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Season 3 - Episode 7

Sounding the Sibilants

10 min - Tutorial


Anuradha takes us through the sibilants in Sanskrit. We look at their written forms, both devanagari script and the English transliterative, and explore the logic of how we make each sound using touch, sound, breath, and nasal actions.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Mar 27, 2015
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Namaste dear friends. Together we were exploring the Sanskrit alphabet and the journey thus far has been very enjoyable, for me at least, and I hope that you have also been enjoying it as much as I have. We've looked at the letters, we first sounded them, then we saw what they looked at. We are almost at the end of it. We saw the guttural, the palatal, the cerebrals, the dentals, the labials, and in the last series we watched the semivowels. The next set of sounds that are part of the system of the Sanskrit alphabet are known as the sibilants. They compose of the shh sounds. So the first one is the sound corresponding to the palatal section. It's the shh. Say that. Once more. It's the same sound that comes for shanti or shiva. Lovely. The next one is corresponding to the tip or rather the roof of the palate, the roof of the centre of your mouth. And as you are there, place your tongue on top there and make the same shh sound. You will notice that it changes a little bit from shh. Now it's shh. Try saying that. Shh. You will come across the sound in the word ashtanga where you have the shh. Yes? That's the second sibilant. The third one corresponds to the teeth of the dental group which is the sss. Sss. It's a bit like a serpent. Sss. Once more. Sss. The fourth sibilant also corresponds to the heart or the throat. It's more in the heart really. And it's the ha. The throat but the sound comes out from your heart. Ha. Ha. Say the word heart and you will get a feel of it. Okay. So it's the ha. Let's do these sibilins together. Shh. Shh. Sss. Ha. You want to say it after me once? Shh. Shh. Sss. Ha. Great. Now let's see what they look like. So this group is known as the sibilins. The first letter that we saw in the series was the shh. Let's see what it corresponds to visually. Shh. This letter sometimes also appears in another form which is shh. That way. This form of the letter often appears when you're combining it with different sounds like the v or the ch. But we look at that as time goes by. But just to remember that there are two representations of this particular sound. Shh. When we try and understand or represent it in the Roman alphabet, the transliterated form of this sound is the shh which is an s with an accent and an a. So the transliteration is the representation of Sanskrit phonetics in the English alphabet or the Roman script.

And because there isn't a one-to-one correspondence of the different sounds, they take recourse to adding some accents or a dash or a dot below or a little wave. So when you find these things, then you know that it is not pronounced in the way it is regularly pronounced in English. So you need to just pay attention. So that accent makes the s into a shh as in shiver. In terms of the place, it corresponds to the eesh. It corresponds to the vowel e. I'd also like to point out here that in Sanskrit phonetics, there are certain sound combinations which go together. So the letter shh corresponds also to the group of chh, the palatal. So it's the entire palatal section. You remember that? You'll hear it again and again. So don't worry even if you don't now. The next one is the sibilant shh corresponding to the cerebral pronunciation. And it is written like that. It's like the pur that we have seen for the labial sounds and with the line across there. Shh, shh. Say that. Shh, shh. Try it. Shh. The sound needs a little practice. In terms of the transliteration, it's written as the s with the dot below it. Remember, we had said that whenever there is a dot below the letter, it implies that the tongue has to go up. That's a rule, an absolute rule. So dot below, tongue on top. Correct? Nice. And this corresponds to the vowel r or r. It's easier to understand that way. And to the group of sounds of consonants, the t group. So the entire group of cerebrals in consonants corresponds to this sibilant shh. The third sibilant that we have is the dental one, which is the s. S. And this is how it looks. S.

Try that. S. Do it. Lovely. And this is the simple s and a of the English language. S. In terms of sounds, it corresponds to the teeth, the l and the t group of consonants. So l and t. S. It's all in that family. The fourth sibilant corresponds to the throat, which is the h. Also, you can feel it in your heart almost. And this is how it's written. This one is a little more complicated to write, but it's also more beautiful. So enjoy the picture of this letter. There you go. That's the her. It's a bit like a hand. If you can see that image of a hand, it'll become easier. So that's the her. And the transliteration of that is the simple h and a. In terms of vowels and consonants, it corresponds to a and the group of the gutterels. Should we try that all together once? Maybe you repeat after me the first time and then we'll put it together. Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Together with me. Sh. Sh. Sh. Sir. Her. Now let's see. You give it a try. Fantastic. Can we do it together a last time? Sh. Her. Sir. Her. A heartful thank you for that. Enjoyed it. We next move on to the conjunct consonants in the next session, where we will see how some of these sounds combine together. Sometimes they're included as part of the Sanskrit alphabet system. They have different letters to represent them. We'll see what they look like.


Marie B
1 person likes this.
Loving learning with you Anuradha
Anuradha Choudry
Dear Marie, Thank you for your open heart! am sOOO happy to be sharing this with you! :) Lots of luv for a lot more joyful learning of this wondrous language!
Lydia Zamorano
Hi Anuradha Choudry ! Loving this! I'm wondering in the palatal sa do you put the tip of your tongue on the back of the palate or do you put the back of your tongue there to make that sound? Like where it naturally wants to go?
Anuradha Choudry
Dear Lydia, Wonderful to have you following the classes and to know that you are enjoying the experience. For the palatal sha as in shAntih - the tip of the tongue is touching the gum behind the lower front teeth as in the sound 'eee'. Different from this is the cerebral 'Sha' where the tip of the tongue is just below the centre of the roof of the palate like in the word aShTAnga. Try this out and let me know if it's clear. Enjoy this 'brain massage' exercise with sounds :)
Lydia Zamorano
Thank you so much. That makes perfect sense. Much love.

Steve M
श (śa) as in ईश्वर?
Steve M
Here's a fun example combining the sibilants that I just learned - शिक्षा (śikṣā)
Anuradha Choudry
Dear steve, Yes for श (śa) as in ईश्वर? Thank you for the example of शिक्षा (śikṣā) :)

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