Lesson 7A


We have examined how to write a consonant that is followed by any vowel, now we consider how to write a consonant that is followed by no vowel at all.


7.A.1 Halanta Consonants

The adjective halanta is derived from hal (a technical term referring to any consonant) and anta (“end”), so halanta means “ending in a consonant”. Thus the letter pa for example, without its following a sound, namely p, is called “halanta pa”. In the devanāgarī script this is written as a short stroke ( ्) called virāma (“stop”), below and to the right of the consonant. For example:

halanta pa प् halanta ka क् halanta ṭa ट्

This is the form used when a word ends in a consonant, however the virāma should (ideally) not be used within a word. Where a word uses a non-final halanta letter, for example the s in svara, it forms a consonant cluster, or conjunct consonant, and a different method is used.


7.A.2 Conjunct Consonants

A conjunct consonant (saṃyoga, literally “yoked together”) comprises two or more consonants with nothing separating them; in particular there is no vowel between them.

At a first glance through these saṃyoga, familiarity with them may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately you don’t have to learn them. It is the general principles that are important: once you understand the principles, you can discard the notes. Simply read through the general principles and use the illustrative examples to understand the principle. Thereafter it is just a matter of applying the principles, and you will find that, in practice, it is a lot simpler than it looks.

The symbols may be written continuously in the usual order from left to right with the rightmost vertical stroke dropped from all but the last letter:

त् + = त्म tma
ण् + = ण्य ṇya
न् + त् + = न्त्य ntya

Or they may be written one above the other, in which case they are read from top to bottom:

म् + = म्न mna
ब् + = ब्व bva
ष् + = ष्ट ṣṭa

This arrangement can be useful where the first letter has no vertical stroke on the right:

द् + = द्ग dga
ट् + ट् = ट्ट ṭṭa
ङ् + = ङ्क ṅka

Left to right and vertical arrangements may appear in the same compound:

स् + न् + = स्न्य snya
ष् + ठ् + = ष्ठ्य ṣṭya
ङ् + क् + = ङ्क्य ṅkya

Most symbols retain their familiar shape in compounds, but some are modified:

द् + = द्द dda
द् + = द्ध ddha
क् + = क्म kma-

When symbols are modified, it is often only in combination with other particular symbols, for example:

त् + = त्त tta
ह् + = ह्न hna
द् + = द्य dya
ट् + = ट्य ṭya
ह् + = ह्म hma
The symbol क (ka) may be compressed to क्‍ , or even further as shown in the following image:


For example:

क् + = क्क or क्‍क kka
क् + = क्त or क्‍त kta

The symbol is often written in combination as shown in the following image:


For example:

श् + = श्व or श्‍व śva
श् + = श्च or श्‍च śca

The same group of symbols can be found in different forms:

ञ् + = ञ्च or ञ्‍च ñca
क् + त् + = क्त्व or क्‍त्‍व ktva
प् + = प्ल or प्‍ल pla
च् + = च्च or च्‍च cca
ल् + = ल्ल or ल्‍ल lla

While there may be different conventions and styles for making compounds, there are no obvious absolute rules. Ideas that familiar forms are right and others wrong should be avoided: both proportions and angles of the symbols may be varied.

The symbol ra changes form in compounds. It always appears in a vertical arrangement and is read in the sequence top to bottom. When ra comes at the beginning of a compound it takes the form of a hook above the line (the same as above the dīrgha ī): it is attached above the rightmost vertical of a compound. For example:

र् + = र्प rpa
र् + ध् + वा = र्ध्वा rdhvā

This form is also used when ra is the only consonant before the vowels and , i.e.:

र् + = रृ rṛ
र् + = रॢ rḷ

When ra is final in a compound, it is represented by a small diagonal stroke:

प् + = प्र pra
द् + = द्र dra
ट् + = ट्र ṭra
त् + = त्र tra
(note the truncation of )

This form is retained when ra appears in the middle of a cluster of consonants:

ग् + र् + = ग्र्य grya
म् + र् + = म्र्य mrya

7.A.3 Special Conjunct Consonants kṣa and jña

Normally the symbols for a saṃyoga are constructed from their component symbols and are quite obvious to see, and their construction reflects their pronunciation. However, there are two which are quite different from their component parts:

क् + = क्ष kṣa
ज् + = ज्ञ jña

Although these two saṃyoga may be separated into their component parts when, for example, the alphabetical order is required in looking up a word in the dictionary, the symbols being so different from their components, reflect their sounds which are somewhat different from their components.

