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Every Little Helps

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Aspirates


Oxblog's Patrick Belton says:
HINDI GRAMMAR QUOTE OF THE DAY: If you want to request food, khana, the failure to produce aspiration will result in kana. That is, you will end up asking for a one-eyed person.
I would add: almost universally, a native English speaker will find it extremely difficult to say "kana" or any other unaspirated non-voiced consonant. He will have a similar (albeit somewhat lesser) difficulty in saying "dharma" or any other aspirated voiced consonant. In english, stand-alone voiced consonants are generally unaspirated and stand-alone unvoiced consonants are nearly always aspirated. A test? Hold a piece of paper in front of your mouth and say "pit" "bit" and "spit." The first "p" should make the paper move, while the "b" and "sp" likely will not (or at least not as much). So, what you need to worry about is describing a one-eyed man as food, not the other way around!

There is no distinction between "k" and "kh" or any other aspirate/non-aspirate pair in Tamil, my language of the moment, so this difficulty does not exist. (There are three l's and five n's, however, so difficulties aren't entirely avoided.) With this in mind, some North Indians have been known to say jubilantly that "Tamilians have no aspirations."

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