Pronunciation of 't'

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Pronunciation of 't'

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Sun Mar 04, 2018 9:56 am

I have some books on Pāli, and all of them seem to say that the letter 't' is pronounced like the English letter 't' in 'top' etc. However, the Pāli chanting book I got from a man I met at the local Thai Buddhist temple says that 't' is to be pronounced like 'th' in 'thumb'. Is this a Thai thing, or a different theory as to how it was pronounced historically, or what?

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Re: Pronunciation of 't'

Post by Veer-Zinda » Tue Mar 06, 2018 10:44 pm

This might be a little technical, so I will try to be clear.

If you use the tip of your tongue to feel behind your upper teeth, you will feel there is a ridge. This is called the alveolar ridge. Further back is the palate. The "t" sound in English is alveo-dental, which means that it is pronounced with the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge.

In Pali, the "t" sound is dental, which means that you pronounce it in the same manner, except with the tip of your tongue just between your teeth, a bit more forward than in English.

Now this is different to the "th" sound, which involves placing the tip of the tongue between the teeth and then letting air flow down the sides of the tongue.

The "t" sound in Pali or English are called plosives, because both have a sudden release of air - they're just produced in a slightly different place. The "th" sound is called a fricative because it is produced with a gradual release of air, a bit like hissing.

Hope that was clear, but let me know if anything wasn't.
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool." - Richard Feynman

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Re: Pronunciation of 't'

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:59 am

if you know spanish, the t is pronounced that way. for example, piñata. or in german it's pronounced as well the same, and they also have th which is like pāli
"Just as the ocean has a single taste — that of salt — in the same way, this Dhamma-Vinaya has a single taste: that of release."
— Ud 5.5 ... 34/?type=3 ... allytaught

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Re: Pronunciation of 't'

Post by JamesTheGiant » Wed Mar 07, 2018 8:01 am

I know a monk of 20 years seniority, who alway, always says it wrong. He says "Th" like "Thick", in public Dhamma-talks where he speaks about Theravada. Theravada this, Theravada that, and wrong every time. 20 years! I cringe every time he says it.

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Re: Pronunciation of 't'

Post by nibbedhika » Wed Mar 07, 2018 6:05 pm

There are two t's, usually called hard and soft, and two more in combination with h (aspirate form.) A video on Sanskrit consonants like this one is the best way to see how they are pronounced.

You can also think of the hard and soft forms as just tau and theta. However in many European languages, the theta form has a hissing sound like f or s, (e.g. "think"), which is never the case in Pali/Sanskrit. The aspirate form (e.g. "Theravada") is quite different from anything in English.

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