A practical method of approaching the pronunciation of these two sounds is offered next.


7.A.4 Pronunciation of kṣa

The idea may be novel, but it is quite straightforward to pronounce halanta ṣa prolonged: try it. Now, sound halanta ka through the sound of halanta ṣa — i.e., the prolonged halanta ṣa begins with halanta ka; the important point is that the tip of the tongue is in the mūrdhanya position throughout. Before sounding the halanta ka the breath is fully cut off by the back of the tongue in the kaṇṭhya position as for the normal pronunciation of ka; the difference for kṣa is that the tip of the tongue is raised to the mūrdhanya position before sounding the halanta ka. This means that halanta kṣa may be sounded repeatedly without moving the tip of the tongue from the mūrdhanya position. (This sound is reminiscent of ten-year-olds playing cops and robbers!)

Although the kṣa is originally formed by halanta ka joining with a following ṣa (i.e. k + ṣa = kṣa), and may be thus separated when, for example, the alphabetical order is required in looking up a word in the dictionary, the pronunciation, as reflected in the changed symbol, is in practice (k) + + a.


7.A.5 Pronunciation of jña

The pronunciation of this is similar to the French “J” as in “Jean-Jacques”, or as in the “z” sound in the English words “mirage”, “rouge”, “measure”, “or “vision”; but in all cases it is sounded through the tālavya mouth position, and is strongly nasalized.

As a practical method of approaching this sound, begin by sounding the English “hiss” and holding the sibilant — this sibilant is much like the Sanskrit halanta sa. Now sound the English “his”, again holding the sibilant: note that the difference between these sibilants is that the vocal cords vibrate for “his” and not for “hiss”.

Now with the tongue in the tālavya position, sound a prolonged halanta śa. And then repeat the sound but allowing the vocal cords to vibrate — with some imagination, this is beginning to sound like a prolonged halanta ja, which is of course, impossible to sound. Now repeat this voiced sound allowing it to be strongly nasalized. This is about as close as one can get to describing the sound of halanta jña.

There are two common errors in sounding jña. Firstly, the halanta jña tends to be followed by an additional nasal consonant before the vowel(i.e., + ñ + a); the halanta jña is a single sound. Secondly, the nasalization is often carried over into the vowel: to correct this, practice sounding ajña, attending to both a sounds, which should be the same.

Although the jña is originally formed by halanta ja joining with a following ña (i.e. j + ña = jña), and may be thus separated when, for example, the alphabetical order is required in looking up a word in the dictionary, the pronunciation, as reflected in the changed symbol, is in practice (jñ) + a.


7.A.6 List of Conjunct Consonants

The following is a standard list of conjunct consonants, arranged in alphabetical order: simply read through the list and you will find that most of the symbols are easily recognizable.

