March 18, 2013

Lesson 3: Velar Consonants

Welcome to lesson 3!

In this lesson, you will learn about 5 consonants: , , , , and .

Listen to the following audio recordings:

Consonant Pronunciation

Note that the final consonant was pronounced “anga”. It is not possible to pronounce this consonant in isolation, so it is pronounced with other letters. represents the “n” in the “anga”. This is the way that it is pronounced when referring to the letter, such as when reciting the letters of the Devanagari script, etc.

What Is a “Velar” Consonant?

Feel where your tongue is when you pronounce “k”. Now feel where your tongue is when you pronounce “g” (as in “give”). They are pronounced in a similar position, aren’t they? Consonants pronounced with the tongue in this position are called velar consonants.

This part of the mouth is sometimes called the “soft palate”. It’s also called the “velum”. Thus, all consonants pronounced in this place are called velar consonants.

Now, notice where your tongue is when you say the “n” in “sing” or the “n” in “sink”. It’s in the same place as when you said “g” and “k”. Letters like “n” are called nasal consonants because air flows through the nose when they are pronounced. Thus, when you say these words, you’re using a “velar nasal consonant”.

Aspiration

The letter is similar to the English “k”. Listen to its pronunciation:

The letter is also similar to the English “k”, but there is an important difference: it is pronounced with a strong breath of air following the consonant. This breath is called aspiration, and such consonants are called aspirated consonants. Listen to the pronunciation of , and contrast it with :

The letter is similar to the English letter “g” (as in “good”), and it is unaspirated. The letter is similar to the English letter “g”, but it is aspirated. Listen to the following recordings and compare the pronunciations:

In English, we don’t recognize distinctions between aspirated and unaspirated consonants. However, in Hindi, this distinction is important.

Many consonants in Hindi exist in pairs; one is aspirated, another is unaspirated. corresponds to , corresponds to .

Anusvar

In Devanagari, there is a dot symbol called the anusvar. It indicates a conjunct that begins with a nasal (i.e. “n”) consonant. You will learn more about conjuncts in a future lesson. There are several nasal consonants in Hindi. The anusvar is always pronounced in the same place as the following consonant. Thus, if an anusvar precedes a velar consonant, it represents the letter .

Thus, there are multiple ways to write certain words. For instance, the word अंक can also be written अङ्क. However, words are usually spelled with the anusvar instead of an explicit conjunct.

If the anusvar ( ) precedes the consonants , , , , then it represents the nasal consonant

If you think about it, this is just like English; there is only one letter “n”, yet there are many sounds. It is often clear which sound the letter “n” represents, such as in the words “sink”, or “sing”; it must represent a “velar n”, since that is the only natural pronunciation.

Review

  • 5 consonants: , , , , and
  • These consonants are called “velar consonants” because they are all pronounced with the tongue near the “velum” (a.k.a. “soft palate”)
  • is unaspirated, is aspirated, is unaspirated, is aspirated
  • A dot called an anusvar represents a conjunct beginning with if it precedes a velar consonant.

Exercises

Try to pronounce the following words. Listen to the recording and compare your pronunciation.

Word Pronunciation
गंगा (“The Ganga”)
अंग (“limb/organ”)
आग (“fire”)
अंक (“point/mark/issue”)
आंख (“eye”)
घी (“clarified butter”)
कोख (“womb”)