The Hindi 3rd person singular proximal and distal pronouns यह and वह are commonly pronounced [jeː] and [ʋoː], in contrast to the [hyper-correct?] pronunciations [jəɦ(ə)] and [ʋəɦ(ə)] one might expect from their spellings.

Why are these words spelled this way given their pronunciation? Apart from word-internal schwa syncope, Modern Standard Hindi pronunciation is generally predictable from spelling, so this seems an odd departure.

I tried to research this but found little credible information. Some possible reasons that jump to mind:

1. They used to be pronounced as spelled, but have since evolved (possibly influenced by the plural forms).
2. A specific dialect pronounces them this way (that influenced the standard spelling).
3. A phenomenon similar to how [ɛ] occurs as an allophone of /ə/ in /əɦə/ environments (e.g. बहन /bəɦən/ > [bɛɦ(ɛ)n]), or how [ɔ] occurs as an allophone of /ə/ and rounded vowels in /əɦV[+round]/ or /V[+round]ɦə/ environments* (e.g. बहुत /bəhʊt̪/ > [bɔhɔt̪])?

* i.e. /əɦʊ, əɦuː, əɦoː, əɦɔː/
   /ʊɦə, uːɦə, oːɦə, ɔːɦə/

  • 1
    Could you remind us of how they are spelt in Urdu?
    – fdb
    Sep 7, 2019 at 17:13
  • 1
    @fdb يہ‎ and وہ‎ respectively.
    – iacobo
    Sep 7, 2019 at 17:54
  • Thanks. These imply in any event a short vowel.
    – fdb
    Sep 7, 2019 at 18:04
  • 2
    'वह' and 'यह' are often pronounced as 'वो' and 'ये' as speaking the extra 'ह' at the end takes a little more effort and time. 'वो' and 'ये' end in 'ो' and 'े', both 'svars' (स्वर)/vowels which can be spoken quickly.
    – user27242
    Nov 17, 2019 at 4:36


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