The Birth of vowel ॉ / ऑ in Hindi

hindi vowels

Spoken Hindi has 10 indigenous vowels (together with their 10 nasalized counterparts). The indigenous vowels are अ [ə], आ [a], इ [I], ई [i:], उ [ʊ], ऊ [u:], ए [e:], ऐ [ɛː], ओ[o]  & औ [ɔː]. Apart from these, Hindi also has three  vowels which are borrowed  from other languages like Sanskrit or English. They are following – 

  1. ऋ  / ṛ / – a retroflex vowel borrowed from Sanskrit but pronounced commonly  as /ri/ 
  2. /æː/  in English loanwords, such as /bæːʈ/ (‘bat’) – no separate orthographic sign in Hindi but expressed via ऐ (ai)
  3. ॉ / ऑ  /ɒ / in English loanwords such as college, doctor, hostel etc.
Hindi Vowel Chart _shapiro 2003

Vowel Chart of Hindi

English vowels chart 2004

Vowel Chart of English

Over the time, Hindi has borrowed a short-open-back-rounded vowel /ɒ / from English (as in English ‘hot’). This vowel is mostly pronounced by educated speakers of Hindi-Urdu familiar with English while speaking words like डॉक्टर (doctor), हॉस्टल (Hostel), कॉफ़ी (Coffee), कॉलेज (College) etc. Since Devanagari does not have a sign for this vowel, a new sign ॉ / ऑ was derived from the existing orthography. Looking at the vowel charts of English & Hindi, one can place ॉ / ऑ between long vowel /a/ and /ɔ/. Therefore ideally in Devanagari vowel chart of Hindi should be placed right before and hence in a Hindi dictionary, words like डॉक्टर should come before syllables such as डौ.

The revised Devanagari syllabary for Hindi vowels would look like this

Pronunciation guide Hindi vowels



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