"Na-MAST" or "Na-mas-TAY"?

About 40 years ago, I took a yoga class at a place called the Integral Yoga Institute. It was a small house in an older, modest, residential neighborhood, and the people who taught the class wore orange robes and lived there. They taught Hatha Yoga and we always concluded the class with some chanting and closed with the salutation, “Namaste,” which you now hear everywhere, but which you definitely did not in South Texas in 1973.

They pronounced it “na-MAST” to rhyme with “a-COST.” They did not put an accented last syllable on it as one hears now, i.e., “na-mas-TAY.”

  1. Is the current, popular pronunciation of *namaste * (na-mas-TAY) the correct one, or

  2. is this a case of a wrong pronunciation that has taken hold in the general public, like saying that <whatever> is someone’s “for-TAY,” when the **correct **pronunciation of THAT use of *forte *is just"fort"-- one syllable, no accented extra syllable. (“For-TAY” is a musical term that means “loud.”)

  3. Or is this just like po-TAY-to/po-TAH-to, and you pronounce it the way you learned it, but there’s no “correct” way?

According to the wikitionary, it is a 3 syllable word, accented on the first. It is a concatenation of námas, which basically means “to bow” and te, “to you”.

Ah! So, it’s “NAM-estay”.

I don’t know what “NAM-estay” means, but that doesn’t seem like it would indicate the correct pronunciation (/ˈnʌməˌsteɪ/, basically rhyming with “hummus day”; you can hear the audio at the wiktionary link given above).

I always thought it meant, “The divine in me salutes the divine in you.”

That’s the only pronunciation I’ve heard.

Also, I’ve heard “forte” pronounced “FOR-tay” but never “for-TAY.”

I think the mispronunciation of forte has to do with confusion about its origin. I often hear forTAY, which matches nothing, but the people who say it that way know it is a foreign word, so that pronunciation sounds more, idk, foreign.

What most Americans are familiar with is the Italian word used in musical scores, meaning loud/strong, which it would seem is a logical connection. The actual word is French: the part of the foil nearest the hilt, hence its strongest part, is the forte – this is in contrast to the weakest part of the foil, toward the tip, its foible, which does get used in English as something kind of opposite to forte. Hence, the word should have one syllable, except, using two at least reduces ambiguity (I never hide in my forte).

Sorry, I should clarify. When I said “I don’t know what ‘NAM-estay’ means”, I meant “I don’t know what pronunciation that is meant to indicate”. I generally find attempts to write pronunciation in this manner to be terribly ambiguous.

For me it comes across as “I forgive you for not sharing my loony beliefs”.

Okay, “Dih-vah-lee” or “Dih-wah-lee?” I’ve heard it both ways and chalk it up to in some parts of India W is pronounced like V, same as in Germany.

According to the wiki thing,The name “Diwali” or “Divali” is a contraction of deepavali which translates into “row of lamps”.

The article states that the English pronunciation is “diwali”, but it appears to be an artifact of the German transliteration, the proper subcontinental pronunciation should be with a “v” sound (or perhaps it is a consonant that sounds like a blend of v & w).

No, I am mistaken, according to the wiki thing on Devanagari, one letter is used for both v and w (like the English double-duty letters “c” or “g”),
‘v’ and ‘w’ are both allophones of the single letter ‘व’ in Hindi Devanagari. More specifically … rules apply on whether ‘व’ is pronounced as ‘v’ or ‘w’ depending on context. Native Hindi speakers pronounce ‘व’ as ‘v’ in vrat (‘व्रत’, fast) and ‘w’ in pakvān (‘पकवान’, food dish), perceiving them as a single phoneme and without being aware of the allophone distinctions they are systematically making.*

Also, as far as i know, there is no diphtong in the last syllable of namaste, so you shouldn’t really pronounce it TAY. That would be like pronouncing the word “steady” like “Stay-dy”. Just like c’est la vie is not really pronounced saylavee but more like sellavee.

On second thought, scratch that. The TAY pronunciation is probably closer to the hindi [nəməsteː] than the short [e] in steady. And would you want to say it in hindi anyway? The american version is as others have said above

Having spent time in Nepal, I can say the Nepalis definitely say “na-mahs-tay.” IIRC, the syllables were stressed pretty evenly, but possibly there’s a slight accent on the second syllable, making it “na-MAHS-tay,” but ever so slight. Definitely no accent on the first syllable.

As to what namaste means, in Nepali it’s “hello” and “goodbye,” akin to the Hawaiian aloha. Sure, it’s probably become fashionable to give it a little poetic flare like “May the spirits be with you” or some such, but I think that’s pretty silly.

It means “I bow to you” in the same sense that “goodbye” means “May God be with you”; that is, etymologically, but nothing more.

Again, I don’t know how to interpret this. Are those first two vowels schwas? Or are they the vowel of “bra”? (Or something else?). It could be that there is regional variation in the pronunciation, but in my experience as an Indian (granted, a mere Indian-American, but I’ve heard the word plenty of times…), and according to the various dictionaries I’ve consulted just to make sure, the first two vowels are pronounced as schwas.

I get the impression that the articulation is similar to, say, the way Russian is spoken, in that the lesser-accented vowels tend to lose their color. In other words, the Hindi pronunciation would be like NAH-muh-ste(i), whereas the Nepali would be like nuh-MAH-ste(i).

Yeah, “silly”-- THAT’S the word for it.