synopsis of the phonological rules for
Transforming Sanskrit into Pāḷi

A synopsis of the phonological rules for transforming Sanskrit into Pāḷi.

from Wikipedia
(retrieved, August 1st, 2018)

Vowels and Diphthongs

Consonants

Epenthesis

Other Changes

Pāḷi and Old-Indic Equivalence

 

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Pāḷi and Sanskrit are very closely related and the common characteristics of Pāḷi and Sanskrit were always easily recognized by those who are familiar with both. Indeed, a very large proportion of Pāḷi and Sanskrit word-stems are identical in form, differing only in details of inflection.

Technical terms from Sanskrit were converted into Pāḷi by a set of conventional phonological transformations. These transformations mimicked a subset of the phonological developments that had occurred in Proto-Pāḷi. Because of the prevalence of these transformations, it is not always possible to tell whether a given Pāḷi word is a part of the old Prakrit lexicon, or a transformed borrowing from Sanskrit.

However, the existence of a Sanskrit word regularly corresponding to a Pāḷi word is not always secure evidence of the Pāḷi etymology, since, in some cases, artificial Sanskrit words were created by back-formation from Prakrit words.

The following phonological processes are not intended as an exhaustive description of the historical changes which produced Pāḷi from its Old Indic ancestor, but rather are a summary of the most common phonological equations between Sanskrit and Pāḷi, with no claim to completeness.

Vowels and Diphthongs

Sanskrit ai and au always monophthongize to Pāḷi e and o, respectively

Examples:

maitrī → mettā
auṣadha → osadha

Sanskrit aya and ava likewise often reduce to Pāḷi e and o

Examples:

dhārayati → dhāreti
avatāra → otāra
bhavati → hoti

Sanskrit avi becomes Pāḷi e (i.e. avi → ai → e)

Example:

sthavira → thera

Sanskrit appears in Pāḷi as a, i or u, often agreeing with the vowel in the following syllable. also sometimes becomes u after labial consonants.

Examples:

kta → kata
tṣṇa → taṇha
smti → sati
ṣi → isi
dṣṭi → diṭṭhi
ddhi → iddhi
ju → uju
spṣṭa → phuṭṭha
vddha → vuddha

Sanskrit long vowels are shortened before a sequence of two following consonants.

Examples:

kṣānti → khanti
rājya → rajja
īśvara → issara
tīrṇa → tiṇṇa
pūrva → pubba

Consonants

Sound changes

The Sanskrit sibilants ś, , and s merge as Pāḷi s

Examples:

śaraṇa → saraṇa
doṣa → dosa

The Sanskrit stops and ḍh become and ḷh between vowels (as in Vedic)

Examples:

cakravāḍa → cakkavāḷa
virūḍha → virūḷha

Assimilations, General Rules

Many assimilations of one consonant to a neighboring consonant occurred in the development of Pāḷi, producing a large number of geminate (double) consonants. Since aspiration of a geminate consonant is only phonetically detectable on the last consonant of a cluster, geminate kh, gh, ch, jh, ṭh, ḍh, th, dh, ph and bh appear as kkh, ggh, cch, jjh, ṭṭh, ḍḍh, tth, ddh, pph and bbh, not as khkh, ghgh etc.

When assimilation would produce a geminate consonant (or a sequence of unaspirated stop+aspirated stop) at the beginning of a word, the initial geminate is simplified to a single consonant.

Examples:

prāṇa → pāṇa (not ppāṇa)
sthavira → thera (
not tthera)
dhyāna → jhāna (
not jjhāna)
jñāti → ñāti (
not ññāti)

When assimilation would produce a sequence of three consonants in the middle of a word, geminates are simplified until there are only two consonants in sequence.

Examples:

uttrāsa → uttāsa (not utttāsa)
mantra → manta (
not mantta)
indra → inda (
not indda)
vandhya → vañjha (
not vañjjha)

The sequence vv resulting from assimilation changes to bb

Examples:

sarva → savva → sabba
pravrajati → pavvajati → pabbajati
divya → divva → dibba
nirvāṇa → nivvāṇa → nibbāna

Total Assimilation

Total assimilation, where one sound becomes identical to a neighboring sound, is of two types: progressive, where the assimilated sound becomes identical to the following sound; and regressive, where it becomes identical to the preceding sound.

