World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Gujarati phonology

Article Id: WHEBN0011191926
Reproduction Date:

Title: Gujarati phonology  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Gujarati alphabet, Nepali phonology, Media in Gujarati language, Avestan phonology, Afrikaans phonology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Gujarati phonology


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]
  • 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 Post-alv./
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɳ
Stop aspirated () t̪ʰ ʈʰ tʃʰ
voiceless p ʈ k
murmured d̪ʱ ɖʱ dʒʱ ɡʱ
voiced b ɖ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ
voiced (z) ɦ
Tap ɾ
Approximant ʋ l [6] j
  • A fourth nasal phoneme is postulated for the phones [ɲ, ŋ] and the nasalization of a preceding vowel [Ṽ].[7] Before velar and palatal stops, there is variation between these; e.g. [mɑ̃ɡʋũ]~[mɑŋɡʋũ] ('ask for'), [ɦĩcko]~[ɦĩɲcko] ('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.[8]
  • Intervocalically and with murmuring of vowels, the voiced aspirated stops /ɡʱ, d̪ʱ, bʱ/ have voiced spirant allophones [ɣ, ð, β]. Spirantization of non-palatal voiceless aspirates has been reported as well,[8] including /pʰ/ being usually realized as [f] in the standard dialect.[8]
  • The voiced retroflex stops and the nasal /ɖʱ, ɖ, ɳ/ have flapped allophones [ɽʱ, ɽ, ɽ̃]. Intervocalically all three are flapped. /ɳ/ is unflapped before retroflex stops, and in final position varies freely between flapped and unflapped.[7] The stops are unflapped initially, geminated, and postnasally; and flapped intervocalically, finally, and before or after other consonants.[9]
  • /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/: /dʒin̪d̪ɡi/ ('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.[8]

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 /t̪ɾ/ corresponding to Hindi /t̪/ and /t̪t̪/.[13]
  • Initially, s clusters biconsonantally with /ɾ, j, ʋ, n, m/, and non-palatal voiceless stops.[12]
  • Triconsonantal initial clusters include /st̪ɾ, 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 [sid̪ʱũ] [sid̪d̪ʱũ] 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).
[ut̪əɾ] descend [t̪o] masculine singular, imperfective [ut̪əɾt̪o] descending VCəC + CV → VCəCCV No Suffix starting with a consonant.
[t̪əɾ] swim, float [ɛ] 2nd person singular, present [t̪əɾɛ] 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).
[ʋəkʰət̪] time [e] locative marker [ʋəkt̪e] at (the) time CVCəC + V → CVCCV Sometimes yes — e as a locative marker.
[d̪iʋəs] day [d̪iʋəse] on (the) day CVCəC + V → CVCəCV No Sometimes no — e as a locative marker.
[ɾəmət̪] game [o] plural marker [ɾəmət̪o] 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 Red
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 No1
[ɖɑʋ] [kəpɑʋɖɑʋ] cause to cause to cut Double Causative
use [ʋɑpəɾ] [ɑ] [ʋəpɾɑ]2 be used Passive Yes
long [lɑmb] [ɑi] [ləmbɑi] length Noun
  1. It doesn't 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 Formal1 Casual English
1 Word-initial ɦV → V̤2 [ɦəʋe] [ə̤ʋe] now
[ɦɑɽkũ] [ɑ̤ɽkũ] bone
2 əɦVnon-high
non-high, more open
[səɦelũ] [sɛ̤lũ] easy
[bəɦoɭũ] [bɔ̤ɭũ] large
[d̪əɦɑɽo] [d̪a̤ɽo]3 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, /ɦəd̪/ ('limit') by itself can be [ə̤d̪], but can only be [ɦəd̪] in /beɦəd̪/ ('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]

Fortunately 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 (2003:115)
  2. ^ a b c d Mistry (2003:116)
  3. ^ a b Cardona & Suthar (2003:662)
  4. ^ Mistry (2003:115–116)
  5. ^ Mistry (1996:391–393)
  6. ^ Masica (1991:97)
  7. ^ a b c Mistry (1997:659)
  8. ^ a b c d e Cardona & Suthar (2003:665)
  9. ^ Masica (1991:97)
  10. ^ Mistry (2001:275)
  11. ^ Mistry (1997:658)
  12. ^ a b c Cardona & Suthar (2003:666)
  13. ^ Mistry (2001:274)
  14. ^ Mistry (1997:670)
  15. ^ a b Mistry (1997:660)
  16. ^ Campbell, G.L. (1991), "Gujarati", Compendium of the world's languages, volume 1. Abaza to Lusatian, New York: Routledge, pp. 541–545 
  17. ^ UCLA Language Materials Project: Gujarati. Retrieved on 2007-04-29
  18. ^ Mistry (1997:661–662)
  19. ^ Mistry (1997:662)
  20. ^ Mistry (1997:663)
  21. ^ Cardona & Suthar (2003:667)
  22. ^ Mistry (1997:666–668)


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.