Four Noble Truths
Noble Eightfold Path
About Pali text and
In this transcription, Pali diacritical
marks are represented using plain ASCII characters according to a convention
widely used on the Internet by Pali students and scholars. Long vowels (those
usually typeset with a bar above them) are doubled: aa ii uu . For
consonants, the diacritic mark precedes the letter it affects. Thus, the
retroflex (cerebral) consonants (usually typeset with a dot underneath) are: .r
.t .th .d .dh .n .m .s .l . The guttural nasals (m or n
with a dot above) are represented by "m and "n
The palatal nasal is represented here as ~n .
Paali is the original language of the Theravadin
Buddhist scriptures, the closest we have to the dialect spoken by the Buddha
himself. It has no written script of its own, and so every country that has
adopted Theravada Buddhism has used its own script to transcribe it. In Thailand
this has meant that Paali has picked up some of the tones of the Thai language,
as each consonant and consonant cluster in the Thai alphabet has a built-in tone
-- high, medium, low, rising, or falling. This accounts for the characteristic
melody of Thai Paali chanting.
Paali has two sorts of vowels, long --
aa, e, ii, o, uu, and ay; and short -- a, i, and u. Unlike long and
shorts vowels in English, the length here refers to the actual amount of time
used to pronounce the vowel, and not to its quality. Thus aa and a
are both pronounced like the a in father, simply that the sound aa
is held for approximately twice as long as the sound a. The same
principle holds for ii and i, and for uu and u.
Thus, when chanting Paali, the vowels are pronounced as follows:
a as in father
o as in go
e as in they
u as in glue
i as in machine
ay as in Aye!
Consonants are generally pronounced as they are
in English, with a few unexpected twists:
c as in ancient
p unaspirated, as in spot
k unaspirated, as in skin
ph as in upholstery
kh as in backhand
t unaspirated, as in stop
"m and "n as ng
th as in Thomas
~n as in canyon
v as w
Certain two-lettered notations -- bh, dh,
.dh, gh, jh -- denote an aspirated sound, somewhat in the throat, that we do
not have in English and that the Thais do not have in their language, either.
The Thai solution to this problem is to pronounce bh as a throaty ph,
dh as a throaty th, and gh as a throaty kh.
Paali also contains retroflex consonants,
indicated with a dot under the letter: .d, .dh, .l, .n, .t, .th. These
have no English equivalent. They are sounded by curling the tip of the tongue
back against the palate, producing a distinct nasal tone.
The meters of Paali poetry consists of various
patterns of full-length syllables alternating with half-length syllables.
contain a long vowel (aa, e, ii, o, uu, ay); or
end with "m; or
end with a consonant followed by a syllable beginning with a consonant (e.g.,
Bud-dho, Dham-mo, Sa"n-gho).
In this last case, the consonant clusters
mentioned above -- bh, dh, .dh, gh, jh, kh, ph, th, .th -- count as single
consonants, while other combinations containing h -- such as lh and mh count