Hindi Introduction

I’m sick at home and wanted something new to work on while laid out. So I just started working on Hindi again (this time with a course that can show how to read and write, in addition the simple conversational speech I already know. The course is from Living Language, Hindi – A Complete Course For Beginners.

I haven’t quite gotten to the first lesson because I have been reading the introduction. The introduction covers Devanagari and Hindi pronunciation. Hindi uses a lot of sounds that are familiar to English speakers – but differentiates them in ways that English speakers are not as familiar with. For instance, aspirated sounds are distinguishable from non-aspirated versions (they have different characters), something English does not represent in its alphabet. Even more unique is the use and representation of retroflex versions of many consonants.

Like Korean and Japanese, Hindi actually does not have an alphabet – rather it has a syllabary. Like Korean (and unlike Japanese), these syllable characters can actually be broken down with some regularity to determine the phonetics underlying each syllable. More so than Korean, I would almost say Hindi did have an alphabet – but the use of “conjunct” characters for combinations of consonants with no intervening vowels argues strongly for the syllabary status. The basic characters represent either straight vowel sounds, or a consonant sound with an implicit vowel (transliterated with “a” and sounding like “uh”). The other consonant-vowel combinations are represented as additional hooks and lines on this base consonant symbol.

There are 11 vowel sounds. The forms for lone-vowels are quite different from those for vowels following consonants:

Sound Forms
Description Transliteration Independent Combined
This is the inherent vowel. It sounds like the “o” in dove. a N/A
this is a longer “a” sound, like that in “mark” or “park” ā
This is the short “i” sound found in “bit” and “spit” i ि
This is the “ee” sound in “meet” or “weed”, but without any of the “y” sound that often follows this sound in English ī
This is the “u” sound in “put” or “foot” u
This is the “oo” sound in “boot” or “flute”, but without any subsequent “w” sound ū
This “r” sound is actually a vowel! It is similar to the aspirated “r” in “written”. Note the dot underneath the “r” in transliteration.
This is the “ay” sound of “pay” or “day”, but shortened, without the “y” towards the end e
This is the short “e” sound in “pet” or “bet” ai
This is the “o” sound in “bone” or “phone” o
This is the “aw” sound in “raw” or the “o” sound in “often” au

The introduction divides the consonant-leading syllables into 9 groups:

Group 1 – Velar Consonants

The velar consonants are ka, kha, ga, and gha.

Group 2 – Alveo-Palatal Consonants

The alveo-palatal consonants are ca, cha, ja, and jha.

Group 3 – Dental Consonants

The dental consonants are ta, tha, da, and dha.

Group 4 – Retroflex Consonants

The retroflex consonants are ṭa, ṭha, ḍa, and ḍha.

Group 5 – Bilabial Consonants

The bilabial consonants are pa, pha, ba, and bha.

Group 6 – Nasal Consonants

The nasal consonants are ṅa, ṇa, ña, na, and ma.

Group 7 – “S” Consonants

The “S” consonants are ̇śa, ṣa, and sa.

Group 8 – “R” Consonants

The “R” consonants are ̇ra, ड़ ṛa, and ढ़ ṛha.

Group 9 – Other Consonants

The other consonants are ̇ha, ya, va, la, ज़ za, and फ़ fa.

Well, there was more – like nasalization on vowels (candrabindu and anusvar), how to write the characters, and the conjunct characters (and halant). But enough is enough for now!


About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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2 Responses to Hindi Introduction

  1. Nathan Stitt says:

    I hope you feel better soon. Sorry but I’m not much for Hindi 8)

  2. George says:

    Thanks. Feeling much better now, actually. I’ll continue to throw Greek stuff out there, no worries.

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