindi speakers ever not rhyme भाषा and आशा? I have never heard a Hindi speaker distinguish ष from श. However, I have heard some Hindi speakers distinguish ण from न, e.g. किरण (ray) rather than किरन (this latter pronunciation is the only pronunciation in Urdu, for Urdu lacks the phoneme ण).
     

    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    I have never heard a Hindi speaker distinguish ष from श.

    ष is pronounced by modern Hindi speakers in the same way as श.

    However, I have heard some Hindi speakers distinguish ण from न, e.g. किरण (ray) rather than किरन ...

    Almost all -- not just some -- Hindi speakers distinguish between ण and न. Even those few who sometimes use न in a ण word have the ability to use ण in some other words.
     

    Gop

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    Rather than saying that our friend Dib is right "because Wikipedia also says" the same thing, I would say that Wikipedia is (for once) right because a knowledgeable person like Dib has confirmed it.
    Hear, hear!:)
     
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