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Season 6 - Episode 6

Semi Vowels & Sibilants

25 min - Tutorial
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Anuradha writes the semi vowels and sibilants. Together we look at their written forms, both devanagari script and the English transliterative versions. She then invites us to visualize and write them with our body.
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Jul 17, 2015
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Namaste friends, welcome back. I hope you have been enjoying this journey traveling through the different dimensions of Sanskrit, through its sounds, through the letters. Let's go a few steps further now. We have seen what the guttles sounded and looked like. Then we familiarized ourselves with the palatals.

We looked at the cerebrals, the dentals and the labials. So today we'll take it a step further. We look at the semivowels and the sibilants. We'll start with the semivowels. The first one is the letter y.

Say that, y. And it is really when you try and go from e to the er, which corresponds to the palat and the throat. E is the vowel corresponding to the palat and er to the throat. So we have y, r, corresponds to the cerebral. Drop it down to the er, you get r, l, er, will give you the l and then you have u to er, which will give you the w.

And this is what they look like here, r, l, w. Let us try to write them. So we first have the semivowels, semivowels. There you go. The first one was the er.

I will teach you how to write these letters stroke by stroke. So it becomes easy to follow. Start as if you were writing a 2. Then the 2 with a little dip, a little curve, it's a bit like a swan almost. So here and the last part is the stick, here.

Again 1, 2 and then the stick, here. We will go on to the next letter which is the r. This also starts in a similar fashion. So you have the first curve, r. But instead of dipping down in that way, you just come down straight, r.

And you put the line across. The line across helps to give the letter its individual identity and when you put these letters together to form a word, then it gives the word its own existence, independent existence. So we have the r, following this we have the sound, l as you can see there and like I normally like to share this. Somehow this letter l reminds me of the McDonald's symbol which if you can remember is like I'm just loving it. That would look like the Sanskrit l.

So we will write it step by step. Start with the first curve, then the second one like a half heart as well. It's not a heart that's complete. And then there is the small line on top that you should not forget and you will get the l, l. Moving on to the next sound, we have the v.

The v as you can see is similar to the b and phonetically often they are confused also but the v is like the b but minus the caesarean cut. That would be easy to remember. So we have the one and just that with a stick, v that's it. So we just try saying them together. We have the year, r, l and v.

A note I wanted to point out to you is that the th and the year look similar. In the third we had seen that it started like a small two and the line did not go all the way across because it was from the teeth series. Remember there is a gap there. The year is the same without the gap and the line goes all the way through. Year, r, l, v.

You can try practicing these letters also. You can also try practicing these letters by using your body. So I'll just give you a demo. Don't copy me because if you copy me then you will end up doing the letters backwards. So just watch what I do.

See the letter in your mind's eye by seeing it in the picture itself and then try and reproduce it for yourself moving from left to right. So we'll do it with the year which is a very flowing kind of a letter. So year, year. Say it a few times. It will help you absorbing the letter at a different level.

So as we have seen with the other groups these consonants or semi vowels also have half forms or as phonemes, independent u, r, l, v. They combine with different consonants and look slightly different. I will show you what I mean there. So if the year is half, if you combine it with another, let's say another year, this is what you'll get, there. Together this becomes the year. It basically follows the same rule where you just have to drop the stick, attach it to the next one.

In transliteration it will correspond to year plus year gives you the year. Now coming on to the next letter, this is slightly more complicated. So like you have the word surrier where you have half the r and followed by the full year. The letter r when it combines with the others acts a little differently but it keeps the form of the curve in it. So if you have the r, half the r, half of it plus the consonant or the semi vowel year as in surrier, you will end up by getting something like this.

Keep the full year and make the r half on top of the letter like that. The sur has to proceed then rr year and this is what it would look like phonetically. So that's the r, that's the year and that's the surrier. We move on to the next letter which is the l. The l is quite simple when it attaches it to the next one, it just drops the second part of itself.

So in a word like alp where you have a combination of l and per, this is what it would end up looking like l plus the full per. And there you have l per. So that is what it would do basically that you just have to drop that and attach it to the next one. You might see variations depending on the letter it is combining with but as I said earlier if you know the letter well then almost 95% to 98% you will be able to recognize it in the word as it combines with other consonants. So make sure that you are getting the letters independently well digested in your system.

Make sure that you learn it up well and I can assure you that it will give you a lot of confidence. The next one is the were and in a word like veer, talavveer you have different words. So it will again drop the stick and attach itself to the next letter. So you have the ve plus the year and this is the veer. So there we have it.

Would you like to once just try saying the full letters before we move on to the sibilance? So we have yer, rr, lr, veer. Now these the yer, rr, lr, veer as you would be familiar in the yoga world also correspond to the different chakras. So the yer is the heart one, the rr corresponds to your manipura or the navel one. The veer there is a slight change in the order there.

So the veer corresponds to your swadhisthana or the to the reproductive part there and the lr corresponds to the mooladhara or the last chakra that we have. So they are very powerful sounds again. You do it, you write it, you can experience these the different way the energy moves in your body. Now the next ones that we are going to look at are the sibilance, the sh, sh, s, and her. So they correspond once more to the different places of pronunciation.

The sh to the palate, the her to the cerebral and therefore you have the dot below it and the last sir corresponds to the teeth. The her which is included as part of the sibilance but is also known as the pure aspirate corresponds to the throat or even lower down to the whole heart. Let's see how they are written now. We have the sibilance. The first one is the sh, say it along with me that way you are sure that you can practice it and try and get feel of the correct sound.

