From the foregoing it is clear that Sanskrit has the "f" sound. In fact there is no sound vocalised by humans that is not present in that language. "Zha" is not, as is usually imagined, unique to Tamil. It exists in the Vedic language which is the source of Sanskrit. The "da" in the Yajurveda has to be pronounced as "zha" in the corresponding passages in the Samaveda. In the Rgveda also in some places the "da" has to be similarly pronounced. The very first word in the first sukta of the Rigveda, "Agnimile", has to be pronounced almost as "Agnimizhe" - not a full "zhe" for "le", but almost.

There is a sound very close to "zha" in French. But neither in that language nor in Sanskrit is there a separate letter to represent that sound. "Ja" and "ga" serve the purpose of"zha" in French. In Sanskrit "la" serves the same purpose

(I am told there is "zha" in Chinese. )

The three-dot symbol in Tamil, called "aytam", is present in Sanskrit also. There is a Panini sutra, "h kap pauc". According to it, if a visarga comes before a word beginning with "ka"(Ramah + Karunakarah), it will not have the sound of "h", as mentioned before, but of "h" in the "aytam". Here it is the visarga that is the aytam that becomes the "f" before "pa-kara".

Ramah + panditah =Rama f panditah. This "f" sound is called "upatmaniya". "Tma" suggests the sound created by blowing the pipe to build the kitchen fire. When you blow thus you get the "f" sound. The initial letter of the English word "flute" is "f", is it not?

One more point about "fa". We generally pronounce "fa" as "pa". But it would be wrong to think that we[ in the South] pronounce coffee as "kapi" in the same way. In Sanskrit "kapisa" means dark brown - that is the colour of coffee powder. Our kapisa is the white man's coffee.

What Tamils call kurriyalukaram is present in Sanskrit also -r and l. People write both "Rigveda" and "Rugveda" - the first letter of the word is neither "Ri" nor "Ru". It represents in fact the Kurriyalukara sound. It is between "u" and "i". We write "Krishna" in Roman. In the North some people write the same as "Krushna". It is amusing to listen to Andhras pronouncing "hrdayam" as "hrudayam". Both the "ra-kara" and "la-kara" of Sanskrit have vocalic forms. But in "la-kara" the vocalic form comes only in conjunction with another consonant. In the ra-kara vocalic form we have examples like "Rg", "rsi"; in the "la-kara" vocalic form we have "klpta".

In Sanskrit the vocalic "r" and "l" are not included among the consonants but regarded as vowels: a, a, u, u, i, i, r, l, e, ai, o, au, am, ah.

There is no short "e" or "o" in Sanskrit. I felt this to be a minus point for that language. Parasakti, the Supreme Goddess, is the personification of all sounds. So should there not be all sounds in a language (like Sanskrit)? Why should it lack these two sounds (short "e" and short "o")? On going through Patanjali's commentary on the sutras of Panini, I discovered that Sanskrit too had these short vowels and it was a comforting discovery. Patanjali says that, in chanting the Satyamugri and Ranayaniya Sakhas of the Samaveda the short "e" and "o" are used.

Thus Sanskrit embraces all sounds. It has also a script in which the sound of every letter is determined with the utmost accuracy.

A special feature of our language is that each syllable of every word is pronounced distinctly. Take the English word "world". The sound of the first syllable has no clear form; it is neither "we" nor "wo". Then the letter "r" is slurred over. There are many such indistinct words in foreign tongues. They come under the category of "avyakta-sabda" (indistinct sounds). In our country all languages are "spasta"(clear and distinct).

In the languages of many other countries there is no accord between spelling and pronunciation. For the sound of "ka" there are three letters in English "k", "c" and "q". Such is not the case with our languages. The "f" sound in English is represented in three different ways as illustrated in the words "fairy", "philosophy", "rough". When you say "c" as a letter of the English alphabet, it sounds like a "sa-kara" letter, but many words with the initial letter "c" have the "ka-kara" sound. The "sa-kara" sound occurs only in a few words like "cell", "celluloid", "cinema". The spelling is totally unrelated to the pronunciation as in "station" and "nation".

The Roman alphabet has only 26 letters and is easy to learn. The alphabets of our languages have more letters and are comparatively difficult to learn. But, once you have learned them, our languages are easier to read and write than their European counterparts. Take English, for instance. Even a person who has passed his M. A. has often to consult the dictionary for spelling and pronunciation.

But among Indian languages themselves Sanskrit is the best in the matter of spelling and pronunciation. By saying this I do not mean that the languages of other countries are inferior to ours. At the same time, so far as our own country is concerned, I do not wish to downgrade other tongues in comparison with Sanskrit. I merely mentioned some facts to underline the point that Sanskrit fully represents the Supreme Being manifested as the Sabda-brahman.

If we develop the attitude that all languages are our common heritage, we will not run down other people's tongues. We often forget the fact that the purpose of language, any language, is communication, exchange of ideas. It is our failure to recognise this basic fact that is the cause of fanatical attachment to our mother tongue and hatred of other languages. We are often asked to be broad-minded and to develop an international outlook, but in the matter of language we remain narrow-minded. I feel sad when I think of it.

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