Gujarati phonology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language native to the Indian state of Gujarat. Much of its phonology is derived from Sanskrit.


Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-mid e ə o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open (æ) ɑ
  • Sanskrit's phonemic vowel length has been lost.[1] Vowels are long when nasalized or in a final syllable.[2][2]
  • Gujarati contrasts oral and nasal, and murmured and non-murmured vowels,[2] except for /e/ and /o/.[3]
  • In absolute word-final position the higher and lower vowels of the /e ɛ/ and /o ɔ/ sets vary.[3]
  • /ɛ/ and /ɔ/ developed in the 15th century. Old Gujarati split into Rajasthani and Middle Gujarati.[4]
  • English loanwords are a source of /æ/.[5]


Labial Dental/
Retroflex Postal.
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɳ
Plosive voiceless p t ʈ k
voiced b d ɖ ɡ
aspirated () ʈʰ tʃʰ
murmured ɖʱ dʒʱ ɡʱ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ
voiced (z) ɦ
Approximant ʋ l j
Flap ɾ ɭ̆[6]
  • A fourth nasal phoneme is postulated for the phones [ɲ, ŋ] and the nasalization of a preceding vowel [Ṽ].[7][7] Before velar and palatal stops, there is variation between these; e.g. [mɑ̃ɡʋũ]~[mɑŋɡʋũ] ('ask for'), [ɦĩtʃko]~[ɦĩɲtʃko] ('swing').[8]
  • Stops occurring at first members of clusters followed by consonants other than /ɾ, j, ʋ/ are unreleased; they are optionally unreleased in final position. The absence of release entails deaspiration of voiceless stops.[9]
  • Intervocalically and with murmuring of vowels, the voiced aspirated stops /ɡʱ, dʱ, bʱ/ have voiced spirant allophones [ɣ, ð, β]. Spirantization of non-palatal voiceless aspirates has been reported as well,[9] including /pʰ/ being usually realized as [f] in the standard dialect.[9]
  • The two voiced retroflex plosives /ɖʱ, ɖ/ and the retroflex nasal /ɳ/ have flapped allophones [ɽʱ, ɽ, ɽ̃]. The plosives /ɖʱ, ɖ/ are unflapped initially, geminated, and after nasal vowels; and flapped intervocalically, finally, and before or after other consonants.[6] The nasal /ɳ/ is unflapped before retroflex plosives and intervocalically, and in final position varies freely between flapped and unflapped.[7]
  • /ʋ/ has [v] and [w] as allophones.[10]
  • The distribution of sibilants varies over dialects and registers.
    • Some dialects only have [s], others prefer [ʃ], while another system has them non-contrasting, with [ʃ] occurring contiguous to palatal segments. Retroflex [ʂ] still appears in clusters in which it precedes another retroflex: [spəʂʈ] ('clear').[11]
    • Some speakers maintain [z] as well for Persian and English borrowings. Persian's /z/'s have by and large been transposed to /dʒ/ and /dʒʱ/: /dʒindɡi/ ('life') and /tʃidʒʱ/ ('thing'). The same cannot be so easily said for English: /tʃiz/ ('cheese').
    • Lastly, a colloquial register has [s], or both [s] and [ʃ], replaced by voiceless [h]. For educated speakers speaking this register, this replacement does not extend to Sanskrit borrowings.[9]

Phonotactical constraints include:

