Pronounciation of "Buddha"

As an Indian I grew up pronouncing “Buddha” (as well as “Hindu”) with a soft “d” (like “the”). However, recently I’ve gotten into arguments with everyone. I was told that pronouncing it my way was like pronouncing Spain “espan-ya.” But I say it’s more like saying “torti-la” instead of “torti-ya.” So, any Buddhologists out there, what is the correct pronounciation?

Moderator’s Note: Granted, I’m no expert on Buddhism, so for all I know this is a subject of fierce theological debates, but as far as I can tell this question should be reasonably susceptible to factual answers, so off it goes to General Questions.

I’ve never heard it pronounced any other way than “Boo-duh”.

If ‘Espania’ was the name that the people gave their own country, then ‘Spain’ is another language’s word for that country. Similarly, English speakers say ‘Germany’, while the French call it ‘Allemande’, but the people from Germany/Allemande call it Deutschland.

You could say that one way of pronouncing ‘Buddha’ belongs to one language, while a different way belongs to another language, in which case both are correct in their respective languages. Or, you could say that whichever pronunciation is older and closer to the part of the world where Buddha came from is correct, and the other way is a foreign mangling of the name.

In either case, don’t see how anyone could call your pronunciation ‘wrong’, since it comes from India and many people pronounce it that way there.

They didn’t actually call it wrong. They said it was like pronouncing Spain, “Espana”.

There’s a perfectly good English word which serves, in English, as the name for the country which lies between France and Portugal, and using the Spanish word when speaking English would be regarded as something of an affectation.

I suppose it’s a matter of debate whether the common US pronunciation of “Buddha” amounts to an English word, or is merely a hamfisted attempt to pronuonce a Sanskrit name. If you take the latter view then crumpet02’s pronunciation is correct, and everyone else’s is wrong. But I think not many people would take that view. Do we think that English speakers who pronounce “Napoleon” differently from French speakers are “wrong”?

Boo - Da :rolleyes:

Thought of maybe a closer example… if you talk to an anthropologist or palaeontologist, you’ll hear the word ‘Neanderthal’ with a hard ‘t’. Neander-tall. These people tend to snicker when they hear the general public say ‘Neander-thall’, because ‘-tal’ is closer to the German pronunciation. But the general public (unless they speak German) will go ‘huh?’ and think it’s an affectation to use the hard ‘t’. So who’s right?

(nitpick) Actually, it’s Allemagne.

“Buddha” is now an English word. Its ethymology might be Sanskrit, but “Buddha” is English and as such should be pronounced as is generally accepted in English, and that’s with a hard “d”.

First thing we need to do is clear up exactly what Indians and Americans mean when they say “soft d” and “hard d.” It may be that neither side understands what the other side is saying.

Linguists do not use terms like “soft” or “hard” to describe phonetic sounds, because they have no definite meaning. For Indians, “soft” usually means dental, while “hard” means retroflex. For Americans, “soft” usually means fricative or affricate, while “hard” means a stop consonant.

Indian languages have an opposition between the dental /t/ and /d/ phonemes and the retroflex /T/ and /D/. The dental sounds are made with the tip of tongue on the upper front teeth. The retroflex (‘bent backward’) sounds are made with the tongue reaching backward and up to the roof of the mouth. These sounds are all stops (the stream of breath is briefly stopped when pronouncing).

The English /t/ and /d/ stops are pronounced at a position called alveolar, midway between the retroflex and dental positions. The ridge behind the teeth. Indians think this is the same as their retroflex sounds. It isn’t. But when English words are adopted into Indian languages, the retroflex sounds are substituted for English /t/ and /d/.

In English, the spelling “th” is used for two sounds called interdentals where the tongue tip goes between the teeth and the air does not stop. These interdentals are unvoiced in the word “breath” and voiced in “breathe.” Most Indian languages do not have these sounds. Indians think these sounds correspond to their dental stops.

In Sanskrit, the ddh in Buddha is a dental, aspirated d. That means the d is released with a puff of breath. Nobody is expecting English speakers to duplicate this sound, unless they are studying Sanskrit. A simple d would suffice.

It’s normal for English speakers to pronounce Buddha with an alveolar stop d, because that’s the only /d/ phoneme we have in English. It sounds wrong to Indians, because they think the English d is retroflex. Listen up, Indians, the /d/ i English is no closer to retroflex than it is to dental. It’s halfway in between, so it can substitute equally well for either one.

