Going for refuge across the world

Just for fun, what does it look like if we wrote the same Pali phrase with a bunch of colloquial pronunciations?

Locality Pronunciation
Pali-Pali buddhaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
Thai-Pali phutthaṁ salanaṁ khacchāmi
Sinhala-Pali buddaṁ sarəṇaṁ gaccāmi
Australian-Pali boodaeṁ saerernaeṁ gachaemi
Icelandic/Faroese-Pali pūtdaṃ saranaṃ kattyāmi
German-Pali buddang sarranang gatschami
Indonesian-Pali budaṁ sāranaṁ gacāmi


  • Sinhala is just a guess, please correct me!
  • Formal Thai would use /r/ but colloquially it’s usually /l/.
  • The Australian version is canonical and correct, no further questions will be taken. :australia:
  • Some of these were added by others, see below!
  • These are informal approximations only!

Somehow, we manage to chant together!

Anyone have some more examples?


The ṁ’s should be changed to ṅ for the Thai pronounciation, no?

Also, I would love for you to figure out the English translation for this :joy: Like… what would “phutthaṁ salanaṁ khacchāmi” mean to a Pāli speaker (if anything)?


Thanks for that!

As you say, in everyday speech, the r tends to become an l (which would probably be criticised as laziness…)
I notice that our local Abbot is generally careful to use an r sound, but, as you know, ร has a “trill” to it, which presumably is not in the original Pali.

Another difference is that Thai use their tone rules on the text, and Sinhala speakers often sound to me like they are singing…

Also, to my ears, the Sinhala speakers pronounce “a” as “er” at the end of a word, so sam-bud-dha-sa sounds like sam-bud-dha-ser. Is that a modern development, or would that be supported by the Pali?

How about Americans? There is always"Booo-da"…


To do it like an Icelander or a Faroese:

pūtdaṃ saranaṃ kattyāmi
/puːt-daŋ saɾanaŋ kat-tjaː-mi/

To untrained ears an Icelandic buddhaṃ will sound quite similar to a Thai buddhaṃ, even though there are actually three points of difference between them:
p rather than pʰ
uː rather than u
d rather than tʰ

Saraṇaṃ is the same as how most English speakers would pronounce it, except that the r is produced as a tap, /ɾ/ rather than a postalveolar approximant.

The pronunciation of gacchāmi is the most distinctively Icelandic part. Since the language has neither the Indic palatals /c/ and /ɟ/ nor the English affricates /tʃ/ and /dʒ/, in any foreign names or loanwords containing these they will be realised as /tj/ and /dj/.


I’m not sure exactly what you mean by colloquial. It’s true that Sinhala no longer has the aspirates, but there are still separate letters for the aspirates. And people know them as mahaprana letters. As I understand, there is a sense of proper pronunciation (that would include the mahaprana) and improper (without). Lay people may not do the aspirates in Pali chanting, but they would notice when a monk is doing it correctly.


I’m not sure about that, @Dhammanando what was the original pali /r/?

Thai monks often put the /r/ back, but they’re not sure how to do it, so end up replacing actual /l/ with /r/, eg. sapphamaṅkharaṁ for sabbamaṅgalaṁ.

Indeed, although they are applied in an eccentric way, I’ve never quite figured out the rules. A long rising tone is often pronounced as high (eg. saṅghaṁ) or even falling yo so. I guess it’s a combination of tones and musicality; I understand that Thai melodies do the same thing.

That’s the /ə/ in my example, but I’m not really sure of the rules for it, except that it’s sometimes used for a short /a/.

This has come up before, but I can’t remember what the original of it is. But no, so far as I know, it’s not a Pali feature.

I was not expecting that, extra points for the combination of both obscurity + technical precision!

Thanks, I didn’t know this. In Thailand, also, there are of course Pali experts who are perfectly familiar with the “correct” pronunciation, although I can’t say I’ve ever heard them use it in chanting.

One of the main inspirations of the Mahasangiti edition on which we rely at SuttaCentral was to try to correct the Thai pronunciation. It’s why the text was made available only in Romanized form, and they published extensive guides on correct pronunciation.

Nice, thanks!

I’ll add the new versions to the OP.


Most people who’ve produced IPA charts of the Pali or Sanskrit sounds have represented ra as a postalveolar trill, [r], which is by far the commonest of the IPA’s 119 rhotic sounds, occurring in 44% of the world’s languages. Others have proposed the postalveolar tap, [ɾ], which is the second most common, occurring in 26% of languages.

The problem with these proposals is that they don’t conform to the native grammars’ classification of ra as a voiced retroflex consonant.

The third most common of the IPA’s rhotics is the voiced retroflex approximant, [ɻ], found in 10% of languages. I once conjectured that this might be ra, but then I found that this sound features chiefly in Aboriginal Australian languages and in India is seldom met with outside of the Dravidian languages of the far south.


