Pali Pronunciation group

I would appreciate a topic section to answer questions about pali pronunciation. I am really interested in pronouncing as well as possible. I appreciate the variations among countries but would like to comprehend the difference between Thai/Lao/Burmese/Sinhalese style pronunciation which is internally consistent vs. simple bad pronunciation.

Also to collect some examples of nice cadence (that is, tunes) for chanting. Also some good tunes for chanting in English.

Here are some specific questions:

We cannot hear anyone pronouncing a real palatal c ch j jh. Can anyone offer recorded examples, and also how it is produced?

In Thai style, very widely imitated, they chant: namo, tassaa, bhagavato, arahato, sammaa, and then double speed, sabudhasa. But on certain occasions, the Thai monks chant the line rather slowly with gaps between syllables and with very correct metre. What is the occasion for the different pronunciations?

Why in Thai style is the compound word añjalikaraṇīyo is pronounced añjalīkaraṇīyo. [Do the diacritics come through?]

I have heard in the common meal blessing the compound sabbabuddhānubhāvena pronounced as sabbābuddhānubhāvena. Is the latter a normal pronuncation in any country or just someone’s individual habit?

If questions like this are interesting to you please let know!


I am glad to see this topic. I am not going to hijack but want to mention a side issue. (Please make this a separate thread if it generates a discussion.)

Authors whose books are available on audible, or are read by text to speech, do not always have good Pali pronounciation. The actors hired to read them do their best, but I urge authors to check quality, reviewers to comment on quality, and consumers to ask for quality.

I also wonder - can text to speech Pali pronunciation be coded for general use? is anyone working on that yet? Is anyone making or getting or promoting funding for this?

May all beings achieve liberation. And good Pali pronunciation!

1 Like

Probably all AV with particularly good Pali pronunciation can be flagged?

Sobhana, ty for this thread.

1 Like

Dear Ayya,

You might find this site helpful. There is a sophisticated guide to Pali pronunciation.


@Vimala Thank you for sharing! I wasn’t able to get the audio to work on the Dhamma Society website??? I just also wanted to mention some things about palatals- I’m sorry if it’s a little technical, but without being technical, it’s not possible to really understand what is going on with this row.

You can hear examples for the palatal row via Richard Woodward’s (SOAS) Devanagari Script Tutor at Hindi Script Tutor Although you will have to put up with Devanagari. Click consonants- row 2 (ca varga/vagga beginning with च) and then the audio on the RHS for the palatals. You can see from the diagram at Sanskrit Sounds that the palatal row is described as a stop (obstruction of airflow) made by pressing the top (the tongue blade not the tip) of the tongue against the beginning of the hard palate. You can also hear these sounds by going to IPA pulmonic consonant chart with audio - Wikipedia and clicking /c/ and /ɟ/ (Sanskrit/Pali “c” and “j”). The aspirated equivalents, ch and jh, would be written as /cʰ/ and /ɟʱ/ in IPA. See also: Palatal stop - Wikipedia

The easiest way to deal with these sounds is just to substitute English /t͡ʃ/ ( like c in church, but w/o aspiration) and /d͡ʒ/ (the “j” in sledge) for c and j respectively. While this isn’t completely outrageous, these are “palatal-alveolar affricates” and not really palatal sounds.

Learning to make this sound properly is hard. English speakers may also be unable to perceive the distinction between c/j (both "c and “j” may be heard as “j” etc) and ch/jh, which is an additional barrier. This kind of perceptual barrier is very hard to cure, even with training (although you can try using the quizzes from the script tutor). I think if you can make the German sound /ç/ (the ch in “nicht”) File:De-nicht.ogg - Wikipedia it might be about the right position (but different manner of articulation). Also, these sounds exist in Sinhala ( ච (ca), ඡ (cha), ජ (ja), ඣ (jha), ඤ (ña) if that helps. Our Sinhalese-speaking friends are generally able to pronounce Pali very well so maybe you can get one to help you.:grinning::grinning::grinning:


Hello Aya,

Thanks for this post. :anjal:

I find these questions interesting, and I have one more that isn’t yet seen here or elsewhere in Suttacentral (but may be I just failed to find it):

How do we pronounce “v” in general, or if there are any rules.

Sometimes it feels like an english w (bhagava, svakkatho, savaka) and other times more like a v (possibly depending on the speaker - vijja, lokavidu).