The /u/ in Buddha is short, the vowel sound of “book” rather than “booty.”

Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children has a chapter called “The Buddha.” The narrator explains the wordplay in this title. He says it isn’t the word with “soft d” that refers to Gautama Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism. It’s a Hindi word with “hard d” (i.e. retroflex) which means ‘old man’. When Hindi speakers hear English speakers saying Buddha, it almost sounds like they’re saying “old man” instead of “the Englightened One.” But what Indians need to understand is that English /d/ is not retroflex.

Well, BBC announcers say “BUH-dher.” Can’t question the BBC, after all. :smiley:

BUH-dah and BOO-dah are both correct although Indians pronounce it
as the former.

I don’t care how you pronounce ‘Buddha’, but would you
please pronounce and spell ‘pronunciation’ as it’s properly pronounced and spelled? Please?

‘pronounce’ is a verb

‘‘pronunciation’’ is a noun

I thank you, and the Buddha thanks you!

As an American of Indian background, I first learned to pronounce “Buddha” the Bengali way, which is slightly different from the Hindi way. (Given the linguistic diversity of the country, I’d hesitate to use the term “Indian pronunciation.”) When I first heard the Anglicised pronunciation, I didn’t have a clue as to what the speaker was talking about. To me, the Bengali pronunciation evokes images of the actual Enlightened One; whereas, when I hear the Anglicised pronunciation, it sounds to me like the punchline of a joke. Hey, we’re all different and we all make our own choices. Although my native language is English, I refuse to use the Anglicised pronunciation and I’m not going to let anyone tell me that my pronunciation is incorrect.

It’s a doubled, dental, aspirated “d.” There’s a big difference.

I spend a lot of time explaining this to my Indian relatives and acquaintances. We’re actually talking about four different sounds – three plosives and one fricative.

Again, be careful in making blanket statements. What you say here is true for Hindi. In Bengali, it’s the “oo” in “booty.”

It’s not the retroflex “d.” It’s a retroflex flap, which in Hindi is considered a modification of retroflex “d,” but is actually a single-flap “r.”

You know, I feel the same way about my ancestral Italian, and pronounce Italian words and names the original Italian way when I speak English. But I’ve had lots of professional linguists tell me I’m wrong for doing so. In their view, you have to change the foreign pronunciation to fit the local phonetics. Likewise, if I go to another country, when speaking the foreign language I’m told I must not pronounce English words and names the way I’m accustomed to, but according to the local phonetics. There was a thread on sci.lang about this controversy and practically everybody but me agreed you have to change your pronunciation of your native language to fit the local accent.

I was talking about standard Sanskrit phonetics. It just happens that Hindi has preserved the Sanskrit vowel system almost totally intact. Whereas Bengali vowels have gone through various complicated vowel shifts. Bengali vowel phonemes are not stable, but shift depending on position in a complicated way I haven’t learned yet.

Actually, speaking of doubled consonants, this word does have a variant in Hindi with doubled aspirated retroflex D, thus buDDha. That’s the word Salman Rushdie was making a pun on.

That retroflex flap is a funny creature. In Urdu it’s written with a modified <R>, in Hindi with a modified <D>. The former is more accurate phonetically, the latter is more accurate etymologically. It’s what happens to a single retroflex /D/ when it’s between vowels.

This thread reminds me of an encounter I had with a Sri lankan a while back, in which I made the mistake of using the word “Buddha” (u as in took, da as in dalek), to which he replied, “it’s pronounced Buddha actually”.
“Yes,” says I, “that’s what I said- Buddha.”
“Not Buddha, Buddha”
Eventually the conversation dissolved into us yelling Buddha at each other, I, not for the life of me being able to tell the two apart, and he growing more irate with every mispronunciation. This, however, began to alarm the passers-by, so we agreed to settle with Jesus and have a wholesome game of dwarf-tossing to make up. I suggest you all do the same.

This is mainly true of [O]/[o] and [&]/[e] – other vowel shifts are generally reflected in the spelling. * and are fairly easy – * and have merged into them, eliminating the “short” vowels altogether.

I wonder, though, how close the Hindi vowel system actually is to the Sanskrit, especially when we don’t always know what we’re talking about when we say “Sanskrit” – everything from the language of the Rig Veda to Classical Sanskrit and every other dialectical shift in between is referred to as Sanskrit.

I strongly suspect that the language that people study today as “Sanskrit” was never actually a living colloquial language. It’s my theory that it was cobbled together ex post facto by priests, scholars, and poets.