Writing Guide

This guide, to help one learn to pronounce Munsee words, uses central midwest and plains US vowels.

Munsee phonemes will be bold and enclosed in parentheses () and English sound equivalents will be enclosed in slashes / /
Munsee words used as examples in this chapter will be enclosed in italics within brackets [ ] and English words will be in quotes.
My attempt to transcribe words will use either an English word or parts of an English word enclosed in slash marks //

Words in huluníixsuwaakan will be provided for illustration purposes. Grammar related to these words will be explained elsewhere. Accent markings on examples indicate emphasis or stress on the accented syllable. I will put accented word parts in CAPS to help learn this aspect of the language.
I will attempt to transcribe words phonetically, using actual English words when possible, and when not will use the parts of words described in the text enclosed in slashes //.

Short A

(a)  =  /uh/  like 'huh' or like the u in 'cub'  

[na] a pronoun meaning 'that' and is pronounced as /nuh/

Long A

(aa) =  /AW/   like the vowel in 'hawk'   
Long vowels are drawn out, extended in duration   

(aa) rhymes with 'flaw', 'saw', 'paw' with vowel stretched out  

        [máash] = 'like' or 'similar to'  
        /mawsh/ rhymes with 'squash'

Diphthongs constructed with (a)

(aw) =  /owe/ as in tow   
        [pahtamáwaas]  'God' /pah-tuhm-OW-awss/   

        [tawúnih]  'open it' /TOE-WON-ee/  

(ay) = /aye/  sounds like the English word 'eye'.  
        [kway] = 'now' /kwaye/ rhymes with eye  
        [aanay] 'road'  /AW-naye/  

(ah) = /ah/  rhymes with mock, sock, flock  
        [mah] 'not'  /mah/  

(aaw) = /awe-uh/ sounds like the word 'owl' minus the L  

       [Mah ndaawu] 'I am not going'.    /MAH DOW-uh-wu/   

       [Kwataaláawal] 'He wants him.'    /kwuh-TAW-LAW-uh-wuhl/

B = soft b

    [mba]  or [mbaam] = 'I am coming'.  /buh/ or /bawm/  

    The initial m is usually silent but ...  
    it may sound if a vowel ending word precedes:  

    [Nii mbaam]   /KNEEm BAWM/   'Me, I am coming'  

C used as:

(ch)  = /tch/ like church  

     [ach] a particle or pc meaning 'even' /uhtch/   

D = like English d

    [nda] = 'I am going'    /duh/  
    n sounds if a vowel ending word precedes it  
    [Nii nda]    'Me I'm going'     /KNEEn DUH/  

Short E

    (e)  =  /æ/ ;  rhymes with /a/ in ‘pan’ or ‘nap’ or ‘cat'
    [waapange]   /wawe-PUN-ga/    'tomorrow'
    (note: g is always hard)

 

Long E

    (ee)   =  /æ/  like massive or blacken;
    but is extended and accented into a long vowel

 

 [neeka] 'he or she'  /KNACKuh/  

Diphthongs with (e)

(eew) = /æ/ like the a in at with the vowel drawn out. The (w) is like a whisper at the end   
[neew]  'he sees' /NÆ/ + w whispered

(eh) = /ay/ rhymes with may / this sound is short and ends with a pause   

[pehpáxkwuleesh]  'flower' /pay-PUHX-kwi-lash/  (x is a guttural sound)  

F as in English

 

G = always hard like /g/ in guest

 

H

an aspirated h like the word Huh
[ha] 'used in questions and as a word connector' /huh/  

After vowels, (h) indicates a brief stop or syncopation like the one in ‘’uh-oh’‘ and colors the pronunciation of the vowel it is paired with:

(eh)   sounds like 'way'  plus a breathy h at the end  
(ah)   sounds like a in wand   /ah/ with breathy h  
(ih)        sounds like e in key  breathy h  

Short (i)

(i)   =  /i/ in bit or pin  
[Mah éewi]    'He's not going'    /mah A-uh-wi/  

Long (i)

(ii)   =  /ee/ in we or me or flee,   
extended, drawn out, accented to a long vowel  

[Nii] 'Me' /nee/  

Diphthongs with (i)

(iiw) = /EEE-yuh/ but the final yuh is whispered.   
[kawíiw] 'he sleeps' /kuh-WEEE-yuh/  

J like English, a soft ‘ch’

[Joos] 'friend' /jo-ss/   
Sounds like Joe's with a longer s at the end  

K as in English

[Kii] 'You' /KEE/ ; sounds like 'key'  

L like English

M like English

N like English /n/

Short (o)

     (o)   =  like /o/ as in omen
     [ató] 'deer'   /uh-TOE/ sounds like 'a toe'  

Long (o)

    (oo)   =   /oh/ longer o sound,     like the o sound in ‘mower’, 
    extended and accented into a long vowel.
    [koon]   'snow'  /kone/ sounds like 'cone' with a long drawn out 'o'  

Diphthongs with (o)

(ooy) = oh ee like the word toy or boy.  
[lehlxawalooyeek] 'fork' /LAL xhow uh LOWee yak/  

P like English

<[Kpa] 'You are coming' /kuPUH/  

Q not used

R not used

S like English

SH as in English

 

    [Shaa] ‘right away’ /SHAW/

T like English

Short (u)

weak (u)  =   /u/ rhymes with put, foot, wood, stood
              like the vowel in should or could.

strong (u) = a cross between a short /i/  and a short /e/   
        [nguk] = 'my mother' /geck/   
        This word sounds like 'geck' in gecko.  
        More will be explained below about this vowel.   
        [nu] = 'that' (inanimate) /nu/  

 

Diphthongs with (u)

(uy) = /ee/ in bee  
        [mbuy] = 'water' pronounced as /bee/  
        (initial m sounds if a word ending in a vowel precedes it)  

(uw)  = /oh/  
        [máxksuw]  = 'he is red'   /MUHX-ksoh/          

        [waapsuwíhle] = 'goose'  /wawp-soh-WEE-læ/  

        [nxuwak]  = be three of them    /nu-XOH-wuhk/  

        [uw] 'he says' /oh/  

V not used

W like English.

