How to pronounce Indian names?
Hi! I'm doing a project and I would like to know if there's a certain way Indian names are pronounced? I've looked it up, and each site says something different. For instance, one will say the letter i in Indian names is pronounced like ee, and another will say ih, like in hit. Could anyone please tell me how the vowels and consonants sound in Indian names? I really want to pronounce them correctly. Also, most sites say that usually the stress is on the first syllable, but how do I know which names are exceptions? And what about names with many syllables?
Since writing Indian names in English does not have a standard method, the letter i can be pronounced both ways as you mentioned, and so on with other vowels.
There could be a few general norms though:
Retroflexed consonants (like ट ṭ and ड ḍ) and dental consonants (like त t and द d) are written with the same respective letters, 't' and 'd'. However, the former pair rarely shows up in Indian names, so remember that these letters are almost always pronounced as dental consonants.
Aspirated letters are written with an 'h' after the letter representing the unaspirated counterpart. So 'Dhriti' has the ध dha sound in the beginning. This is generally so for North Indian names (where Hindi is spoken). It gets more complicated for South Indian names since South Indian languages have a relatively relaxed distinction between aspirated and unaspirated consonants unlike North Indian languages like Hindi.
The vowel sounds mostly have to be remembered by heart. Some people try to use double letters to indiciate long vowels (like my name, आदित ādit, is written as Aadit - the double 'A's indicate the आ ā sound). And so, other long vowels can be expressed as follows - aa (आ ā), ee (ई ī), oo (ऊ ū). However, single vowels at the end of Names are generally long vowels. That's why, Siya is /siyā/, and Dhriti is /dhritī/.
These were only general remarks about how Indians write their names. They are not hard and fast rules.
Most of the issues with pronouncing Indian names by looking at the English spellings are due to the different ways people romanize Indic letters.
For example, 'a' can stand for either अ or आ, ई is written as either 'i' (which could also be इ) or 'ee' (which could also be ए), त is written as either 't' (which could also be ट) and 'th' (which could also be थ) and so on.
There are ways to losslessly transliterate Indic scripts to the Latin script, such as the ISO 15919 system that this course uses, but most of them use diacritics or capitalization and are not really suitable for names.
The only ways to get the pronunciation right is through familiarity or, if you know an Indic script, see the name written in that script (Type the name into Google translate with Hindi as the source language and it should show you the correct Devanagari spelling for all but very rare names).
Stress is not really a huge deal in most Indian languages so that shouldn't really be a problem.
Note: Another thing to keep in mind. Due to the huge linguistic and cultural diversity in the subcontinent, letters are not pronounced the same by speakers of different languages and even speakers of the same language in different regions. For example, I pronounce my name 'Vinay' but someone with the same name as me in West Bengal or Orissa would pronounce their name 'Bhinoy'.