Regressive Assimilations

Internal visarga assimilates to a following voiceless stop or sibilant

Examples:

duḥkta → dukkata
duḥkha → dukkha
duḥprajña → duppañña
niḥkrodha (=niṣkrodha) → nikkodha
niḥpakva (=niṣpakva) → nippakka
niḥśoka → nissoka
niḥsattva → nissatta

In a sequence of two dissimilar Sanskrit stops, the first stop assimilates to the second stop

Examples:

vimukti → vimutti
dugdha → duddha
utpāda → uppāda
pudgala → puggala
udghoṣa → ugghosa
adbhuta → abbhuta
śabda → sadda

In a sequence of two dissimilar nasals, the first nasal assimilates to the second nasal

Examples:

unmatta → ummatta
pradyumna → pajjunna

j assimilates to a following ñ (i.e., becomes ññ)

Examples:

prajñā → paññā
jñāti → ñāti

The Sanskrit liquid consonants r and l assimilate to a following stop, nasal, sibilant, or v

Examples:

mārga → magga
karma → kamma
varṣa → vassa
kalpa → kappa
sarva → savva → sabba

r assimilates to a following l

Examples:

durlabha → dullabha
nirlopa → nillopa

d sometimes assimilates to a following v, producing vvbb

Examples:

udvigna → uvvigga → ubbigga
dvādaśa → bārasa (
besides dvādasa)

t and d may assimilate to a following s or y when a morpheme boundary intervenes

Examples:

ut+sava → ussava
ud+yāna → uyyāna

Progressive Assimilations

Nasals sometimes assimilate to a preceding stop (in other cases epenthesis occurs)

Examples:

agni → aggi
ātman → atta
prāpnoti → pappoti
śaknoti → sakkoti

m assimilates to an initial sibilant

Examples:

smarati → sarati
smti → sati

Nasals assimilate to a preceding stop+sibilant cluster, which then develops in the same way as such clusters without following nasals

Examples:

tīkṣṇa → tikṣa → tikkha
lakṣmī → lakṣī →lakkhī

The Sanskrit liquid consonants r and l assimilate to a preceding stop, nasal, sibilant, or v

Examples:

prāṇa → pāṇa
grāma → gāma
śrāvaka → sāvaka
agra → agga
indra → inda
aśru → assu
pravrajati → pavvajati → pabbajati,

y assimilates to preceding non-dental/retroflex stops or nasals

Examples:

cyavati → cavati
jyotiṣ → joti
rājya → rajja
matsya → macchya → maccha
lapsyate → lacchyate → lacchati
abhyāgata → abbhāgata
ākhyāti → akkhāti
saṁkhyā → saṅkhā (
but also saṅkhyā)
ramya → ramma

y assimilates to preceding non-initial v, producing vvbb

Examples:

divya → divva → dibba
veditavya → veditavva → veditabba
bhāvya → bhavva → bhabba

y and v assimilate to any preceding sibilant, producing ss

Examples:

paśyati → passati
śyena → sena
aśva → assa
īśvara → issara
kariṣyati → karissati
tasya → tassa
svāmin → sāmī

v sometimes assimilates to a preceding stop

Examples:

pakva → pakka
catvāri → cattāri
sattva → satta
dhvaja → dhaja

Partial and Mutual Assimilation

Sanskrit sibilants before a stop assimilate to that stop, and if that stop is not already aspirated, it becomes aspirated; e.g. śc, st, ṣṭ and sp become cch, tth, ṭṭh and pph

Examples:

paścāt → pacchā
asti → atthi
stava → thava
śreṣṭha → seṭṭha
aṣṭa → aṭṭha
sparśa → phassa

In sibilant-stop-liquid sequences, the liquid is assimilated to the preceding consonant, and the cluster behaves like sibilant-stop sequences; e.g. str and ṣṭr become tth and ṭṭh

Examples:

śāstra → śasta → sattha
rāṣṭra → raṣṭa → raṭṭha

t and p become c before s, and the sibilant assimilates to the preceding sound as an aspirate (i.e., the sequences ts and ps become cch)

Examples:

vatsa → vaccha
apsaras → accharā

A sibilant assimilates to a preceding k as an aspirate (i.e., the sequence kṣ becomes kkh)

Examples:

bhikṣu → bhikkhu
kṣānti → khanti

Any dental or retroflex stop or nasal followed by y converts to the corresponding palatal sound, and the y assimilates to this new consonant, i.e. ty, thy, dy, dhy, ny become cc, cch, jj, jjh, ññ; likewise ṇy becomes ññ. Nasals preceding a stop that becomes palatal share this change.

Examples:

tyajati → cyajati → cajati
satya → sacya → sacca
mithyā → michyā → micchā
vidyā → vijyā → vijjā
madhya → majhya → majjha
anya → añya → añña
puṇya → puñya → puñña
vandhya → vañjhya → vañjjha → vañjha

The sequence mr becomes mb, via the epenthesis of a stop between the nasal and liquid, followed by assimilation of the liquid to the stop and subsequent simplification of the resulting geminate.

Examples:

āmra → ambra → amba
tāmra → tamba

Epenthesis

An epenthetic vowel is sometimes inserted between certain consonant sequences. As with , the vowel may be a, i, or u, depending on the influence of a neighboring consonant or of the vowel in the following syllable. i is often found near i, y, or palatal consonants; u is found near u, v, or labial consonants.

Sequences of stop + nasal are sometimes separated by a or u

Example:

ratna → ratana
padma → paduma (u
influenced by labial m)

The sequence sn may become sin initially

Examples:

snāna → sināna
sneha → sineha

i may be inserted between a consonant and l

Examples:

kleśa → kilesa
glāna → gilāna
mlāyati → milāyati
ślāghati → silāghati

An epenthetic vowel may be inserted between an initial sibilant and r

Example:

śrī → sirī

The sequence ry generally becomes riy (i influenced by following y), but is still treated as a two-consonant sequence for the purposes of vowel-shortening

Examples:

ārya → arya → ariya
sūrya → surya → suriya
vīrya → virya → viriya

a or i is inserted between r and h

Example:

arhati → arahati
garhā → garahā
barhiṣ → barihisa

There is sporadic epenthesis between other consonant sequences

Examples:

caitya → cetiya (not cecca)
vajra → vajira (
not vajja)

Other Changes

Any Sanskrit sibilant before a nasal becomes a sequence of nasal followed by h, i.e. ṣṇ, sn and sm become ṇh, nh, and mh

Examples:

tṣṇa → taṇha
uṣṇīṣa → uṇhīsa
asmi → amhi

The sequence śn becomes ñh, due to assimilation of the n to the preceding palatal sibilant

Example:

praśna → praśña → pañha

The sequences hy and hv undergo metathesis

Examples:

jihvā → jivhā
ghya → gayha
guhya → guyha

h undergoes metathesis with a following nasal

Example:

ghṇāti → gaṇhāti

y is geminated between e and a vowel

Examples:

śreyas → seyya
Maitreya → Metteyya

Voiced aspirates such as bh and gh on rare occasions become h

Examples:

bhavati → hoti
-ebhiṣ → -ehi
laghu → lahu

Dental and retroflex sounds sporadically change into one another

Examples:

jñāna → ñāṇa (not ñāna)
dahati → ḍahati (
besides Pāḷi dahati)
nīḍa → nīla (
not nīḷa)
sthāna → ṭhāna (
not thāna)
duḥkta → dukkaṭa (
besides Pāḷi dukkata)

Exceptions

There are several notable exceptions to the rules above; many of them are common Prakrit words rather than borrowings from Sanskrit.

