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How is फ Really Pronounced?

Something that has been confusing me:

In textbooks and official sources, फ is described as an aspirated "p", or something like the "ph" in "upheaval". It is given an IPA symbol of "pʰ", e.g. here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA/Hindi_and_Urdu

Online pronunciation databases seem to back this up: https://www.shabdkosh.com/hi/translate?e=%E0%A4%AB%E0%A4%B2+&l=hi

However, when I listen to friends/other native speakers pronounce words like फल or फिर, they seem to pronounce it as "f", like "fal" and "fir". If it makes a difference, almost all my friends are from Delhi.

What is right here? Are both right, and this is a matter of regional accents? Is the apsirated p technically correct but not used in practice? Something else?

Appreciate any thoughts y'all have!!!

February 15, 2019



After some research, I've found that traditionally it is pronounced as an aspirated 'p'. However, loanwords from Persian, English, and Portuguese all make use of the 'f' sound. At this point, the 'f' sound has became well established in Hindi and is slowly replacing the aspirated 'p' even by native speakers. In fact, the same thing happened with Greek's 'phi' sound.


You're right. The anglicization of Hindi is impacting its pronunciations . Although I still pronounce it as PU-H


फ​ is pronounced like an aspirated p, and फ़​ is pronounced like an f. However most dotted versions of letters more often than not are written without the dot, so to most native Hindi speakers फ correlates to both sounds. However when you see फ़, you know for sure it's an F. This happens as well with ज(J) and ज़(Z)​, words like ज़िंदगी will often be misspelled to जिंदगी, and because of this it's often pronounced like the latter as well. A good example of the letter given here is the word फिर​, through talking with friends, listening to songs, watching movies, I've heard it pronounced many times as phir and many times as fir, it just depends on the person saying it. There isn't one right answer, there are two common pronunciations.


हिंदी मेरी मूल भाषा है, और मैं आपके लिए पुष्टि कर सकता हूं कि यह एफ की तरह उच्चारित है।(Hindi is my native language and I can confirm it is pronounced like "F".)


In your view, is there a difference between फ and फ़ ?


the first one is supposed to be pronounced "ph" (im a native hindi speaker and this is how they teach you in school) and the second one was added to have a distinct "f" sound.

with the first one you can pronounce it as "ph" or "f" and it wouldnt really matter. it usually changes based on region and in delhi and other urban areas, yes, most people use the "f" way.

for the second one you must use the "f" pronunciation. this usually tells the word isn't originally from Hindi


धन्यवाद !

If you had to speculate, as a self proclaimed geek, why do you think textbooks and the Wikipedia guide to Hindi phonology says its an aspirated "p" when native speakers don't see to use it this way?


फ and फ़ both exist in the modern-day Hindi language. The latter is easy enough to explain; its pronounced as /f/. But saying that the former is pronounced as an aspirated "p" would be slightly inaccurate. Its basically pronounced /ph/ with a very significant "h" sound. Also, when I begin to enunciate this letter, my lips create a seal and move inwards into my mouth (so at the beginning my lips are almost completely invisible), and then I sort of force them out along with the "h" sound. So its similar to the aspirated "p", but not quite the same. Its quite an easy sound to make (even for non-native speakers), but it can only be taught in person.

Also, the story of फ़ is quite straightforward. The /f/ sound didn't originally exist in the Hindi-language. But it was adapted into Hindi mainly due to the influence of the sister Urdu. Its use has gone on to increase with the anglification of our tongues (especially true for those of us living in urban areas). When you combine the rarity of फ sound in Hindi with the abundance of फ़ sound in English and loaned Urdu words, you have a situation where speakers in urban centres like Delhi and Mumbai (especially well-off people who are fluent in English) incorrectly use the /f/ sound even for फ.

Might be worth sharing a fun anecdote on this topic. The Hindi word for "flower" is pronounced /phu:l/ but colloquially, a lot of people say /fu:l/ (sounds exactly like "fool"). My high-school (named Amity) had a kind of a 'School Anthem' and one of the pre-chorus lines went "एमिटी के फूल हैं हम" (We are the flowers of Amity) and we were always under strict instructions from teachers to not mess up the pronunciation. But the entire school would deliberately say /fu:l/ instead of /phu:l/when some outside dignitary was present to make it sound like "We are the fools of Amity".


Amazing answer, and great story! This should be in a textbook.


I come from a Punjabi/Hindi speaking household and in my experience it is the opposite. Words that originally contain फ like फल (Fruit) and फिर (Then or Again) are always pronounced as phal and phir respectively. फ़ can pronounced as both FA and PHA while फ is always PHA. When in doubt, pronounce it as the non-nuqta version. (Nuqta = ़) Likewise, it is common to see many write and pronounce क़ ख़ ग़ ज़ ड़ ढ़ as क ख ग ज ड ढ but not the other way around.

While words like फ़रवरी (February) are correctly pronounced as farvari, however, rural folks will remove the nuqta and pronounce it as फरवरी (pharvari). So, फ can only be FA when it was originally supposed to be फ़ but they have removed the nuqta.


I don't know about that but in English, unless a 'p' is preceded by an 's' as in 'speaker' or 'aspirated', it is always aspirated.


the correct pronunciation is ph however many pronounce it f. F is an Urdu letter which is ph with a nukta. About the accent people from different regions pronounce the letters according to their atmosphere and their dialects. Sounding like a native may make you sound of a particular region in India. You should go for the correct pronounciation.


Both go fine but grammatically we say phir not fir and its phal . Only because of the dot at the left end of the Ph it changes sound , if its with the dot then it becomes Fa but without it is Ph .


Yes it is like F


It depends on the word. Also different people pronounce it differently due to accent too. The correct way is ph. Not a p not an f, but something in the middle

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