Recordings of Pali proper names

Tags: #<Tag:0x00007fc7ae97ef28>


Here is the beginning of a collection of recordings of Pali proper names and untranslated Pali words in the text.

So far it has about 150 recordings. The plan is to finish words used in the Majjhima Nikaya, then move to the Digha and the others. The recordings are by native Sinhala speakers.

The immediate motivation is the wonderful Sutta recording projects that are happening. I’ve noticed that they could use some Pali pronunciation support. So here it is.

I’m also motivated by the growing number of lay Dhamma teachers who are using the suttas in their teachings. Most of them, I think, are learning the suttas on their own and therefore lack the experience of hearing the correct pronunciations.

But my real hope for the resource is that it helps people to feel at home in the suttas. If one feels hesitant about saying the Pali names, etc. I think there is a degree of separation from the teachings. I hope that from reading the suttas that the people in them become close friends and kalyanamittas. And it’s a little awkward when you can’t pronounce your friends names. :slight_smile:

I’m posting it here now hoping people could provide feedback. Eventually I will probably break up letters into their own pages, but for now it is easier to deal with a single page. I also eventually plan to create a zip file with all the recordings for folks to download.


It seems that the short “a” at the end of words (e.g. in nibbāna) is consistently pronounced as /ə/ (Schwa - Wikipedia) in Sinhala. Is this how the Pāli should ideally be pronounced?


Or is it more ⋀, further back in the mouth than schwa, as in English ‘but’?

& - just for interest - how much does the pronunciation of Pali vary between Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand?

This sounds like a valuable resource. Sadhu sadhu sadhu.
The syllables are fabulously clear.


The consonants, how a Thai person will articulate them, can be very different sounding. Bhagavā can come out sounding like “Pekawa.” These diverse pronunciations are much like how Church Latin is pronounced it seems.


As far as I know, the ancient linguists did not describe this phenomenon, so I assume it is a feature of Sinhalese pronunciation. But I have never studied it closely.


Vowel sounds are very tricky to talk about. And using English words as examples is not very useful as there is such a wide variety of ways that English is pronounced. With consonants there is an actual touching in the mouth, so it is easier to describe. With vowels, there is a position where they happen, but so much else can be going on. As I understand, the ancient grammars say that the “a” sound is farthest back, followed by e, i, o, and u at the lips. But so much else can be happening that’s hard to describe exactly. And frankly I feel that these subtleties are not of any real value for communication or understanding.

That’s why I thought a resource like this would be helpful. I’m using the voice of Sinhala speakers because there is general agreement that their pronunciation is closest to what the ancients described.