ārya → ayya (besides ariya)
guru → garu (adj.) (
besides guru (n.))
puruṣa → purisa (
not purusa)
vkṣa → rukṣa → rukkha (
not vakkha)

 

Pāḷi and Old-Indic Equivalence

(based on von Achim Fahs, Grammatik des Pali, Leipzig, 1985
and compiled by the Pali Yahoo Group)

Beginning of a word

In the middle of a word

a-o

a

a

a, ā, 


a

a, 

i

i, 


i

i, 

u

u, 


u

u, 

e

e, i


e

e, ai

o

o, u, ava, apa


o

o, au








ṁkh

ṁkhy, msk




ṁp

ṁpr




ṁs

śm



k



k

kr


kiy

ky

kir

kr


kk

kn, ky, kr, kṣ, kv, kl, ṭk, tk, rk, lk

kil

kl


kkh

kṣ, kṣm, kṣy, khy, tkh, rk, ṣk, ṣkr

kur

kr






kh



kh

kṣ, khy, sk


kh

kṣ




khin

kṣn




khum

kṣim




khiy

khy



g



g

gr


gg

gn, gy, gr, ḍg, dg, rg, lg

gil

gl


ggh

ghn, ghr, gr, dkṣ, dgh, rgh








ṅk

ṁsk, ṅks, mk




ṅkh

ṁkh



c



c

kṣ, cy, ty


cc

cy, tc, ty, rc, rty

ch

kṣ, ps


ch

tch




cch

kṣ, cchr, ts, tsy, thy, ds, ps, rch, śc, skṣ



j



j

jy, jv, dy


jir

jr

jiy

jy


jj

gj, jy, dj, dy, bj, rj, rjy, rdy

jh

dhy


jjh

jhy, dhy



ñ



ñ

jñ, ny


ñc

nty




ñj

ñjy




ññ

jñ, ñc, ṇy, ny, mjn, my




ñh

śn





ṭh

sth


ṭṭ

rt




ṭṭh

ṣṭr








ḍḍ

ḍy, rd




ḍḍh

dhy, rdh, ht




ḍh

ht











ṇṭh

ṁsth, ṁṭh




ṇḍ

ṁḍ




ṇṇ

ñc, ṇḍ, ṇv, rṇ




ṇṇiy

rṇy




ṇh

ṅks, tsṇ, rṣṇ, ṣṇ, hṇ



t



t

tr, tv


tt

kt, ktr, tn, tm, ttr, tr, ttv, tv, pt, rt, str

tuv

tv


ttiy

tby

th

st, sth, str, ts


tth

kth, gth, tr, thn, rth, str




ty

tvy




tr

ttr




tv

ktv, ptv



d



d

jy, dv


diy

dy

duv

dv


dd

jv, dm, dv, dr, dl, bd, rd

dh

dhv, dhr


ddh

gdh, dhn, dhv, d+h, dhr, bdh, bdhv, rdh, rdhv, ht

dhum

dhm






n



nsh

sn


nt

ntr, mtr, mt

nh

sn


nd

ndr




nn

nc, dn, nm, nv



p



p

pr, pl


pp

tp, pn, py, rp, lp, spr

pal

pl


ppil

tpl

pil

pl


pl

tpl

ph

pr, sp, sph


pph

sph



b



b

dv


bb

ḍv, dh, dv, rb, rv, lb, lv, vy, vr

by

vy


bbh

gbh, dbh, bhy, bhr, rbh, rdhv, lbh

bh

bhr






m



m

mr, śm


m

rm

mil

ml


mb

mr, ṁb

mih

sm


mbil

ml




mm

km, dm, nv, mn, mb, my, rm, lm, ṁm




mh

rṣm, śm, ṣm, sm, hm



y






y

ry




yir

ry




yy

dy, ry, hy




yh

hy



r



r

hr


r

ry, rr, mr

rh

hr


riy

ry



l






ll

rl, ly, lv, ml




.lh

ht



v



v

vy, vr


vh

hv

viy

vy






s



s

śm, śy, śr, śl, śv, sm, sr, sv


s

rṣ, sr

sin

sn


sin

tsn

siy

sy


sir

cchr

sir

śr


st

str

sil

śl


sv

stv

sum

sm


ss

cchr, rś, rṣ, rṣy, śy, śr, śv, ṣm, ṣy, sr, sv, hśr, ts, ds

suv

śv, sv






h



h

hr


h

d+h, rh, ṣy, sy

han

hn




har

hr




hiy

hy




hiyy

hy




hir

hr




hil

hl