The Four Semi Vowels ya ra la va

A semivowel (antahstha) arises when one of the basic vowels moves to the a sound: i moving to a gives rise to the sound ya, similarly, r moving to a produces ra, 1 to a produces la, and u to a produces va. As a moving to a will not produce a new sound, there are only four semivowels. These are considered to be between vowels and consonants, and so are called antahstha ('stand between'), and are naturally voiced (ghosa). They are formed by slight contact (Tsatsprsta), and thus allow a restricted flow of air through the mouth.

kanthya guttural

talava palatal

murdhanya cerebral

dantya dental

osthya labial





The first three of these, ya ra and la, are similar to the English sounds in 'yum', 'rum', and 'luck', but do pay attention to the mouth position. The derivation of the last semivowel (antahstha), although transliterated as va, produces a sound akin to the English 'wa': this latter pronunciation accords with the grammatical tradition and makes the rules of sandhi (euphonic combination) easier to grasp. Other traditions pronounce this as the English 'va', in which case its mouth position, making use of both teeth and lips is called dantostya.

In the alphabetical order, these follow after the twenty-five stops, i.e. :

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