क्क kka क्ख kha क्च kca क्ण kṇa क्त kta क्त्य ktya
क्त्र ktra क्त्र्य ktrya क्त्व ktva क्न kna क्न्य knya क्म kma
क्य kya क्र kra क्र्य krya क्ल kla क्व kva क्व्य kvya
क्ष kṣa क्ष्म kṣma क्ष्य kṣya क्ष्व kṣva ख्य khya ख्र khra
ग्य gya ग्र gra ग्र्य grya घ्न ghna घ्न्य ghnya घ्म ghma
घ्य ghya घ्र ghra ङ्क ṅka ङ्क्त ṅkta ङ्क्त्य ṅktya ङ्क्य ṅkya
ङ्क्ष ṅkṣa ङ्क्ष्व ṅkṣva ङ्ख ṅkha ङ्ख्य ṅkhya ङ्ग ṅga ङ्ग्य ṅgya
ङ्घ ṅgha ङ्घ्य ṅghya ङ्घ्र ṅghra ङ्ङ ṅṅa ङ्न ṅna ङ्म ṅma
ङ्य ṅya च्च cca च्छ ccha च्छ्र cchra च्ञ cña च्म cma
च्य cya छ्य chya छ्र chra ज्ज jja ज्झ jjha ज्ञ jña
ज्ञ्य jñya ज्म jma ज्य jya ज्र jra ज्व jva ञ्च ñca
ञ्च्म ñcma ञ्च्य ñcya ञ्छ ñcha ञ्ज ñja ञ्ज्य ñjya ट्ट ṭṭa
ट्य ṭya ठ्य ṭhya ठ्र ṭhra ड्ग ḍga ड्ग्य ḍgya ड्घ ḍgha
ड्घ्र ḍghra ड्ढ ḍḍha ड्म ḍma ड्य ḍya ढ्य ḍhya ढ्र ḍhra
ण्ट ṇṭa ण्ठ ṇṭha ण्ड ṇḍa ण्ड्य ṇḍya ण्ड्र ṇḍra ण्ड्र्य ṇḍrya
ण्ढ ṇḍha ण्ण ṇṇa ण्म ṇma ण्य ṇya ण्व ṇva त्क tka
त्क्र tkra त्त tta त्त्य ttya त्त्र ttra त्त्व ttva त्थ ttha
त्न tna त्न्य tnya त्प tpa त्प्र tpra त्म tma त्म्य tmya
त्य tya त्र tra त्र्य trya त्व tva त्स tsa त्स्न tsna
त्स्न्य tsnya थ्य thya द्ग dga द्ग्र dgra द्घ dgha द्घ्र dghra
द्द dda द्द्य ddya द्ध ddha द्ध्य ddhya द्न dna द्ब dba
द्भ dbha द्भ्य dbhya द्म dma द्य dya द्र dra द्र्य drya
द्व dva द्व्य dvya ध्न dhna ध्न्य dhnya ध्म dhma ध्य dhya
ध्र dhra ध्र्य dhrya ध्व dhva न्त nta न्त्य ntya न्त्र ntra
न्द nda न्द्र ndra न्ध ndha न्ध्र ndhra न्न nna न्प npa
न्प्र npra न्म nma न्य nya न्र nra न्स nsa प्त pta
प्त्य ptya प्न pna प्प ppa प्म pma प्य pya प्र pra
प्ल pla प्व pva प्स psa प्स्व psva ब्घ bgha ब्ज bja
ब्द bda ब्ध bdha ब्न bna ब्ब bba ब्भ bbha ब्भ्य bbhya
ब्य bya ब्र bra ब्व bva भ्न bhna भ्य bhya भ्र bhra
भ्व bhva म्न mna म्प mpa म्प्र mpra म्ब mba म्भ mbha
म्म mma म्य mya म्र mra म्ल mla म्व mva य्य yya
य्व yva ल्क lka ल्प lpa ल्म lma ल्य lya ल्ल lla
ल्व lva ल्ह lha व्न vna व्य vya व्र vra व्व vva
श्च śca श्च्य ścya श्न śna श्य śya श्र śra श्र्य śrya
श्ल śla श्व śva श्व्य śvya श्श śśa ष्ट ṣṭa ष्ट्य ṣṭya
ष्ट्र ṣṭra ष्ट्र्य ṣṭrya ष्ट्व ṣṭva ष्ठ ṣṭha ष्ण ṣṇa ष्ण्य ṣṇya
ष्प ṣpa ष्प्र ṣpra ष्म ṣma ष्य ṣya ष्व ṣva स्क ska
स्ख skha स्त sta स्त्य stya स्त्र stra स्त्व stva स्थ stha
स्न sna स्न्य snya स्प spa स्फ spha स्म sma स्म्य smya
स्य sya स्र sra स्व sva स्स ssa ह्ण hṇa ह्न hna
ह्म hma ह्य hya ह्र hra ह्ल hla ह्व hva

The table does not cover all possible combinations of consonants, but, on the other hand, it does contain many that are quite rare and which you may never come across in print. So, having worked through the table, you may be confident that you will be able to decipher any saṃyoga that you meet.

Just as a matter of interest, the greatest number of conjunct consonants in a real word is five: the usual example quoted for this is कार्त्स्न्य (kārtsnya).