  • /ɭ/ and /ɳ/ do not occur word-initially.[2]
  • Clusters occur initially, medially, and finally. Geminates occur only medially.[2]
  • Biconsonantal initial clusters beginning with stops have /ɾ/, /j/, /ʋ/, and /l/ as second members.[12] In addition to these, in loans from Sanskrit the clusters /ɡn/ and /kʃ/ may occur.
    The occurrence of /ɾ/ as a second member in consonantal clusters is one of Gujarati's conservative features as a modern Indo-Aryan language. For example, languages used in Asokan inscriptions (3rd century BC) display contemporary regional variations, with words found in Gujarat's Girnar inscriptions containing clusters with /ɾ/ as the second member not having /ɾ/ in their occurrence in inscriptions elsewhere. This is maintained even to today, with Gujarati /tɾ/ corresponding to Hindi /t/ and /tt/.[13]
  • Initially, s clusters biconsonantally with /ɾ, j, ʋ, n, m/, and non-palatal voiceless stops.[12]
  • Triconsonantal initial clusters include /stɾ, spɾ, smɾ/ - most of which occur in borrowings.[12]
  • Geminates were previously treated as long consonants, but they are better analyzed as clusters of two identical segments. Two proofs for this:[7]
    • The u in geminated uccār "pronunciation" sounds more like the one in clustered udgār ('utterance') than the one in shortened ucāṭ ('anxiety').
    • Geminates behave towards (that is, disallow) [ə]-deletion like clusters do.

Gemination can serve as intensification. In some adjectives and adverbs, a singular consonant before the agreement vowel can be doubled for intensification.[14] #VCũ → #VCCũ.

big [moʈũ] [moʈʈũ] big
straight [sidʱũ] [siddʱũ] straight
considerably [kʰɑsũ] [kʰɑssũ] considerably


The matter of stress is not quite clear:

  • Stress is on the first syllable except when it doesn't have /a/ and the second syllable does.[15]
  • Stress is barely perceptible.[16]
  • Stress typically falls on the penultimate syllable of a word, however, if the penultimate vowel in a word with more than two syllables is schwa, stress falls on the preceding syllable.[17]


Schwa-deletion, along with a-reduction and [ʋ]-insertion, is a phonological process at work in the combination of morphemes. It is a common feature among Indo-Aryan languages, referring to the deletion of a stem's final syllable's /ə/ before a suffix starting with a vowel.[15]

This does not apply for monosyllabic stems and consonant clusters. So, better put, #VCəC + V# → #VCCV#. It also doesn't apply when the addition is an o plural marker (see Gujarati grammar#Nouns) or e as an ergative case marker (see Gujarati grammar#Postpositions).[18]}} It sometimes doesn't apply for e as a locative marker.

Stem Suffix Suffixed stem C/V Del Notes
verb root [keɭəʋ] educate [iʃ] 1st person singular, future [keɭʋiʃ] will educate CVCəC + VC → CVCCVC Yes Polysyllabic stem with /ə/ in its final syllable, with a suffix starting with a vowel (verbal declension).
[səmədʒ] understand [jɑ] masculine plural, perfective [səmdʒjɑ] understood CVCəC + CV → CVCCCV Polysyllabic stem with /ə/ in its final syllable, with a suffix starting with a semi-vowel (verbal declension).
[utəɾ] descend [to] masculine singular, imperfective [utəɾto] descending VCəC + CV → VCəCCV No Suffix starting with a consonant.
[təɾ] swim, float [ɛ] 2nd person singular, present [təɾɛ] swimming, floating CəC + V → CəCV Monosyllabic.
[ʋəɾɳəʋ] describe [i] feminine, perfective [ʋəɾɳəʋi] described CVCCəC + VC → CVCCəCVC Consonant cluster.
[ɑɭoʈ] wallow, roll [iʃũ] 1st person plural, future [ɑɭoʈiʃũ] will wallow, roll VCoC + VCV → VCoCVCV Non-ə.
noun [ɑɭəs] laziness [ũ] adjectival marker [ɑɭsũ] lazy VCəC + V → VCCV Yes Polysyllabic stem with /ə/ in its final syllable, with a suffix starting with a vowel (adjectival marking).
[ʋəkʰət] time [e] locative marker [ʋəkte] at (the) time CVCəC + V → CVCCV Sometimes yes — e as a locative marker.
[diʋəs] day [diʋəse] on (the) day CVCəC + V → CVCəCV No Sometimes no — e as a locative marker.
[ɾəmət] game [o] plural marker [ɾəməto] games CVCəC + V → CVCəCV Plural o number marker suffix.
adjective [ɡəɾəm] hot [i] noun marker [ɡəɾmi] heat CVCəC + V → CVCCV Yes Polysyllabic stem with /ə/ in its final syllable, with a suffix starting with a vowel (noun marking).


