# Vowel combinations

In the previous lesson, we learned about five basic vowels:

• a

• i

• u

These five vowels are like different ingredients in a kitchen: sugar, salt, pepper, lime juice, and so on. By combining ingredients in different ways, we can create all kinds of new flavors. And by combining vowels in different ways, we can create all kinds of new sounds.

## Short and long vowels

Suppose we are drinking tea and want to add some sugar to our tea. What is the difference between adding one spoon of sugar and adding two spoons of sugar? With one spoonful, our tea will be sweet. With two spoonfuls, our tea will be very sweet!

In the same way, what if we combine a and a together? We get a new sound that has the same basic flavor as a but in a more intense form. We get the vowel ā:

• ā

ā is pronounced for twice as much time as a. For this reason, ā is called a long vowel, and a is called a short vowel.

By using the method above, we can create many other long vowels:

• इ + इ → ई
i + i → ī

• ऋ + ऋ → ॠ
ṛ + ṛ → ṝ

• उ + उ → ऊ
u + u → ū

is very rare in Sanskrit, and it does not have a long version. So in total, these combinations give us four new vowels:

• ā

• ī

• ū

Can we combine these vowels again? We can, but the result is the same:

• आ + आ → आ
ā + ā → ā

• ई + ई → ई
ī + ī → ī

• ॠ + ॠ → ॠ
ṝ + ṝ → ṝ

• ऊ + ऊ → ऊ
ū + ū → ū

## Semivowels

Just as we can combine sugar and salt to make new flavors, we can combine vowels that use different points of pronunciation to make new sounds.

In Sanskrit, we combine two vowels at a time. If the first vowel is not a or ā, then it becomes a shortened form:

• इ/ई + अ → य् अ
i/ī + a → y a

• ऋ/ॠ + अ → र् अ
ṛ/ṝ + a → r a

• ऌ + अ → ल् अ
ḷ + a → l a

• उ/ऊ + अ → व् अ
u/ū + a → v a

These new letters are similar to vowels, but they behave a little differently from the vowels we've seen. So, they are called semivowels. Each semivowel is associated with a different point of pronunciation:

• ya

• ra

• la

• va

## Compound vowels

We just learned how vowels combine if the first vowel is not a or ā. But what does happen if the first vowel is a or ā? Well, a and ā blend nicely with other vowels. So when a or ā is the first vowel, we get these new combinations:

• अ/आ + इ/ई → ए
a/ā + i/ī → e

• अ/आ + उ/ऊ → ओ
a/ā + u/ū → o

• अ/आ + ऋ/ॠ → अर्
a/ā + ṛ/ṝ → ar

• अ/आ + ऌ → अल्
a/ā + ḷ → al

r and l are semivowels, as we know already. But e and o are new sounds. They are called compound vowels. Compound vowels are always long vowels, like ā and ū:

• e

• o

Can we combine a with these sounds again? Yes, we can:

• अ/आ + ए → ऐ
a/ā + e → ai

• अ/आ + ओ → औ
a/ā + o → au

• अ/आ + अर् → आर्
a/ā + ar → ār

• अ/आ + अल् → आल्
a/ā + al → āl

ai and au are also compound vowels, and they are also long:

• ai

• au

Can we combine a with these sounds again? We can, but the result is the same. There are no more sounds we can create:

• अ/आ + ऐ → ऐ
a/ā + ai → ai

• अ/आ + औ → औ
a/ā + au → au

• अ/आ + आर् → आर्
a/ā + ār → ār

• अ/आ + आल् → आल्
a/ā + āl → āl

## Combining compound vowels

We have seen almost all of the different ways that Sanskrit vowels combine with each other. But there is one loose end. What if the first vowel is a compound vowel?

If the first vowel is a compound vowel, then we usually see the following changes:

• ए + अ → अय् अ
e + a → ay a

• ऐ + अ → आय् अ
ai + a → āy a

• ओ + अ → अव् अ
o + a → av a

• औ + अ → आव् अ
au + a → āv a

In the examples above, the second vowel is a. But the change is the same no matter which vowel follows:

• ए + इ → अय् इ
e + i → ay i

• ऐ + उ → आय् उ
ai + u → āy u

• ओ + ॠ → अव् ॠ
o + ṝ → av ṝ

• औ + ऐ → आव् ऐ
au + ai → āv ai

If these changes feel strange to you, it might help to remember where the compound vowels come from. For example, the compound vowel e comes from the vowels a and i. So when e is followed by some other vowel, it's as if the i sound becomes the semivowel y:

• ए + अ → अ + इ + अ
e + a → a + i + a

• अ + इ + अ → अय् अ
a + i + a → ay a

We can think about ai in the same way:

• ऐ + अ → अ + अ + इ + अ
ai + a → a + a + i + a

• अ + अ + इ + अ → आय् अ
a + a + i + a → āy a

## Review

We have now seen all of the fundamental Sanskrit vowels. Here they are in their traditional order:

• a

• ā

• i

• ī

• u

• ū

• e

• ai

• o

• au

We have also seen four semivowels. We will discuss these sounds more in the next lesson:

• ya

• ra

• la

• va

Now, here are a few review questions:

1. Which vowels are short? Which vowels are long?

2. Which vowels are compound vowels?

3. What do we get when we combine ā and ā?

4. What do we get when we combine au and i?