So this written step by step would be 1, the stick represents the small line there, 2 is there, 3 is basically like a small line with a 2 below it and then you add the stick and the line over it. So that is the sh where the s is written with the line on top. You have words like shiva, shanti, they all are written using this letter. Now there is another variation of this letter which is like this. So you start with 1, 2, 3 with the stick on top.

This letter is often seen with words like shri, we will move on to the next sound which is the sh, the cerebral sibilant which is the sh and that is represented with an s and the dot below it, sh, sh. Now this is, we have seen a letter like that already which is the per. So in Sanskrit sometimes we refer to it as per sh because it looks similar. To distinguish it from the other sh sounds we call this the per sh. So it is the per with the stomach cut.

So we have the per 1, 2, you can cut it there and then 3. So you can actually put the cut there and then the line or the line and then the cut. So whatever suits you in that. So that is the sh. Moving on to the next sound we have the sa.

The sa is like the typical dental sa of snake or serpent or satya and it is written using the r. It is very similar to that sound in terms of the writing. So you start, I will write the transliteration, we will start with the small opposite c, small opposite c with a tail, tail and a bridge, tail bridge and the t, there you are. So that is the sa as in satya. The following pure aspirate or the sibilant is the ha.

This looks like a little more complicated but it is a very beautiful letter to write out and highly meditative also. So let us enjoy writing it. You have the ha in transliteration and that starts with the small line on top which refers to this small. It is a very teeny weeny line but it exists nonetheless. So it is the one.

It is almost like a half s that you write there. And then, so you have written the half s and then you almost as if draw a receiving hand below. I normally like to visualize it as if you have drawn this s and you are giving and there is a hand that is receiving. It looks a bit like that. So it is a very, it is from the heart.

So there is a lot of give and take in it. You can see it that way. So we have the ha, okay for the hriddaya, the word that is the root of the English word heart as well. So now we see all of these letters, all of these sibilants together, sh or sh, the tongue drawn in sh, sir, sir and ha, ha. These sounds in Sanskrit also are referred to as ushmana because they generate a lot of heat in the system, okay.

So there they are. As we have seen with the other consonants and the semivowels, it would be good to see how they combine with other consonants. And this is how it would look. So the sh because there is a stick would just drop its stick and attach itself to the next. So you have the sh, you have different words like especially in different combinations it is used.

So yoga shchitta, you would have heard that shchitta. So the shchitta there is represented by the sh plus the ch. So you could write it as sh plus ch will give you the sh, ch, there you are. And also this combination can be written using this variation of the sh. So you would have something like sh and the sh, ch, sh, ch.

It's the same sound, sh, ch, so sh and ch, right. The next one is the sh and you have words like ashtanga. So you have shhta in that sound or in that word. And here because it has a stick, you drop the stick. You would notice in these three sibilants, all of them have the stick, you just drop them and attach them to the next letter.

So we have the sh which is sh plus the letter t. I'll share a small secret with you of this. There you go, shhta and in transliteration, this would correspond to shhta, lovely. The next one is s and this, if you have to combine it with another consonant, will again drop the stick and connect itself. So we have the sound, a combination, hasta meaning hand.

You have pada hasta asana. So you have hasta, half the sir with the t and this is what it becomes. It drops the stick there and combines with the letter t, there you go. See that you have the letter t and combined with half the sir, this is what you would get. We'll move on to the letter her because the letter her is quite special in the way it connects with other letters.

It seems like a letter which is very complete in itself. So even if it comes in combination with another consonant, it retains its whole presence and the one that follows it becomes half of its size and enters into its tummy. It's a very interesting one. So you have for example in the word brahma. So you have the her, you have to make sure you get the tummy nice and big there and then we have the ma, so the ma sort of comes like that, there we have the letter ma.

So it becomes half of that and sticks out there. So ma and in transliteration that would be ma, brahma or if you have a letter which has a single head or a single stick like that, it can actually come all the way inside. I'll just give you a demonstration of this with another letter called na, let me see. So you have the her and then instead of the no, we'll take the l, there is a beautiful word for joy which is ah lada, to feel ah ladita means you're full of this wonderment of ah, ah lada. So in that case, it's a combination of her and l.

So the l that we just saw, the McDonald l comes into its stomach completely and you get something like that, l, okay. So remember with the her is that it retains its grandeur and everything else gets fitted within it. So that's the l. I am very tempted to share with you one word that you are familiar with and that we've just seen briefly and show you now how the whole letter or the whole word combines itself into one word. So we have the word hasta and here we have the letter her.

So you would get her and you have the combination stha, so you get stha and stha and you put a line across that to tell that it is one word, hasta and write it out in transliteration. So that is hasta. You could break it up, I know it's getting a bit squishy but if you can follow me close. So this is the her, that is the s and that is the th. You see how the sounds correspond to the different letters and quite distinctly form the whole word together.

So there we are. We'll just repeat the sh, sh, her once, sh, sh, her, her, her. As with the semi vowels and the sibilants, y, r, l, v, sh, sh, h, play with them. These sounds correspond to different parts of the body. It's a whole thing in itself.

There is a very good book called mantra yoga and primal sounds that gives a whole connection of these sounds with our body, the energies they move. So look out for the book, practice the letters and enjoy yourself with the wonder that is Sanskrit. Thank you. Poonar Milamaha, meet you again.


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