Final (w) on a word is a barely audible whispered (wu)

     [máxkw] ‘a bear’ /muh-kwu/

X guttural sound, like German ch or a clearing of the throat.

 

    [xaa] ‘should’ /xawe/  rhymes with ‘awe’

 

Y like English

Z like English

 

 (zh) = soft g like the sound at end of the word orange

 

 [nii nzhiiwasani]  I am tired.  /nee gee uh wuh SUNNY/  

OTHER COMBINATION SOUNDS

(hum, dum, kum, gwu, kwu)

the u here = /ou/ like soup      gwu sounds like goo

 

     [nóohum] 'grandmother' /NOO-houm/  
        sounds like 'know whom'  

     [dumb]  'brain'  /doumb/ rhymes with doom  

     [akumáhkwat] 'cloud' /uh-kou-MAH-kwuht/  

     [ngwúta] 'one'  /GOO tuh/  

(mukw, jukw, tukw) usually a throaty low pitched ‘oh’

    [nooskíinjukw] 'my eye’ /nosseKEENjoke-wu/

    [ptúkwaaláxkwsiit] ‘pea’ /puTOKwawLUCKwu-seat/

    [míhtukw] ‘tree’ /ME-tok-wu/

 

(muh, maw) = /moh/ ; rhymes with ‘mow’, ‘low’, ‘flow’
(mwuh)= /moh/ rhymes with ‘mow’

maw, taw => mow, tow when stressed

(u) tends to sound more like /eh/ in bet when accented (stressed)
út ús úch úsh úl ún
except when preceded by h or w
and never in a weak syllable,
(the final syllable of long words is always weak)

examples: ú ù like /eh/ in bet, sounds like /ih/ in bit at times

ndúla   /DELL-uh/ :‘I said to him'
ktúlaaw  /kuTELL-aw-uh/ 'You told him'
úch /etch/  'in the future'
kshúteew  'it is hot’  /kuSHITæ-uh/
nzùluskóonzhe  ‘I have many children’ /ZILLusCONE-jæ/
tumùshíikeew  's/he cuts the grass' /tuMISHEEkæ-uh/ 
asúnal /uhSENuhl/ ‘rocks'
ùspíhleew  'fly up’ /ESS-PEE laao/
msúchee  ‘hardly at all’ /mu-SETCH-ee/
txúnool /tu-XEH-nool/ ‘so many’ of s.t. inanimate
kepúch       ‘cabbage’ /kaPEETCH/
shulaash  ‘lettuce’ /shehLAWSH/
píilkush na ‘peach’ /PEELkesh/
yoh lunih  /yo LEHNee/ ‘Hand me …'
Tha ktùlamálsi? /tuck TELLuhMUHLsee/ 'How do you feel?'
lamalúsuw  /luh muh LESS oh/ 'How he feels'
ndúnaluw /DINuh-low/ 'dinner'
kéhkshuteek  stove /kackSHEHTtack/ 'stove'
Wáapi-mahksúnal /WAAWpee mockSENuhl/ 'white shoes'
nii numúne /NEE nuhMENæ/ 'I drink'
ngútkuw    /GET ko/   'knee'
shúlpuliinóotay  'purse/wallet’  /shell pell ee NOTE tie/
    sounds kind of like ‘hillbilly note tie'
wiimbat ndùndxíi-kătum /WEEMbut DEND XEEK tum/
    'I am ten years old’
skahunzuw  ‘boy’ /skuhHUNzo/
wuskii-kaal /WOOSkee kawl/ ‘new car’

MNEMONICS FOR PRONUNCIATION :

Short vowels: a e i o u => up and in oh food
Long vowels: a e i o => hawks hack hee hoe
The vowel (a) short – long : up hawk
The vowel (e) short – long : back pack
The vowel (i) short – long : hippies
The vowel (o) short – long : oh no
The vowel (u) short – long : good gecko

Vowels paired with (h) : do re mi fa => (oh) (eh) (ih) (ah)
Vowels paired with (w): Frau + Beau => (aw) + (uw)

Doom for whom? => (dum) (hum)
goo => (gwu)
Mow how => (mwu) (haaw) = (maw) (haaw) = (muw) (haaw)

SOUND CONTINUUMS:

(t) sounds as (d) when preceded by (n) => (nd)
(t) softens to (ch) in diminutive words
(k) sounds as (g) when preceded by (n)=> (ng)
(s) sounds as (z) when preceded by (n)=> (nz)
(sh) sounds as (zh) when preceded by (n)=> (nzh)
(ch) sounds as (j) when preceded by (n)=> (nj)

These peculiarities and others will be reviewed as we learn the various points of grammar, and need not be memorized at this time.

 

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