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 + म = त्म||tma|
|ण् + य = ण्य||ṇya|
|न् + त् + य = न्त्य||ntya|
Or they may be written one above the other, in which case they are read from top to bottom:
|म् + न = म्न||mna|
|ब् + व = ब्व||bva|
|ष् + ट = ष्ट||ṣṭa|
This arrangement can be useful where the first letter has no vertical stroke on the right:
|द् + ग = द्ग||dga|
|ट् + ट् = ट्ट||ṭṭa|
|ङ् + क = ङ्क||ṅka|
Left to right and vertical arrangements may appear in the same compound:
|स् + न् + य = स्न्य||snya|
|ष् + ठ् + य = ष्ठ्य||ṣṭya|
|ङ् + क् + य = ङ्क्य||ṅkya|
Most symbols retain their familiar shape in compounds, but some are modified:
|द् + द = द्द||dda|
|द् + ध = द्ध||ddha|
|क् + म = क्म||kma-|
When symbols are modified, it is often only in combination with other particular symbols, for example:
|त् + त = त्त||tta|
|ह् + न = ह्न||hna|
|द् + य = द्य||dya|
|ट् + य = ट्य||ṭya|
|ह् + म = ह्म||hma|
|क् + क = क्क or क्क||kka|
|क् + त = क्त or क्त||kta|
The symbol श is often written in combination as shown in the following image:
|श् + व = श्व or श्व||śva|
|श् + च = श्च or श्च||śca|
The same group of symbols can be found in different forms:
|ञ् + च = ञ्च or ञ्च||ñca|
|क् + त् + व = क्त्व or क्त्व||ktva|
|प् + ल = प्ल or प्ल||pla|
|च् + च = च्च or च्च||cca|
|ल् + ल = 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 + प = र्प||rpa|
|र् + ध् + वा = र्ध्वा||rdhvā|
This form is also used when ra is the only consonant before the vowels ṛ and ḷ, i.e.:
|र् + ऋ = रृ||rṛ|
|र् + ऌ = रॢ||rḷ|
When ra is final in a compound, it is represented by a small diagonal stroke:
|प् + र = प्र||pra|
|द् + र = द्र||dra|
|ट् + र = ट्र||ṭra|
|त् + र = त्र||tra|
|(note the truncation of त)|
This form is retained when ra appears in the middle of a cluster of consonants:
|ग् + र् + य = ग्र्य||grya|
|म् + र् + य = 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 + ष = क्ष||kṣa|
|ज् + ञ = 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) + ṣ + 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., jñ + 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 (j) + 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.
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).
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)|
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|
|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|
- Practice sounding the alphabetical order as summarized in 3.A.5.
- 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).
- Write out a fair copy of the devanāgarī sentences given in #5 below.
- 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.
- Write the following sentences in Roman transliteration:
- बालाम् वृक्षात् नरस्य अश्वम् वहावः ॥
- नरः बाला च तिष्ठतः वदतः च ॥
- अश्वः वृक्षस्य फले बालाभ्यः लभते ॥
- बालायाः अश्वः फलानि नराय वहति ॥
- नराः वृक्षस्य फलम् बालायै लभन्ते ॥
- नरस्य बाला अश्वान् वृक्षान् नयते ॥
- Now translate the sentences in #5 into English.
- Translate the following sentences into Sanskrit using Roman transliteration:
- You (plural) carry the fruit (plural) from the tree by horse.
- The girl’s horses (two) take the fruit (plural) to the man.
- You (two) lead the horse to the fruit (plural) of the tree.
- The man takes the tree from the horse for the girl.
- The girl and the horse go among the trees (plural) for fruit (plural).
- The horses (plural) carry the trees (plural for the men (plural).
- Now write your answers to #7 in devanāgarī.
The answers to #5, #6, #7, and #8, can be found in Appendix 2.