Kashmiri/Lesson 1

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Phonology and Alphabet[edit]

Kashmiri, like other languages, has some sounds in common with English. In case some sound in common to both English and Kashmiri, or the former has a sound approximately the same as a Kashmiri sound, a description is given in terms of the English sound. However, Kashmiri possesses a lot of sounds not found in English or other Indo-Aryan languages.

Just a heads up: there are some subtleties in the actual articulation of these sounds, but not knowing them initially won't reduce your level of intelligibility to a native speaker. These subtleties are covered progressively in upcoming lessons.

Vowels[edit]

This section covers vowels found in Kashmiri.

Kashmiri IPA Description Kashmiri
i /i/ A shorter variant of the long 'ee' sound. phirun 'to turn', kitaab 'book'
ee /iː/ Pronounced like the long 'ee' sound in feel, reel, and like the long 'ea' in sea. seer 'brick; secret', reeth 'tradition'
ú /ɨ/ Like the Russian ы sound. khúr 'slip', bú 'I', zú 'two'
ue /ɨː/ Same as above, but longer. Very rare. tuer 'cold (weather)', kkúesah 'how much (fem.)'
u /u/ A shorter variant of the long 'oo' sound. Approximately like the 'u' in put, wool, and foot. kul 'tree; entirety, total', tulun 'to pick up', şur 'child'
oo /uː/ Pronounced like the long 'oo' in cool, tool, and pool. koor 'daughter, girl', zoon 'moon; yolk of an egg', rood 'rain', loor 'stick'
e /e/ Similar to the short 'e' in bed, red, and fed. tre 'three', beni 'sister', me 'me'
ea /eː/ Similar to the long 'e' sound as in hate, bait, and fate, but without the final /ɪ/ like sound that English has. keal 'banana', near 'leave!'
á /ə/ The neutral schwa sound found in unstressed syllables in English words, such as about, around, and butter. dár 'strong, healthy (fem.)', nár 'arm', gár 'watch, clock'
ae /əː/ A longer schwa sound as in further, slurp, and turf. laer 'cucumber', daer 'window'
o /o/ A short 'o' sound. gond 'bouquet, bundle', gon 'dense, voluminous', nov 'new'
uo /oː/ A long 'o' sound, similar to that in American English home, boat, and Rome. Again, without the final /ʊ/ sound. puor 'a storey', muol 'father', ruov 'he was lost'
(au) /ɔː/ The English 'awe' sound. The existence of this sound is disputed. The only word supposed to have this sound is 'saud.' saud 'one and a quarter'
a /a/ A shorter variant of the long 'aa' sound. Very similar to the short 'u' in but, hut, and nut. kar 'do', rab 'mud', nab 'sky', lab 'wall'
aa /aː/ Pronounced like the long 'a' sound in car and spa. baar 'weight, load', naar 'fire', kaal 'time (in the abstract sense, often found in compound words relating to time)'
ay /ai/ Like the diphthong in English eye, and bye. pay 'knowledge', khay 'rust', yalay 'open'
aay /aːi/ Like ai but with a longer a sound. raay 'opinion', tsaay 'she entered', maay 'sticky substance'

Consonants[edit]