A stem's final syllable's /ɑ/ will reduce to /ə/ before a suffix starting with /ɑ/. #ɑC(C) + ɑ# → #eC(C)ɑ#. This can be seen in the derivation of nouns from adjective stems, and in the formation of passive and causative forms of verb stems.[19]

Stem Suffix Suffixed Stem Reduced
cut [kɑp] [ɑ] [kəpɑ] be cut Passive Yes
[ɑʋ] [kəpɑʋ] cause to cut Causative
to cut
[kəpɑʋ] [ɑ] [kəpɑʋɑ] cause to be cut Causative Passive No[a]
[ɖɑʋ] [kəpɑʋɖɑʋ] cause to cause to cut Double Causative
use [ʋɑpəɾ] [ɑ] [ʋəpɾɑ][b] be used Passive Yes
long [lɑmb] [ɑi] [ləmbɑi] length Noun
  1. ^ It does not happen a second time.
  2. ^ It can take place after an ə-deletion. #ɑCəC + ɑ# → #əCCɑ#.


Between a stem ending in a vowel and its suffix starting with a vowel, a [ʋ] is inserted.[20] #V + V# → #VʋV#. This can be seen in the formation of passive and causative forms of verb stems.

Stem Suffix Suffixed stem
see [dʒo] [ɑ] [dʒoʋɑ] be seen
sing [ɡɑ] [ɑɽ] [ɡəʋɑɽ] cause to sing

The second example shows an ɑ-reduction as well.


ə finds itself inserted between the emphatic particle /dʒ/ and consonant-terminating words it postpositions.[21]

one [ek] [ekədʒ] one
that [e] [edʒ] that


/ɦ/ serves as a source for murmur, of which there are three rules:[22]

Rule Formal[a] Casual English
1 Word-initial ɦV → V̤[b] [ɦəʋe] [ə̤ʋe] now
[ɦɑɽkũ] [ɑ̤ɽkũ] bone
2 əɦVnon-high
non-high, more open
[səɦelũ] [sɛ̤lũ] easy
[bəɦoɭũ] [bɔ̤ɭũ] large
[dəɦɑɽo] [da̤ɽo][c] day
3 ə/aɦVhighə̤/ɑ̤ (glide) [ɾəɦi] [ɾə̤j] stayed
[bəɦu] [bə̤ʋ] very
  1. ^ Gujarati spelling reflects this mode. The script has no direct notation for murmur.
  2. ^ Rule 1 creates allomorphs for nouns. For example, /ɦəd/ ('limit') by itself can be ə̤d, but can only be ɦəd in beɦəd ('limitless').
  3. ^ More open.

The table below compares declensions of the verbs [kəɾʋũ] ('to do') and [kɛ̤ʋũ] ('to say'). The former follows the regular pattern of the stable root /kəɾ/ serving as a point for characteristic suffixations. The latter, on the other hand, is deviant and irregular in this respect.

Infinitive Perfective Imperative 1sg. Future
[kəɾʋũ] [kəɾjũ] [kəɾo] [kəɾiʃ]
[kɛ̤ʋũ] [kəɦjũ] [kɔ̤] [kə̤jʃ]

The [kɛ̤ʋũ] situation can be explained through murmur. If to a formal or historical root of /kəɦe/ these rules are considered then predicted, explained, and made regular is the irregularity that is [kɛ̤ʋũ] (romanized as kahevũ).

