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Vowels

The 11 basic Hindi vowels are best learned as 5 Pairs + 1 Lone Wolf Vowel. The pairs each share similarities in how they sound as well as how they are written.

Keep in mind that different regions of India have variations in pronunciation for some of the letters.

Independent Vowels vs. Diacritics
Each of the 11 vowels can be represented using an Independent Form which is an actual letter or as a simpler Diacritic Mark which can be added to a consonant. The Independent Form is only used if the vowel is at the beginning of a word, written by itself or comes after another vowel. If the vowel comes after a consonant then it is written using a Diacritic.In practice you will occasionally see the Independent form at the start of a word but 80% of the time you will be reading/writing diacritics.

Let's look at an example. First of all here is the consonant "k".

Consonant k

Now here is the vowel "i". You can see it has an Independent form but after a consonant (In this case "k") it is written using a diacritic. Also note that this diacritic is unusual in that it is written to the left of the consonant even though when pronounced it comes afterwards.

Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

i

ki

Default Vowel
The exception is the short vowel "a" which is the default vowel. Since it is the default "a" does not have a diacritic but is instead pronounced after any consonant that does not specify another vowel. Don't worry too much if it sounds confusing, it will start to make sense after you do some of the reading examples.

There are some exceptions to this rule that are covered in the "Final Spelling Rules" lesson.

Vowel Pair 1
Short a:

Transliteration: "a"
Pronunciation: 'a' in Amazing



As mentioned earlier, the short vowel "a" is the default vowel. This means that any consonant written without another vowel has "a" after it by default. This is why the vowel "a" doesn't need it's own diacritic mark. In the table below you see the Independent form for "a" and you see the consonant "k" without any diacritics. However since "a" is the default vowel the letter "k" is actually pronounced "ka".


Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

a
none
ka

Long aa:

Transliteration: "aa"
Pronunciation: 'a' in Father



Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

aa

kaa

Vowel Pair 2
Short i:

Transliteration: "i"
Pronunciation: 'i' in Mill




Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

i

ki

Long ii:

Transliteration: "ii"
Pronunciation: 'ee' in Meet



Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

ii

kii

Vowel Pair 3
Short u:

Transliteration: "u"
Pronunciation: 'u' in Put



Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

u

ku

Long uu:

Transliteration: "uu"
Pronunciation: 'oo' in Mood



Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

uu

kuu

Vowel Pair 4
Short e:

Transliteration: "e"
Pronunciation: 'a' in Maple



Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

e

ke

Long ai:

Transliteration: "ai"
Pronunciation: 'y' in My or 'a' in Back

Depending on the region the vowel is pronounced differently.



Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

ai

kai

Vowel Pair 5
Short o:

Transliteration: "o"
Pronunciation: 'o' in So



Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

o

ko

Long au:

Transliteration: "au"
Pronunciation: 'aw' in Awesome



Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

au

kau

Lone Wolf Vowel
This vowel doesn't have a pair so we're calling it the Lone Wolf Vowel, but no one else calls it that so forget the name as soon as you've mastered this vowel.

Transliteration: "ri"
Pronunciation: 'rea' in Reason



Independent Diacritic Example w/
Consonant

ri

kri