LINGUIST List 6.521

Thu 06 Apr 1995

Sum: More on Aum

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  1. David P. Baxter, More on AUM

Message 1: More on AUM

Date: Tue, 4 Apr 1995 17:34:36 -More on AUM
From: David P. Baxter <>
Subject: More on AUM

Content-Length: 1698

Hans Hock, professor of linguistics and Sanskrit at the University of
Illinois, has this to add on the development and pronunciation of AUM in

)As for _aum_ beside _om_: As a mystical syllable _om_ is
)analyzed in the Vedic tradition as consisting of THREE parts, _a_, _u_, and
)_m_, which are equated with the THREE worlds (heaven, ether, and earth) and
)with the THREE Vedas (Rig-, Yajur-, and Saama-). There is a possible
)second source for _aum_: In recitation, _om_ often undergoes 'pluti', a
)trimoric prolongation with additional suprasegmental features. Although
)_om_ ordinarily remains unchanged under pluti (coming out as _o3m_), other
)words containing the vowel _o_ would change the vowel to _au- (hence
)_au3m_). It is well possible, then, that in some traditions, the 'triune'
)character of _om_ = _a_ + _u_ + _m_ came to be viewed as supporting and
)justifying the pronunciation _au3m_. Evidently, in some recitational
)traditions this happened. (For instance, in his edition of the UpaniSads,
)Radhakrishnan regularly writes _au(3)m_ for the _o(3)m_ found in just about
)all other editions.)

Professor Hock also has written a paper on this topic called "On the origin
and early development of the sacred Sanskrit syllable OM", published in
1991 as part of Volume I of the Journal of Indo-European Studies' Monograph
Number Seven: "Perspectives on Indo-European language, culture and
religion". Professor Hock has made it clear that he will not be able to
participate in any ensuing AUM discussion on the Linguist List, but this
article should provide intellectual sustenance for the as yet unsatiated.

David P. Baxter
Urbana, Illinois
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