Lesson 7B


7.B.1 Verbal Prefixes

The English verb “to tend” derives from the PIE root √ TEN, to stretch: when a prefix is appended to it, its meaning alters. For example (with prefix meanings given):

attend (at-, towards, to, at)
contend (con-, with, together, wholly)
distend (dis-, apart, away)
extend (ex-, out of, very)
intend (in-, towards, in)
portend (por-, before, instead of)
pretend (pre-, instead of, before)
subtend (sub-, under)

Assuming that the meaning of these verbs is already understood (more or less), then a grasp of their etymological derivation from the root and prefixes should contribute to enlarging that understanding. Again, given the meanings of these verbs, it can be appreciated that that the prefixes are instrumental in modifying the original root to give its particular meaning, but the converse is not necessarily so: given the meanings of the root and prefixes only, it may prove difficult to arrive at the meanings of the particular verbs.

The situation in Sanskrit is similar: the meaning of a prefixed verb (as a compound) needs to be looked up in the dictionary, which will also give its component parts of prefix(es) and dhātu, which may then be separately looked up. Other words may be derived from that prefixed verb, and they carry the sense of this compound as though it were a separate dhātu; this is also the case in English, as for example, the derivation of attention, attentive, attendance, attendant, from the verb “attend”.

A prefix, when appended to a verb, is called an upasarga in Sanskrit grammar. The grammarians list just twenty-two of these; in alphabetical order they are:

ati- beyond, over, across, past, surpassing, to excess
adhi- over, above, upon, on, onto
anu- after, along, like, towards, following
apa- away, off, from, forth
api- over, on, close, proximate
abhi- to, towards, into, against, near, opposite
ava- down, off, away, from
ā- towards, to, near, into, at, from, back, return, (reversing)
ud- up, upwards, out, above
upa- towards, near, to, next to, less, down, under
dur- bad, difficult, hard
dus- bad, difficult, hard
ni- down, in, on, under, into
nir- away, out, forth
nis- away, out, forth
parā- back, backwards, away, forth, to a distance
pari- around, about
pra- before, forward, forth, onward, fore
prati- against, towards, to, at, near, back, again, return, (reversing)
vi- apart, asunder, away, out, implying separation or dispersion
sam- with, together, along with, conjoined with
su- good, excellent, well

The above list is included here for reference only, and should not be learned; however, a familiarity with the Sanskrit forms will be useful.

An upasarga may simply emphasize the original sense of the dhātu, but usually modifies the sense; sometimes the changes is so great as to make the sense of the original dhātu quite unrecognizable, for example:

dhātu hṛ to take away
pra-hṛ to hit
ā-hṛ to eat
sam-hṛ to destroy
vi-hṛ to roam
pari-hṛ to abandon

7.B.2 Exercises

  1. Practice sounding the alphabetical order as summarized in 3.A.5.
  2. By now the alphabet should be familiar: practice writing all the characters of the alphabet with particular attention to their proportions (see the note at the end of 4.A.1).
  3. Write out a fair copy of the devanāgarī sentences given in #5 below.
  4. Look up the words “attend” etc. given in 7.B.1, in a good English dictionary, to see how their meanings link to the given etymology.
  5. Write the following sentences in Roman transliteration:
    1. बालाम् वृक्षात् नरस्य अश्वम् वहावः ॥
    2. नरः बाला च तिष्ठतः वदतः च ॥
    3. अश्वः वृक्षस्य फले बालाभ्यः लभते ॥
    4. बालायाः अश्वः फलानि नराय वहति ॥
    5. नराः वृक्षस्य फलम् बालायै लभन्ते ॥
    6. नरस्य बाला अश्वान् वृक्षान् नयते ॥
  6. Now translate the sentences in #5 into English.
  7. Translate the following sentences into Sanskrit using Roman transliteration:
    1. You (plural) carry the fruit (plural) from the tree by horse.
    2. The girl’s horses (two) take the fruit (plural) to the man.
    3. You (two) lead the horse to the fruit (plural) of the tree.
    4. The man takes the tree from the horse for the girl.
    5. The girl and the horse go among the trees (plural) for fruit (plural).
    6. The horses (plural) carry the trees (plural for the men (plural).
  8. Now write your answers to #7 in devanāgarī.

The answers to #5, #6, #7, and #8, can be found in Appendix 2.