An approximate pronunciation guide for English‐speakers of most
is pronounced as in “mum”
note that mm is a double sound, as in “room‐mate”
is pronounced as in “roaring” (and never dropped as
note that rr is rolled more strongly than ever occurs in
is pronounced as in “nun” (or sometimes as in
note that nn is a double sound, as in “unnamed”
is pronounced as in “lily” (and never dropped as in
note that ll is a double sound, as in “full‐length”
is pronounced as in “topspin” (not dropped as in
never “spat out” quite as forcefully as it is in “pea”
is pronounced as in “stilts” (not softened as in
never “spat out” quite as forcefully as it is in “tea”
is pronounced as in “church” (not as in
“loch” or “machine”)
but again it's pronounced less abruptly than in English
is pronounced as in “skinks” (not dropped as in
never “spat out” quite as forcefully as it is in “key”
is pronounced as in “bib” (and never dropped as in
but in the middle of words it weakens almost to “v” as in
is pronounced as in “dud” (and never softened as in
but in the middle of words it weakens almost to “th” as in
is pronounced as in “judge” (not as in
but in the middle of words it's more like the “s” in
is pronounced as in “gag” (and never dropped as in
but in the middle of words it weakens to a sort of “ugh”
is pronounced as in “fife” (and never as in
straightforward enough unless it's confused with “th”!
is pronounced as in “thirtieth” (not as in
straightforward enough unless it's confused with “f”!
is pronounced as in “sass” (not as in
but may approach “sh” when there's an i nearby
is pronounced as in Auchtermuchty, Scotland (and
not as in “khan”)
but generally speaking an enthusiastic “h” will do
is pronounced as in “machine” (not “bide”,
when unstressed, a semivowel (“y”) as in “boil”,
is pronounced as in “ballet” (not
when unstressed, more like “e” as in “bed”
is pronounced as in “balm” (not “beauty”,
when unstressed, very weak (as in “abundant”)
is pronounced as in “bozo” (not “brow”,
when unstressed, more like “o” as in “born”
is pronounced as in “zulu” (not “bud”,
when unstressed, a semivowel (“w”) as in
IIb – Syllables
English syllables can begin and end with great strings of
consonant sounds (as in “scrounged, strengths”), but this language
never ends a syllable with b, d, j, or
g, and only allows very limited consonant
clusters – it never gets any harder than the word
aumkia “lazy”, pronounced roughly “OUM‐kya”.
Meanwhile, the vowels fall into two sets: e a o, the
“open” vowels, and i u, the “close” vowels. When
unstressed, the “close” vowels tend to behave as semivowels (like
English “y”, “w”); combinations of these sounds with “open” vowels
produce diphthongs, which are perfectly straightforward if you
think in terms of sequences of sounds – but be careful
not to read them as if they followed English spelling rules for
ei is “eh”+“y” (an “AY” sound as in “bayed”; cf.
“vein”, “weigh”, not “either”)
ai is “ah”+“y” (an “EYE” sound as in “bide”; cf.
“Kaiser”, “aisle”, not “bait”)
oi is “oh”+“y” (an “OY” sound, strictly speaking as in
“yo‐yo” rather than “coin”)
eu is “eh”+“w” (an “EHW” sound that never occurs in
au is “ah”+“w” (an “OW” sound as in “boughed”; cf.
“gaucho”, “Sauron”, not “baud”)
ou is “oh”+“w” (an “OWE” sound as in “dough”,
“soul”, not “bout”)
It is possible for a particular vowel to occur twice with no
intervening consonants, even if only in adjacent words. When
this happens, i‑i and u‑u may turn into
“yee” and “woo” respectively, but the more common outcome is that
the two vowels merge into a single drawn‐out instance of that
sound (so e‑e is pronounced “ehh”).
The following rules determine which syllables are emphasised:
Some words just aren't important enough to be stressed at
all – lo “plural” for instance is unlikely to
If there is only one vowel in the word, that's obviously the only
candidate for carrying the stress.
If the word's first two vowels form a closing diphthong (one of
ei, ai, oi, eu, au, ou), then the first vowel is stressed.
Or, if the word's second and third vowels form an opening
diphthong (one of ie, ia, io, ue, ua, uo) then the third
Otherwise, stress the second vowel.
Grammatical endings don't count as part of the word for the
purposes of stress assignment – a word jian
would regularly be stressed on the a, but ji·an,
“your king”, is stressed on the i. That's why I use
those · separators, to keep the affixes instantly
recognisable for learners.
Exactly the same goes for prefixes: a word meimmala would
be stressed on the first syllable, but me·immala “didn't
love” is pronounced “maim‐MAHla”.
On the other hand, when words are built up of two equally
important parts the compound is treated as a whole: nume
“nowhere” (from nu plus me, fused
together – no ·) is stressed as a normal word,
with the emphasis on the second syllable.
The above rules determine “regular” word stress; however, many
words disobey them in unpredictable ways, resulting in doublets
like uma “onto” and úma “we” – the acute
accent there signals stress placed irregularly on the first
Very long words may need to have supplementary stress on other
syllables. The general idea is that there can be three
unstressed vowels within a word, but the fourth (give or take a
diphthong) is reemphasised. Thus uitopas·ukh·oton
(“you would hear”) has primary stress on the i and a
“secondary” stress on the penultimate vowel:
It should be noted that the pattern of stress that results from
these rules is extremely counterintuitive to
English‐speakers; it's pleasant enough once you're used to it, but
until then it can sound perversely syncopated.
IIc – Words
kuoise = [ˈkwojʃɛ]
The word for “town” is pronounced as a k followed by a
semivowel u, a stressed o, a semivowel i, a
palatalised s, and an unstressed e – put
it all together and it's pronounced roughly “QUOY‐sheh”.
Well, as a matter of fact the normal English “oy” vowel isn't
quite right there, but as long as you're pronouncing the final
“eh” it'll probably do.
khoedok = [xɔˈeðɔk]
That's kh (a strong “H” is close enough) followed by
unstressed o, stressed e, weak (softened) d,
an unstressed o, and k; it means “old”, and it's
pronounced “haw‐ATHE‐awk”, with an “ATHE” as in “bathe”.
Speakers of American accents where “Shaw” rhymes with “Shah” need
to take special care to distinguish o, which has
lip‐rounding, from a, which has none.
theinge = [ˈθeȷ̃ŋɣɛ]
Thirdly consider “is allowed to”. It's th, then
stressed e followed by semivowel i (slightly
nasalised), n, weak g, and finally unstressed
e. I hope it's obvious that the ng works as
in “finger”, not “ginger”. A g never softens like
that – but within words like this it does tend towards
a Spanish‐style “gh” sound. The whole thing is thus
“THAYNG‐gheh”, with a particularly clear diphthong in the first
syllable; it starts out sounding just like the English word
urjun = [urˈʒũn]
Or try this word, meaning “day” (as opposed to “night”):
unstressed u, r, weak j, stressed u
(slightly nasalised), and n. The final “‑oon”
sound is simple, but the j is a French‐style “zh” rather
than a full “dzh” sound, and the first syllable has absolutely
nothing in common with English “ur” – instead it's
closer to “oor”. Speakers of accents resembling “BBC
English” (such as my own –
details here) need to take special
care to pronounce the r.