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Bangla Pronunciation

As you learn new Bangla words, you want to make sure that
  1. You are pronouncing the Bangla letters properly
  2. You can break down the word into units called syllables
  3. You are stressing the correct syllables as you speak the word
We will look at each of these in this discussion.

Pronouncing Bangla Letters of the Alphabet

As you have seen in Learn the Bangla Alphabet, Bangla has 11 Vowels (with 10 vowel diacritics), 35 Consonants and 4 Consonant Signs. On this site, I have used the suborNo Phonetic Transliteration to represent the phonetic sounds of the letters of the alphabet. The following rules are used when two or more letters appear in sequence.
  1. All Consonants have an inherent "o" sound. For example, the letter 'ক' sounds like ko by itself.
  2. A Consonant sound can be modified by adding a Vowel diacritic. For example, if you add the vowel diacritic for Vowel 'ই' which is 'ি', then you get কি which sounds like ki. Note that the Vowel 'অ' does not have a diacritic form.
  3. When 2 Consonants occur in sequence, a Compound Consonant is formed. In Unicode, the internal representation is 2 Consonants with a hosonto ('্') between them. So the Compound Consonant 'ন'+'্'+'দ'=ন্দ which is seen in the word আনন্দ anondo, the Bangla word for joy.
  4. One Consonant, 'য়' y called ontesto-awe, is called a semi-vowel. It can replace a Vowel in forming Syllables.
  5. Consonant Signs cannot have Vowel diacritics attached to them, nor can they be combined with other Consonants to form Compound Consonants

Forming Syllables

A Syllable is defined as:
  • a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word; e.g., there are two syllables in wa-ter and three in in-fer-no .
  • ORIGIN late Middle English: from an Anglo-Norman French alteration of Old French sillabe, via Latin from Greek sullabē, from sun- ‘together’ + lambanein ‘take.’
In Bangla, the following rules are adhered to:
  • A Vowel can form a syllable on its own
  • Consonants need an accompanying Vowel or Vowel diacritic to form a syllable
  • Syllable forms (V=Vowel/Vowel Diacritic,C=Consonant,Y=Consonant 'য়',X=Joiner hosonto)
    • Vowel Syllables - V, VC, VY
    • Consonant Syllables - CV, CVC, CVY, CCVC
    • Compound Consonants - CXCV,CXCVC (slightly different when they are in the middle of a word)
  • Syllable Examples

    Syllables starting with Vowels

    V O Him/her (pr.)
    VCএক ek one (n.)
    VYআয় ay income (n.)

    Syllables starting with Consonants

    CVমা ma mother (n.)
    CVCগান gan song (n.)
    CVYগায় gay sings (v.)
    CCVধরা dhora to hold (v.)
    CCVCকরাত korat hand-saw(tool) (n.)

    Compound Consonants at beginning of word

    CXCVশ্রী shrI wealth,beauty,grace (n.)
    CXCVCক্রোধ krOdh anger (n.)
    CXCXCVস্ত্রী strI wife (n.)

    Compound consonants in the middle of a word

    ???CXCVশান্তি shanti peace (n.) - Second letter of Compound Consonant will begin a linked syllable as in shan-ti

It would be very tedious to try to parse every word in your vocabulary into syllables. All these rules have been codified in the Pronunciation Wizard in the Learn Bangla section of this site.

Which Syllables Are To Be Stressed?

Bangla word pronunciation is "Trochaic". A trochee or choree, choreus, is a metrical foot used in formal poetry consisting of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one. Trochee comes from the Greek τροχός, trokhós, wheel, and choree from χορός, khorós, dance; both convey the "rolling" rhythm of this metrical foot.

The primary stress falls on the initial syllable of the word, while secondary stress often falls on all odd-numbered syllables thereafter. Long words in Bangla (usually compound words) are pronounced by stressing the odd syllables. Some examples are given below.

BanglaPronunciationEnglish Meaning
উদ্দেশ্যপূর্ণভাবে uddesh‧Yo‧pUr‧No‧bha‧be purposely
কর্তৃত্বপূর্ণভাবে kor‧trrit‧wo‧pUr‧No‧bha‧be predominantly
ক্ষুদ্রাদপিক্ষুদ্র kShud‧rado‧pik‧Shud‧ro infinitesimal
জ্যোতিঃপদার্থবিদ্যা jYO‧tiH^‧po‧dar‧tho‧bid‧Ya astrophysics
দর্শনশাস্ত্রানুযায়ী dor‧sho‧no‧shas‧tra‧nu‧JayI philosophically
ধর্মনিরপেক্ষতাবাদ dhor‧mo‧niro‧pek‧Sho‧ta‧bad secularism
প্রাণিতত্ত্বসম্বন্ধীয় pra‧Nitot‧two‧som‧bon‧dhIyo zoological
প্রোট্যাক্টেনিয়াম prOT‧Yak‧Te‧niyam protactinium
মহাবিশ্বতত্ত্বমূলক mo‧ha‧bish‧wo‧tot‧two‧mUlok cosmological
শ্রমশিল্পসংক্রান্ত shro‧mo‧shil‧po‧song‧k‧ran‧to industrial
সহঃসমন্বয়সাধনকারী so‧hoH^‧so‧mon‧boyo‧sadho‧no‧ka‧rI co-coordinator

All these rules and more have been incorporated into Pronunciation Wizard. You can enter a block of Bangla text into the blue box on the left and click on the "Bangla to English Pronunciation" button. Some samples are provided for you to try it out.

For example,

if you entered the Bangla Text, you will see English Pronunciation.
গগনে গরজে মেঘ, ঘন বরষা। go‧go‧ne go‧ro‧je megh, ghono bo‧ro‧Sha.
কূলে একা বসে আছি, নাহি ভরসা। kU‧le eka bo‧se achhi, na‧hi bho‧ro‧sa.
রাশি রাশি ভারা ভারা ra‧shi ra‧shi bha‧ra bha‧ra
ধান কাটা হল সারা, dhan ka‧Ta hol sa‧ra,
ভরা নদী ক্ষুরধারা bho‧ra no‧dI kShuro‧dha‧ra
খরপরশা। kho‧ro‧po‧ro‧sha.
কাটিতে কাটিতে ধান এল বরষা। ka‧Ti‧te ka‧Ti‧te dhan el bo‧ro‧Sha.

With the knowledge that we stress the initial and every odd-numbered syllable, it should give you more confidence in pronouncing Bangla words, especially the confusing long words.