Sanskrit : Support Vowels



Support Vowels

The two support vowels are known as "ubhayakshara" and are mostly appended to syllables.  They are not used independantly like other vowels.

They add specific sounds to the syllables they are appended to.  These two support vowels are represented using the vowel अ.


आं
आः
am
ah

The first is known as the "anuswara" and the second "visarga".  The anuswara adds a sound similar to the sound of 'm' in "sum" to the syllable.  The visarga adds a sound similar to "ha" to the syllable.  The "ha" will change depending upon the vowel ending the syllable.  The visarga more or less extends the vowel in the syllable with h+the same vowel as in the syllable.

Example: if the syllable ends in vowel इ then the visarga would add a sound like "hi".

There may be differences in the manner in which these two are introduced in conventional Sanskrit primers.  When reading Sanskrit, it will be necessary to render the visarga in a way that will distinguish it from the syllables ha, hi, hu, etc.  This may be accomplished by shortening the vowel in the visarga.

One is tempted to ask, "Well how can Sanskrit be a phonetic language then, if the sound for the letter is context-dependant?".  We shall answer this in a later section dealing with phonetics.


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