Thus below are the declensions of [kɛ̤ʋũ] /ɦ/-possessing, murmur-eliciting root /kəɦe/, this time with the application of the murmur rules on the root shown, also to which a preceding rule must be taken into account:

0. A final root vowel gets deleted before a suffix starting with a non-consonant.
Rule Infinitive Perfective Imperative 1sg. Future
[kəɦe-ʋũ] [kəɦe-jũ] [kəɦe-o] [kəɦe-iʃ]
0 [kəɦ-jũ] [kəɦ-o] [kəɦ-iʃ]
2 [kɛ̤-ʋũ] [kɔ̤]
3 [kə̤-jʃ]
[kɛ̤ʋũ] [kəɦjũ] [kɔ̤] [kə̤jʃ]

However, in the end not all instances of /ɦ/ become murmured and not all murmur comes from instances of /ɦ/.

One other predictable source for murmur is voiced aspirated stops. A clear vowel followed by a voiced aspirated stop can vary with a pair gaining murmur and losing aspiration: #VCʱ ←→ #V̤C.


  1. ^ Mistry (2003), p. 115.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mistry (2003), p. 116.
  3. ^ a b Cardona & Suthar (2003), p. 662.
  4. ^ Mistry (2003), pp. 115–116.
  5. ^ Mistry (1996), pp. 391–393.
  6. ^ a b Masica (1991), p. 97.
  7. ^ a b c d Mistry (1997), p. 659.
  8. ^ Cardona & Suthar (2003), p. 665.
  9. ^ a b c d Cardona (2003), p. 665.
  10. ^ Mistry (2001), p. 275.
  11. ^ Mistry (1997), p. 658.
  12. ^ a b c Cardona & Suthar (2003), p. 666.
  13. ^ Mistry (2001), p. 274.
  14. ^ Mistry (1997), p. 670.
  15. ^ a b Mistry (1997), p. 660.
  16. ^ Campbell (1991), p. ?.
  17. ^ UCLA Language Materials Project: Gujarati. Archived 2011-06-05 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2007-04-29
  18. ^ Mistry (1997), pp. 661–662.
  19. ^ Mistry (1997), p. 662.
  20. ^ Mistry (1997), p. 663.
  21. ^ Cardona & Suthar (2003), p. 667.
  22. ^ Mistry (1997), pp. 666–668.


  • Campbell, G.L. (1991), "Gujarati", Compendium of the world's languages, volume 1. Abaza to Lusatian, New York: Routledge, pp. 541–545
  • Cardona, George; Suthar, Babu (2003), "Gujarati", in Cardona, George; Jain, Dhanesh (eds.), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-77294-5
  • Dave, T.N. (1931), "Notes on Gujarati Phonology", Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, 6 (3): 673–678, doi:10.1017/S0041977X00093174, ISSN 1356-1898, JSTOR 607202
  • Firth, J.R. (1957), "Phonetic Observations on Gujarati", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 20 (1): 231–241, doi:10.1017/S0041977X00061802, JSTOR 610376
  • Masica, Colin (1991), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-29944-2
  • Mistry, P.J. (1996), "Gujarati Writing", in Daniels; Bright (eds.), The World's Writing Systems, Oxford University Press
  • Mistry, P.J. (1997), "Gujarati Phonology", in Kaye, A.S (ed.), Phonologies of Asia and Africa, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns
  • Mistry, P.J. (2001), "Gujarati", in Garry, Jane; Rubino, Carl (eds.), An encyclopedia of the world's major languages, past and present, New England Publishing Associates
  • Mistry, P.J. (2003), "Gujarati", in Frawley, William (ed.), International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, 2 (2nd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Pandit, P.B. (1961), "Historical Phonology of Gujarati Vowels", Language, Linguistic Society of America, 37 (1): 54–66, doi:10.2307/411249, JSTOR 411249
  • Turner, Ralph Lilley (1921), "Gujarati Phonology", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society: 505–544
  • Turner, Ralph Lilley (1915), "Indo-Aryan Nasals in Gujarati", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society: 1033–1038