As suggested by some members here, this is a place to discuss just the Pali pronunciation and the different diacritics used. Often, different translators will use different diacritics to show the same sound. So we can post different versions of Pali pronunciation guides here too.
This one is from ânandajoti Bhikkhu :
Semi vowels, sibilant, and aspirate:
This is the basic pattern of all the Indian alphabets, and as can be seen, they are arranged on a very rational basis. First come the vowels (discussed below), followed by the pure nasal. Next come the definite consonants with their corresponding nasal sounds. These are organised according to their place of articulation, beginning with the gutturals pronounced at the back of the mouth, and ending with those articulated on the lips. Then come the indefinite consonants. There are five main difficulties for those unfamiliar with the Indian languages, which will be dealt with here.
Unlike English, for instance, the vowel system in Pàli is very precise, and the vowels are either short or long, with the latter being exactly twice as long as the former. It is important to distinguish the lengths of the vowels correctly, as a, for example, is a negative prefix; but à is an intensifier (ananda means unhappy; ànanda means very happy). As a guide for the English reader:
a as in another
à as in art
i as in ink
ã as in eel
u as in under
å as in prudent
e as in age (but before a conjunct consonant as in end)
o as in own (but before a conjunct consonant as in orange)
Only one letter is used to represent the sounds e & o, which are normally pronounced long as ¹, & º. Before a conjunct they are normally pronounced short as Õ, & Ö, although it appears to be the case that when these vowels appear in sandhi before a double consonant, they retain their natural length, and should be pronounced as such, so that in jaràdhammo 'mhi, we should read jaràdhammº 'mhi.
The second and fourth letters in the consonant section of the alphabet (kha gha cha jha etc.), are digraphs representing the aspirate sound of the preceding consonant (ka ga ca ja etc.). They are pronounced as the latter, but with a strong breath pulse. Again, these must be distinguished (kamati, for example, is not khamati). Note that simple ca is pronounced as in change, cha is the same with a stronger breath pulse.
In Pàli ña ñha óa & óha are pronounced with the tongue behind the dental ridge, giving a characteristic hollow sound. The sounds ta tha da & dha are pronounced with the tip of the tongue on the teeth. In English ta & da etc. are about halfway between the two, so move the tongue back for the first group, and forward for the second. Note that tha is never pronounced as in they or their, but is the aspirate of ta.
The nasal sounds are all distinguished according to their place of articulation. This in practice causes few problems when the nasal is in conjunction with one of its corresponding consonants. But some of them (ÿa õa na & ma) occur by themselves also, so again they must be recognised and pronounced according to their correct position. The sound of each can be found by pronouncing them before a member of their group, e.g. first ï as in ink. The pronunciation of ÿa is as in canyon, or the Spanish word seÿor. The letter ü represents the pure nasal which is sounded when the air escapes through the nose only.
Double consonants must be clearly articulated as two sounds, not merged into one, as is the tendency in European languages. When there is a double consonant it may help to imagine a hyphen between the two letters and pronounce accordingly. Therefore sut-taü, not sutaü (or såtaü); bhik-khu, not bhikhu (or bhãkhu) etc.
To get a feel for the pronunciation and rhythm of the language it is strongly advised that beginners join in group chanting with people who are experienced in the language until they are able to manage the correct pronunciation by themselves. This will also help in familiarising students with certain basic texts.
Below is a guide to the correct pronunciation of the language, summarising the points discussed above, together with some further information regarding articulation.
a is short as in another, academic
à is long as in art, father
i is short as in ink, pin
ã is long as in eel, seal
u is short as in utter, under
å is long as in prudent, do
e is long in open syllables as in age, but before a conjunct consonant it is short as in end
o is long in open syllables as in own, but before a conjunct consonant it is short as in orange
ü is the pure nasal sounded through the nose
k as in cat, keen
kh somewhat as in blackheath
g as in gadfly, gate
gh somewhat as in log house
ï as in bank
c as in change, church
ch somewhat as in witch hazel
j as in jet, jaw
jh somewhat as in sledge hammer
ÿ as in canyon, seÿor
The following sounds as noted but with the tongue drawn back, thereby producing a hollow sound:
ñ as in tap, tick
ñh somewhat as in ant hill (never as in they)
ó as in did, dug
óh somewhat as in red hot
õ as in know
The following sounds as noted but with the tongue touching the tip of the teeth:
t as in tub, ten
th somewhat as in cat house
d as in den, dig
dh somewhat as in mad house
n as in nip, nose
p as in pat, pinch
ph somewhat as in top hat (never as in photo)
b as in back, big
bh somewhat as in abhorrence
m as in men, mice
y as in yes, year
r as in red, but with a stronger trill
l as in lead, lend
ë as before, but with the tongue drawn back
v at the beginning of a word, as in van, vane, elsewhere it more closely resembles wan, wane
s as in say, send
h as in hat, height