Kashmiri IPA Description Kashmiri
p /p/ Like the English 'p' but unaspirated, as in spin, and sport. parun 'to study, read', pal 'a huge rock'
ph /pʰ/ Like the English p-sound at the beginning of syllables and words, such as in pants, pull, and pups. Again, the English p-sound is aspirated in these examples. pharun 'to steal', phak 'odour'
(f) /f/ Like the English 'f' sound. This sound isn't native to Kashmiri, and is found in loanwords, mostly. However, a lot of speaker use this sound in alternation with the 'ph' sound. faraq 'difference', tafreek 'nuisance, annoyance', nafar 'person, man'
b /b/ Like the English 'b' sound as in boy, burn, and bus. basun 'to live, settle', bar 'door', buzun 'to roast'
m /m/ Like the English 'm' in mother, mat, and amuse. marun 'to die', maam 'uncle (mother's brother), gaam 'village'
v /ʋ/ Like the English 'v', but closer to the 'v' found in Indo-Aryan languages with little to no friction. Approximately like the sound in avian, have, and obvious. val 'come!', vaal 'a strand of hair, bodily hair', aav 'he came'
ch /t͡ʃʰ/ Like the English 'ch' sound in church, cheese, and chuck. chaan 'carpenter', chalun 'to wash', kach 'weed (the plants)'
c /t͡ʃ/ Like the unaspirated English 'ch' sound in British English stupid. camcú 'spoon', bicuor 'a hapless person'
j /d͡ʒ/ Like the English 'j' sound as in judge, Jupiter, and jerk. jang 'war', jahaaz 'airplane'
z / Like the English 'z' sound as in zoo, zen, and faze. zaalun 'to burn something', zyavun 'to be born', aaz 'today'
s / Like the English 's' sound as in some, sin, and simple. sraan 'bath', anun 'to bring', sar 'lake'
ş /ʃ/ Like the English 'sh' sound in fish, sheep, and ashes. şaal 'jackal', 'teardrop'
n /n/ Like the English 'n' in none, run, and lone. nuun 'salt', nanun '(for some fact) to be known', sanun 'to think about something deeply'
k /k/ Like the unaspirated English k sound in school, squat, and skid. kal 'head', kan 'ear', tsok 'sour, acid'
kh /kʰ/ Like the English k-sound at the beginning of syllables and words, such as in kill, crime, and cope. The English k-sound at the beginning of syllables has a puff of air called aspiration. In Kashmiri and other Indo-Aryan languages, most consonants come in pairs of aspirated and unaspirated. khar 'donkey', akh 'one', khanun 'to dig', kharun 'to dislike'
g /g/ Like the English 'g' sound in go, grumpy, and agony. galun 'for something to dissolve', gaalun 'to scold', gaav 'cow'
ng /ŋ/ Like the English 'ng' in sing, ring, and anger. rang 'colour', zang 'leg', ?şwangun 'sleep'
(q) /q/ A sound found in loanwords from Arabic. Pronounced as k or kh by most people. waqt 'time', qurbaan 'sacrifice'
(x) /x/ A sound found in loanwords from Arabic and Persian. Pronounced as k or kh by most people. xuda 'god', xaraab 'malfunctioning, bad (in character or function)'
l / Like the English l, but without the velarisation (raising of the back part of the tongue). al 'gourd', nal 'stem (of a leaf)', kul 'tree'
r Like the flap/tap common in Indo-Aryan languages. Not like the American r. raavun 'to become lost', hurun 'to add, increase', rab 'mud'
h / Like the English 'h' as in happen, hurt, and hogwash. hath 'hundred', haakh 'collard greens', vaakh 'a type of poetic meter'
ŧ /ʈ/ A hard 't' sound made by bending the tongue and raising it towards the roof of mouth. uoŧ 'flour', tsoŧ 'bread, roti; (he/she/we/they) cut', roŧ 'caught'
đ /ɖ/ Made in a similar fashion as the hard ŧ sound. Đal 'a popular lake in Srinagar', 'half (m.)', áđ 'half (f.)'
ŧh /ʈʰ/ The hard ŧ with aspiration. ŧhool 'egg', ŧhaanđú 'lid, cover', ŧhaanŧhur 'smith, metalworker'
y /j/ Like the English 'y' in yes, yellow, and ply. It is also used to indicate palatalisation of a preceding consonant. yalú 'open, unrestrained', yan 'since', yuor 'hither, here'
w /w/ Like the English 'w' in water, what, and wonder. However, the 'w' in Kashmiri doesn't occur at the beginning of a word, but only follows some consonant. kwakur 'cock', swa 'she', bwan 'down, below'

Palatalisation[edit]

Kashmiri, like Russian, possesses a set of palatalised consonants, which can be thought of as regular consonants but pronounced with the middle part of the tongue raised towards the roof of the mouth. Don't focus too hard on Russian, since there is a difference in Kashmiri and Russian palatalise their consonants. All consonants can be palatalised, except these: c, ch, j. These sounds are palatalised by definition, so they cannot be palatalised further.

Palatalisation is important in Kashmiri. In fact, palatalising a consonant can completely change the meaning of a word. In some cases, a word might exist with some consonant palatalised and not without palatalisation, and vice versa.

Examples

Non-palatalised Meaning Palatalised Meaning
kul tree kuly trees
al bottle gourd *aly not a word
koŧ boy káŧy boys
dor strong, hard, good (weather) dáry strong, hard, good (plural)
şur child, infant, baby şury children, babies, infants

As you can see, palatalisation plays an important part in forming plurals. However, there is more to palatalisation than just this specific use.

Palatalisation is indicated in this course in but the case of 'e' and 'i', both of which are considered to palatalise the preceding consonant in all cases. So, in beni 'sister(s)', the 'b' is palatalised due to being followed by an 'e' sound.