37. The second and fourth

The second and fourth of each series are aspirates: thus, beside the surd mute क् k we have the corresponding surd aspirate ख् kh, and beside the sonant ग् g, the corresponding sonant aspirate घ् gh. Of these, the precise character is more obscure and difficult to determine.

a. That the aspirates, all of them, are real mutes or contact sounds, and not fricative (like European th and ph and ch, etc.), is beyond question.

b. It is also not doubtful in what way the surd th, for example, differs from the unaspirated t: such aspirates are found in many Asiatic languages, and even in some European; they involve the slipping-out of an audible bit of flatus or aspiration between the breach of mute-closure and the following sound, whatever it may be. They are accurately enough represented by the th etc., with which, in imitation of the Latin treatment of the similar ancient Greek aspirates, we are accustomed to write them.

c. The sonant aspirates are generally understood and described as made in a similar way, with a perceptible h-sound after the breach of sonant mute-closure But there are great theoretical difficulties in the way of accepting this explanation; and some of the best phonetic observers deny that the modern Hindu pronunciation is of such a character, and define the element following the mute as a "glottal buzz”, rather, or as an emphasized utterance of the beginning of the succeeding sound. The question is one of great difficulty, and upon it the opinions of the highest authorities are much at variance. Sonant aspirates are still in use in India, in the pronunciation of the vernacular as well as of the learned language.

d. By the Prātiçākhyas, the aspirates of both classes are called soṣman: which might mean either accompanied by a rush of breath (taking ūṣman in its more etymological sense), or accompanied by a spirant (below, 59). And some native authorities define the surd aspirate as made by the combination of each surd non-aspirate with its own corresponding surd spirant, the h-sound (below, 65). But this would make the two classes of aspirates of quite diverse character, and would also make th the same as ts, ṭh as ṭṣ, ch as cç — which is in any measure plausible only of the last. Pāṇini has no name for aspirates; the scheme given in his comment (to i. 1. 9) attributes to them mahāprāṇa great expiration, and to the non-aspirates alpaprāṇa small expiration.

e. It is usual among European scholars to pronounce both classes of aspirates as the corresponding non-aspirates with a following h: for example थ् th nearly as in Englishboathook, फ् ph as in haphazard, ध् dh as in madhouse, भ् bh as in abhor, and so on. This is (as we have seen above) strictly accurate only as regards the surd aspirates.