So now I’m inclined to agree with the Sanskritists Ulrich Stiehl and Madhav Deshpande’s positing of the retroflex flap, [ɽ], as the best candidate. Though only present in 6% of the world’s languages it enjoys a strong presence throughout India. Sadly, its representation in European languages is limited to Trøndersk, a despised sociolect of Urban East Norwegian.


And here’s how it sounds…


Indonesian: Buddhang saranang gacchaami

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Delightfully precise and obscure as always! I’m sure @Brahmali will have an opinion about Trøndersk—is that like Norewegian Cockney or something?

I’ll try to say my /r/s like this in future.

I was chanting with the good folk at Dharma Sukha in Jakarta last night and trying to figure this out! A couple of questions.

I often hear in Indonesian chanting that they get the vowel sounds right, but don’t respect the vowel length. This is something that’s usually quite accurate in Thai chanting; of course, Thai has distinct letters for long and short vowels. I’m guessing Indonesian doesn’t. So you commonly hear something like:

  • Buddhang saaranang gacchaami

I’m wondering whether this is a normal feature of Indonesian Pali pronunciation, or if it’s just a distortion introduced by the rhythm of the chanting. In ordinary speech, would the vowel length be respected?

Second question, you’ve spelled the voiced aspirant /dh/ in buddhang, but the chart of Indonesian consonants doesn’t have any such consonant. In fact there are no aspirated consonants at all.

Normally if a sound is not found in the local language it’s not pronounced colloquially in Pali either, so I suspect /dh/ should just be a normal /d/. In addition, there’s no aspirated /ch/ sound in Bahasa, so I suspect that the /ch/ sound in Pali would be pronounced /t͡ʃ/, similar to /c/ in Pali (/จ/ in Thai).

(In Pali/Sanskrit, the letters /c/ and /ch/ both represent something like the English /ch/ as in “channel”, but /c/ lacks aspiration, i.e. there is no puff of air, while /ch/ has aspiration.)

I tried to listen for these details last night, but the sound over zoom wasn’t good enough!

If I’m right about these points, it would become:

Buddang saaranang gaccaami


Trøndersk is a regional dialect of central Norway, not a sociolect. It is spoken in Trondheim and the surrounding county of Trøndelag:


Could it be a sociolect within Trøndelag? Like everywhere, there is a range of class-based dialects in Trøndelag, some of which traditionally have been considered “less refined” than others. It might well be that this r sound belongs to a lower socio-economic group.


It seems I misremembered. It’s not so much the dialect but just the retroflex flap that’s despised in some circles:

The retroflex flap, [ɽ], colloquially known to Norwegians as tjukk l (‘thick l’), is a Central Scandinavian innovation that exists in Eastern Norwegian (including Trøndersk), the southmost Northern dialects, and the most eastern Western Norwegian dialects. It is supposedly non-existent in most Western and Northern dialects. Today there is doubtlessly distinctive opposition between /ɽ/ and /l/ in the dialects that do have /ɽ/, e.g. gard /ɡɑːɽ/ ‘farm’ and gal /ɡɑːl/ ‘crazy’ in many Eastern Norwegian dialects. Although traditionally an Eastern Norwegian dialect phenomenon, it was considered vulgar, and for a long time it was avoided. Nowadays it is considered standard in the Eastern and Central Norwegian dialects, but is still clearly avoided in high-prestige sociolects or standardized speech.

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Thank you for sharing with us last night, Bhante… :grin::pray:

You right, but not only vowels, sometimes they misread consonants too. Tbh many Indonesian people didn’t know how to read Pali, and many of us still using Tridharma style to chant the paritta (It’s sounds like singing for me).

They chant like:

Buudhang Saaranang Gacchaami

Meanwhile some of Theravada Vihara have already teach how to read Pali properly, but in reality, we still can found misread like you said. I guess it’s because Tridharma style influence.


Yes, as Indonesian I agree this pronunciation is commonly chanted in Indonesian monasteries here. Sound of “dh” and “ch” is pronounced the same as “d” and “c”, eg. Buddha become Budda or Buda, Dhamma/Dharma become Dama/Darma.

Just a little remark here, that the term “Bahasa” which is commonly used to refer to Indonesian language is not a proper form because “Bahasa” means “language” in Indonesian and refers to all language and is not specific to Indonesian language alone. The proper form is “Bahasa Indonesia”, but perhaps it is too long to spell so they used the term “Bahasa”. This is evident in electronic devices eg. TVs, DVD Players, mobile phones, etc. which use the abbreviated form “Bahasa” because it is more saving space. But to avoid confusion, it is recommended to use the term “Bahasa Indonesia” (or just English term “Indonesian” like one used in SC site language selector) :grin:


Thank you, yes, I was being lazy!

And you know this already, but for those who don’t, bahasa is the Pali/Sanskrit bhāsā, which is also found as phāsā in Thai.


On lazy days better to write ‘BI’. You will thus know what ‘BM’ is.

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