Word stress in spoken Pali prose

I am rather in need of help and have failed to find it after a search of the documentation. So if anyone has time to offer some advice I’d be really grateful. :pray:

I’m studying the following from : A Guide to the Parsing of Pali .

“ An open syllable is one in which the syllable ends in a vowel (it is light in weight). A closed syllable ends in either a consonant or a niggahīta (ṁ) (it is heavy in weight [bolded below]). …

  1. a syllable followed by another vowel or by a single consonant is open and divided after the vowel, e.g. mā-tā-pi-tu-u-paṭ-ṭhā-naṁ, vi-ha-ra-ti

  2. a syllable followed by a double consonant is closed and divided after the first consonant, e.g. -ña-ta-rā, sā-vat-thi-yaṁ

  3. niggahīta (ṁ) is always joined to the previous vowel and the syllable is closed, e.g. taṁ, e-vaṁ, su-taṁ

  4. sarabhatti vowels (written here in superscript a i u) are elided, e.g. ariya > ar-ya, viriyaṁ > vir-yaṁ, sac-chi-kir,sup>iyā > sac-chi-kir-yā.”

and trying to apply its principles to the underlining in the SC legacy texts, eg

I imagined that if I could do this, I would be able to get a handle onto how to stress spoken prose in the suttas, but I am failing to even begin.


  1. Is this a completely misguided experiment, or should I persist? How?
  2. Is there a better way I go about finding a way to read this sutta aloud (ie not chant it)?
  3. Does someone remember what considerations were applied when the underlining was originally applied to the Legacy texts?
  4. Why was the underlining not carried over into the current SC?

Many thanks :pray:


Can’t one figure out what words would be underlined just by looking to see if they have a long vowel or double consonant?

For me personally I find a lot of these discussions about Pali pronunciation to be a bit obsessive. It’s not like we are trying to blend in with an existing group of native speakers.

But I guess everyone has their own thing.

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I don’t know; I’d like to know if it can successfully be as simple as that. But it’s clearly not what was done when the legacy texts were underlined.

Hmm. I must be missing something. I read through and syllables are only underlined when there is a long vowel, double consonant, or an extra nasal. Are we talking about two different things?


I’m the one missing stuff … that was why I asked for help. :upside_down_face: :thinking: :upside_down_face: (Geriatric mind at work maybe.)

I now see that double consonants are not within syllables, but actually straddle two syllables. :sweat_smile: … So #2 is poorly expressed and would better read “a syllable ending in a consonant, if that consonant is followed by another …” And closed syllables are heavy/stressed (though Ayya @Suvira would consider this slightly simplistic).

@Snowbird, thank you very much for your help.
I greatly appreciate it. :pray:


Noooooo…heavy syllables are not the same thing as stressed syllables.


But they are related, right?

Like, a syllable can be stressed by being elongated (“tAble”?) though sometimes the stressed syllable is not the long vowel (“banana” = /bəˈnɑː.nə/?)

Am I understanding this correctly?

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