Are the later incorrect pronnunications or are there special cases where v should be read like the “english” v?

The Sri Lankan monk who tried his best to correct my pali would say it as something between an English ‘v’ and ‘w’ sound. In Siṇhala it’s classed as a ‘glide’. A toothless’v’.
We, in turn, had to teach him to say ‘very well’. I just noticed, however, that in the link Ven. Vimala provided v is classed a labo-dental. This in my mind is closer to the English v. Both the Siṇhala and pali v are written in IPA as [ʋ] (audio inside link)

I have to admit I am guilty of chanting sabbābuddhānubhāvena :frowning: Thanks for pointing that one out Ayya :slight_smile:


Guide to Pāḷi Pronunciation - Dhamma Society is unfunctional for me. Very disappointing. I realize, sophisticated phonetic printed on the page, but i learn very much better by audible examples. Is this anywhere functional?

You could match the Dhamma Society guide to this interactive IPA chart or audtip is compiling audio recitation of all the suttas (Sri Lankan style Pāḷī)

1 Like

This is from Ajahn Brahmali’s classes:

1 Like

Pali comes in Sinhala accents and Thai accents. I wouldn’t worry unless it is to make it more pleasant to the person who is listening - more important is the meaning. Listening with the :brain: is more useful than the :ear:!

With metta


The recordings by Bhante Jiv that you can find here and on audiotip are great.

I’m not really sure, it seems to be just conventions that develop. Might they have originated in the reforms promulgated by Vajriavudh? When staying in a monastery you get used to chanting in the different ways in different contexts—like this at morning chanting; like that before the parittas; like the other at patimokkha—but I never heard any explanation why.

I’m not sure. In the Thai pronunciation of Pali, many details can be easily understood due to the specific spelling of words. For example, in añjali the j is pronounced ch in Thai, so they pronounce it the same way in Pali; only a Pali expert would know it is meant to be pronounced differently. Other features arise from the Thai tone system, which goes through a kind of loose interpretation to end up as the standard melody of Thai chanting; for example, a rising tone is not pronounced exactly as it is in Thai, but has a high tone with a bit of a swoop.

But once these features are accounted for, there are a bunch of other quirks that remain. Why is the second a in tassa pronounced long? Why do they say paṭīghasaññā in the Metta Sutta? I can only guess that such features arose as rhythmic quirks in certain recitation styles, perhaps from a misprint or mistake by the lead reciter, or else just as a communal sense that the rhythm worked better that way somehow.

Ahh, no. Please use the proper Unicode glyphs! :pray:

I have not heard that, we always get that one right. Yay us!

Oh, and I would love to do a nice Pali pronunciation guide for SC. But it would be a bit of work to make the audio files, write it up and so on. Anyway, maybe sometime in the future.


Learning the Pāli pronunciation with actual sound and know the places where the sound is produced.

Download the PDF file with Audio embedded:
Pāli Vaṇṇamālā (Pāli Alphabet) 21Mar2018 with Audio and Places of Articulation

For those who are not able to “Play Audio” on the above file, please download the below audio (mp3) file:
Pali pronunciation on 8 vowels 33 consonants.mp3


Thanks, the pictures with place of articulation are nice. But I can’t get the audio to play!

1 Like

Same here. :disappointed_relieved:

This is just the type of advice and resource links I had been seeking. What you describe for the palatal row is what we have been attempting.
As an Anglophone student without linguistic training, I still find it useful to place the tongue properly. Even if the sound is not perfect, it helps one to remember the spelling and meaning more accurately. Then later on, possible to create a more authentic sound.
Question: When you mention the “beginning” of the hard palate, does this mean closer to the teeth or closer to the throat?
Getting the dental row as a dental, not alveolar is another nicety that makes our pali sound more authentic to Indian and Sinhalese friends.

This is a nice example Sinhalese style chanting of Dhammapada by Ven Ariyadhamma Maha Thero. But I still cannot clearly hear the palatal row! Also there is the insertion of the extra “n” sound on some of the double consanants, “Manopub-m-baṅgamā dhammā, manoseṭ-n-ṭhā manomayā”


The links on this site for the audio chanting are bad, but I was able to retrieve some of them by searching in youtube.
Vaṭṭaka Paritta YouTube

Bojjhanga YouTube


Thank you for this kindness.

1 Like

Have added the audio (mp3) file on post #13.


Our English R is rather exotic and rare sound, internationally speaking. Did he have a difficult time?