Where Buddhism Meets Gendlin

Month: July 2022

Language is Wilderness

Humans seem to miss that language is not created by culture. It’s nature (as us) which has generated language and culture. The following is a more elegant, robust view of the situation:

We can certainly say that the natural world (which includes human languages) is mannerly, shapely, coherent, and patterned according to its own devices. The four thousand or so languages of the world model reality each in their own way (following Whorfian theories of the deep effects of each language on world-view) — with patterns and syntaxes that were not invented or created by anyone — organically evolved wild systems whose complexity eludes the descriptive attempts of the rational mind.” – Gary Snyder, Language Goes Two Ways. Kyoto Journal. November 5, 2011

Aspirated consonants

NOTE Here’s a tip about saying ‘Theravada’ or tathāgata. (‘Theravāda,’ is the name for the most prominent surviving school of early Buddhism.) In these two words, there is a breathy (aspirated) ‘t,’ represented by the ‘th.’

The sounds ‘t’ and ‘th’ are two different sounds in Indian languages.

Notice, by the way, that no English speaker pronounces the ‘h’ in ‘Buddhism’ or ‘Buddha.’ (What would that be? Bud-d-hism? Bud-d-ha? No-one does that, right?) It’s the same with all aspirated consonants. It’s the same in the important Pāli word ‘Tathāgata.’

This ‘th’ in Pāli words is not pronounced like the English ‘th’ sound in ‘think,’ nor is it pronounced like the ‘th’ sound in ‘the,’ or ‘either.’ Another example, the sounds in ‘Thank you,’ and in ‘Though.’ Pāli doesn’t have these two sounds.

The ‘h’ here signifies that the dental ‘t’ sound has more breath in its articulation, than the ‘t’ without the ‘h.’ The ‘th’ sound is called an ‘aspirated’ sound.

For speakers of Indian languages, the sound differences between ‘t’ and ‘th’; ‘d’ and ‘dh’; ‘k’ and ‘kh’; ‘g’ and ‘gh’; ‘p’ and ‘ph’; and ‘b’ or ‘bh’ are easily discernable, while these differences are more easily lost upon an English speaker.

The second point of pronunciation is that the line over the top of the ‘a’ (a ‘macron’) makes the sound longer – so that ‘ā’ sounds like the ‘ar’ in ‘card,’ or in ‘are.’ This will change the syllable emphasis, or the rhythm of the word.

So, for English purposes, it’s better to pronounce ‘tathāgata’ like English: tutargut-eh, – the emphasis on the ‘ar’ sound. Make it long, and that places the rhythm’s emphasis squarely on that long ‘ar’ sound. Likewise, speaking broadly, Theravāda is pronouned ‘terra-vaa-da.’

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén