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Pronunciation of वह and यह

I spoke with a native speaker, and they say that वह is pronounced as vō rather than vaha and यह is pronounced as yē rather than yaha, and states that people do not pronounce the words like how the tts is pronouncing it. Is this a mistake on the TTS or some sort of perscribed sanskritised pronunciation or something?

September 7, 2018



I grew up speaking Hindi (learning from my parents) and have spoken to friends, relatives, etc, my whole life. I also have seen countless movies and TV shows, visited India, etc. I had no idea that "ye" and "vo" would be spelled "yaha" and "vaha" until I learned how to read Devanagari. In Urdu script, they are not written that way, they are written "ye" and "vo," essentially.

Since being more aware of this, I have heard the "yaha" and "vaha" pronunciations, but only in very self-aware and "hyper-correct" contexts.

My advice: be aware of the variation, but you yourself should always say "ye" and "vo," since that's how almost everyone speaks in almost every situation.


"but only in very self-aware and "hyper-correct" contexts."

i've noticed something a bit like this in English, but more regional than hyper correct, the word "says" in almost every dialect is pronounced "sez", except in Liverpool and other parts of the English midlands where is "says" said exactly as it is written.


No its not any sanskritised pronunciation. वह (singular) वे (plural) यह (singular) ये (plural) वो is a colloquialism, much like saying "मेरेको", "आप क्या कर रहे हो". They're perfectly fine and accepted for conversational purposes, but not for formal grammatically correct Hindi.


Well I talked with the speaker again, they told me that the "vaha" and "yaha" pronunciations are wrong, to be fair the speaker says they speak urdu rather than hindi and is literate in urdu rather than hindi. Are there some dialects that pronounce it as "vaha" and "yaha"?

Would that also mean that बहन/बहिन would pronounced literally as /bəɦən/ or /bəɦɪn/ rather than /bɛɦɛn/ and कहना would be pronounced as /kəɦənaː/ rather than /kɛɦɛnaː/, and कह would be pronounced as /kəɦ(ə)/ rather than /kɛɦ/ in formal hindi?

I am more interested in learning colloquial hindi or urdu than learning formal sanskritised hindi.


In common spoken language voh and ye are used. If you are speaking formally you would say yaha (pronounced yuh-huh) and vaha. There is actually a linguistic rule that has to do with the pronunciation of बहन. If you break down this word all the letters are ब-अ-ह-अ-न. If there is an अ before and after a ह then the second अ is pronounced almost like an इ i.e. बहन (buh-hen) रहना (ruh-hena) कहना (kuh-hena). If there is any other combination of vowels then you pronounce the vowels as they should be i.e चाहना (cha-huna). BTW do not mistake my use of h as aspiration, I’m just trying to romanize in a way that could give correct pronunciation.


would people it be a reading effect as well as a formality effect?

if someone is saying something in English which is not written down, they will leave out a lot of sounds, even if it's very formal.

but when reading aloud in English, they tend to say every syllable, even if they are reading something very informal.

English is my native language, so i never noticed how much spoken English does this until i stumbled upon some youtube videos for people learning English, explaining how to speak in a more fluid way and sound more like a native speaker.


ye and vo are in fact the correct pronunciations. What happened was that Hindustani (as the language was known before fracturing into the constructs of "Urdu" and "Hindi") was proliferated as a wide-ranging lingua franca, and it's main medium of writing was the Arabic script. Arabic script has some idiosyncrasies in spelling; it is not always intuitive how one should spell certain words/sounds, especially vowels at the ends of words. The Arabic script spelling, which includes a type of "h" letter, was transliterated verbatim to Devanagari. وہ > वह Everyone knew this was pronounced "vo," but after some point, some people got it in their heads that one must pronounce Hindi exactly how it is spelled in Devanagari. I speculate this has something to do with imagining "Hindi" to trace back to some ancient Sanskrit ideal, which can never be wrong; Hindi can only be a de-evolution or a degraded version... older must be better, so it goes. Deviation signifies degradation in this thinking, and people falsely conclude that the spelling Devanagari represents an "original" and therefore more proper. People are in denial. They need to accept that Devanagari is not a type of alternate-dimension IPA (international phonetic alphabet) and it is not 100% consistent.

This is one of the weird effects created by the artificial concepts of "Urdu" and "Hindi." Another effect is all the confusion between न and ण, श and ष, where people who come from the bias of Sanskrit-centric education swear that they are pronounced differently in modern standard Hindi. I know I'm hurting some feelings here, so I'll stop. Everybody probably hates me now, so be it. But learners of the Hindi language who don't have anything invested in this stuff, who just want to learn the language as it is, deserve to be accurately informed. The issue of "h" affecting vowel sounds is been addressed in several other threads, if you scroll down a bit.


Hindi is a language that has develeped with many influences from other languages like Persian, Arabic, Portugese and now even English, and that's what makes it so beautiful. Nobody is out here claiming that Sanskrit is the best ancient ideal but you have to standardise the language and find vocabulary to express complex ideas somehow. Nobody is out here claiming Devnagri to be the best thing since sliced bread but it's definitely a better writing system for Hindustani. Nastaleeq, although extremely beautiful and artistic, does dismally in accurately representing the sounds in any Indo-Aryan language. In Nastaleeq i won't know weather I'm looking at a "tam" or "tum", "main" or "mein", "mati" or "mitti". Even Latin is a beter and more accurate script for Hindustani than Nastaleeq. Brahmi scripts are best suited for the Indo-Aryan languages, whether it's Gurmukhi for Punjabi, the Gujarati script for Gujarati, Modi for Marathi, Eastern Nagri for Bengali, Sharda for Kashmiri, etc. Not only the Indians have chosen to leave the Arabic script, even the Turks and Indonesians have foregone that script. There are even some calls in Pakistan inspired by Kemalism to standardise the Latin script and use it officially to write Urdu.

As far as न और ण go, differentiating their pronunciations is not some hogwash people are trying to pull from Sanskrit to devolve the language. If you have any idea about the linguistic landscape of northern India you'd know very well that these sounds do exist. Some dialects prefer ण, some न, and others use a combination - which standard Hindi does. Even the Nastaleeq variant used to write Punjabi (shahmukhi) sometimes includes a letter for ण. The variant of the Arabic script used to write Sindhi and Seraiki also includes a letter to represent this sound. (ڻ)


You miss the point. I offered an idea of why people persist in imagining pronunciations for Hindi based off of Devanagari spelling, despite the actual way people, without such affectations, pronounce. You have not spoken to that. "No one is saying"? There are people all over these discussion boards that keep claiming that /vah/ and /yah/ pronounced as such are the "proper," the "original," or the "Sanskrit" pronunciations. Why is it, do you think, they believe that?

Yes, I know the sound of retroflex N exists. I speak Punjabi. It's irrelevant to Hindi, in which न and ण are allophones.

Off topic: "Shahmukhi" with the two dots over the nūn is a fantasy of recent Punjabi language promoters, generally Indian Gurmukhi using academic-types who are trying to effect a unified front with Pakistani allies. It's an admirable idea, but as more everyday stuff is being written in Punjabi Arabic script it looks that the use of that new letter has not succeeded.


I have only been learning for a 19 months now, but I am pretty devoted. As a learner who speaks to people from all over India and Pakistan I find you both correct. I very much enjoy hearing each of your perspective because it gives me a deeper insight into the language. I will say this, when speaking to Urdu speakers, they have no problem with how I speak. In fact, they often claim that I am not speaking Hindi, but Urdu rather. When speaking to "country" Hindi speakers who claim to speak "pure" Hindi, they have many issues with how I speak. They would never say शुक्रिया only धन्यवाद. This idea of "pure" Hindi has caused a lot of frustration to me because most people are not from the "country," they are from the "city." Yet, many apps and learning tools hang on to this idea of "pure" Hindi. One app I was using tells you to pronounce सोलह as so-luh-huh along with any other word that ends in ह, including of course वह and यह. When discussing the pronunciation of numbers 11-18 this pronunciation was ridiculous to even single native speaker I have talked with, including those from the "country." This is where my frustration comes into play. No learner in the entire planet wants to learn this so called "pure" Hindi. Instead, we want to learn spoken polite Hindi. In my opinion, I think it's good to be educated on both, but the bulk of your learning should focus on spoken Hindi and tools that only focus on "pure" Hindi should be avoided.


In Arabic the pure form seems to be quite useful, is Hindi different?

For Arabic i am keen to learn the pure Arabic, most of what i'll have the opportunity to read or listen to will be in that form, and it means i'd be able to speak to people from every dialect... as far as i know, it would sound like speaking to a Spaniard in Latin, but if that Spaniard speaks Latin, that suits me.

Though in Hindi/Urdu it seems the universal language found in media, and useful for communicating with people from all different regions is the more casual form? a restricted vocabulary of simpler words? while the fancy formal version is very different for Hindi vs Urdu?


The thing is, न and ण are allophones in hindi/urdu. Does the native language of the people of Uttar Pradesh have the retroflex nasal? It is in those languages you mention that they have that sound, not in hindustani. But there is no harm in pronouncing it as a retroflex nasal. I mean the sounds (ز), (خ), (غ), (ق), are foreign sounds to hindustani from Persian, and not everyone uses them, but there is no harm in using these sounds and you can use them, like the retroflex n.

In languagers like Bengali, the sounds श, ष, and स are pronounced the same if I recall correctly, along with न and ण, even though they are written differently in their script, though bengali when compared to hindi is even less accurate in terms of pronunciation to the written language.


I feel people here are looking to start fights with the whole Hindi-Urdu controversy. Its a controversy that has been brewing for centuries and you're not going to convince anyone of your viewpoint. Nothing is black and white in the linguistic landscape of the Indian subcontinent. If you came to learn Hindi then that's what you're doing. If you're not interested in learning the sounds and higher vocabulary of Hindi then why bother? If you're looking for something purely conversational and don't want to use proper grammar and vocabulary - simply go learn Hinglish, or better yet just stick with English because that is used as a prestige language and common communicative language by the urban youth of India and Pakistan.

Whats even more absurd is that people are seeing the Hindi-Urdu controversy where it really isn't present, like in this situation with "wah" "vaha" "yah" and "ye". Even formal written Urdu makes the distinction وہ وے یہ یے The Hindi-Urdu issue begins pervading the language at the level of higher vocabulary which is used in the literary language forms only. Pronunciation of common words remains uniform throughout both registers.

It really isn't that deep.


one complication is, there is no Urdu course on here, and very few resources anywhere for learning Urdu.

so ... "If you came to learn Hindi then that's what you're doing. If you're not interested in learning the sounds and higher vocabulary of Hindi then why bother?"

why bother... because the lack of Urdu resources means muddling one's way through with a mash up on Hindi and Arabic seems worth a try.

[though, i am trying to learn all three... i'm unlikely to succeed, but i'll have fun trying]


urdu و can be W or V? is there any pattern to which it is when?


"Pronunciation of common words remains uniform throughout both registers."

that seems really weird? given how much English varies.

I am in Australia, my microbiology professor is from New Zealand (not even that far away), and says almost every vowel differently.

American English and British English differ hugely in pronunciation, i have picked up most American from TV, but a few times i'll be speaking to an american and they'll say a word i have never heard on TV and i have no idea, like "pipet" in Australian English that's pip-et, but this American guy was saying PIPE-et and i have no idea what he was talking about.

The USA and Australia are further apart than the range of Hindi/Urdu, but we've not been separated long.

And even within England, far smaller than India, pronunciation varies hugely, in London "says" is pronounced "sez" but in Liverpool it's said as it's written.


do you have any idea what is going on with the Arabic emphatic consonants used in Urdu? ص ض ط ظ

the letters س and ص seem to both be स are they said identically?

i thought these were just for Arabic loan words... but a few things i've seen make me think it might be more complicated...


it's perfectly capable of differentiating those... they just don't? It's like if someone wrote in devanagari, but left off all the vowel mantras (is that the right word?).

i don't know any of those words, but i will try for practice, i'm using the Arabic keyboard, as far as i know the short vowels exist in Urdu, but they seem to be sufficiently rarely used that they don't get on the keyboard?

tam تَم tum تُم mati مَتِ mitti مِتِّ

i'm unsure about the mati and mitti, while short a and short u are buried somewhere inaccessible in the extra characters set on the Urdu keyboard, the short i is nowhere to be found... I guess i should look it up later if i remember...

I have no idea how to do ai or ei ... main مَين mein مِين that's probably wrong...


Persio-Arabic script used for writing Urdu doesn't distinguish retroflex/dental N or SH. These sounds don't exist as contrasting phonemes. Just as Urdu's Arabic alphabet preserves multiple symbols for what are now they same sound (which would be distinguished if the words were read as belonging to another language, Arabic), Devanagari has multiple symbols for same sound (which would be different as read as if they were another language e.g. Sanskrit).

Instead of just accepting that the multiple (2) symbols are pronounced the same in HINDI (Hindustani), some people insist on reading them as if they were reading Sanskrit. This is equivalent to people reading in URDU (Hindustani) medium insisting on pronouncing certain letters as in Arabic. But both are speaking HINDUSTANI and it's like a comedy of errors that the script they are reading (and lack of awareness of the "other side of the hill") makes them think they are acting correctly.

For anybody who insist, because their Pandit ji of Ramkishan Dharamsala or Mrs. Quakenbottom at Shimla Christian Academy told them, that ण must be differentiated as a retroflex sound in Hindustani due to "original [Sanskrit] sound," then why don't they also insist on "original Arabic/Persian sounds"?


"There are even some calls in Pakistan inspired by Kemalism to standardise the Latin script and use it officially to write Urdu."

it would help if they just picked more legible fonts... for reasons i do not understand, Arabic is written in quite clear fonts while Urdu seems to usually be written in what seems to be their equivalent of the Latin alphabet in Fraktur Gothic


"for reasons i do not understand, Arabic is written in quite clear fonts while Urdu seems to usually be written in what seems to be their equivalent of the Latin alphabet in Fraktur Gothic"

It's written in the Nastaliq hand.

"do you have any idea what is going on with the Arabic emphatic consonants used in Urdu?"

They follow pronunciation of Persian's interpretation of Arabic. (Just as Nastaliq script was Persian.) There is no differentiation of emphatic sounds. The S ones both sound like S and the ones with dots sound like Z (though of course, in colloquial Hindustani, Z becomes DJ).


i though that in Arabic, and by extension Urdu, the spelling was often fairly obvious from the sound, but the sound was not obvious from the spelling? given the short vowels get left out?

also, am i correct that it is extremely rare to write the short vowels in Urdu? they don't seem to be even on the keyboard [whereas they are on an Arabic keyboard] Is it some obscure thing only used in dictionaries?


[replying to: "confusion between न and ण, श and ष, where people ... swear that they are pronounced differently in modern standard Hindi."]

can you help me understand what's going on with all the emphatic consonants in Urdu spelling? the Arabic characters ص ض ط seem to all exist in Urdu, but they don't seem to line up with anything in Devanagari?

At first i thought maybe some of those were only used for Arabic and Persian loan words, but then i think i've seen some stuff that contradicts that, so now i'm confused.

particularly س and ص plus a couple of others that don't even sound like them in standard Arabic (but maybe they are S in Persian?) seeming a bit interchangeable?


this bit really surprised me, that's interesting... "The Arabic script spelling, which includes a type of "h" letter, was transliterated verbatim to Devanagari. وہ > वह Everyone knew this was pronounced "vo," but after some point, some people got it in their heads that one must pronounce Hindi exactly how it is spelled in Devanagari."

i was kind of assuming the Devanagari spellings would be older and Urdu kind of squished them into Arabic script, given Hindi seems to have specific letters for aspirated consonants while Urdu just adds ھ to them... but i was just guessing, i guessed wrong?


are ت and ط identical in Urdu?


@KirtRenee yes


"Are there some dialects that pronounce it as "vaha" and "yaha"?"

i'd be kind of surprised if there weren't? unless something about them makes it usually difficult to say that quickly?

i've noticed something a bit like this in English, the word "says" in almost every dialect is pronounced "sez", except in Liverpool and other parts of the English midlands where is "says" said exactly as it is written.


Vo and ye are the proper pronunciations in Urdu. In Hindi, they are informal but very common.


Given that "Urdu" and "Hindi" are mere situational variations of the same language (once called Hindustani), why do you suppose that there is a group of people speaking this language "Urdu" and another group "Hindi" who say two of the most common/essential words differently?


In the language as actually spoken by common people, there is no difference. Both groups (Urdu speakers and Hindi speakers) say vo and ye.

The difference is that written Hindi preserves an older form of the words (vaha and yaha), and hence these older forms are considered “proper” by educated Hindi-speakers, even though the common speech doesn’t use them.


But why do you think these are the older forms, rather than just the SPELLINGS? Urdu is also spelling as vah, but everyone knows the pronunciation is vo. Just like spelling of "palace" is mahal but we say mehel or "speak" is kahna whereas we say kehna or "sister" is spelled bahan but we say behan. In every case where the word has short vowel but is spelled with H, we must remember to pronounce the vowel differently. These "educated" people are looking at the spelling and treating it as if it is more "proper" to pronounce it literally. We know in English that in the word "bought" we don't say the "gh" part... People reading in Urdu medium understand that there is a spelling and then there is pronunciation. Why is it that these "educated" people using Hindi (Devanagari) medium think that they have to pronounce every letter and that makes it more correct?


The ah->eh change is quite regular and predictable in Hindi, but vaha->vo is not regular. Maybe that’s why grammarians insist on pronouncing vaha like vaha, and maybe yaha stays as yaha for symmetry.

In any case, Urdu and Hindi have distinct literary traditions, and even though they are the same language in the informal register, you shouldn’t expect them to be the same in the formal register.


the divergent formal and matching informal seems so strange, it's the reverse of other languages i've tried, Arabic and German have hugely diverse dialects, but the formal version is standardised.


"But why do you think these are the older forms, rather than just the SPELLINGS?" i have definitely been wondering how people know [or think they know] how Sanskrit sounded...


was it ever called Hindustani locally? i got the impression that was a label applied by Europeans?


"a group of people speaking this language "Urdu" and another group "Hindi" who say two of the most common/essential words differently?"

well i'm an Australian who speaks English, but there's some people who speak American who say almost everything differently, and sometimes claim it's the same language.

seriously though, i'd be surprised if the pronunciation was consistent? even between Liverpool an London there's a big pronunciation difference.

i can't think of pronouns which vary much, but "says" [liverpool] and "water" [usa] are two common words said quite differently.

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