Indian languages * Indian tribes * Indian cultures

Alsea Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

Welcome to our Alsea alphabet page! The following charts show the pronunciation for the Alsea orthography we have used on our site, as well as some alternate spellings that you may find in other books and websites. You may also like to visit our Penutian homepage to see how Alsea relates to other languages from the Penutian language family.


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Alsea Spellling

There is no official orthography for Alsea-- the last Alsea speaker died in the 1940's, and the remaining Alsea people merged with members of other Oregon tribes to form the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, where their original tribal distinctions have been largely lost. Nearly every linguist who has worked with the language has his or her own way of representing its many sounds. We have chosen the orthography we thought would be easiest to type, but we've included the IPA symbols for each sound to try to avoid introducing any more confusion into the mix.

Alsea Vowels

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Alsea pronunciation:
a  a  a Like the a in father.
a:  aa, ā  a Like the a in father, only held longer.
E  e, ə  ə A schwa sound, like the a in above. This vowel is often unwritten.
e    e Like the a in gate.
e:  e, ee, ē  e Like e only held longer.
i  i  i Like the i in police.
i:  ii, ī  i Like the i in police, only held longer.
o    o Like the o in note.
o:  o, oo, ō  o Like o only held longer.
u  u  u  Like the u in flute.
u:  uu, ū  u Like the u in flute, only held longer.

Alsea Nasal Vowels

There were also nasal forms of all of the Alsea vowels, both short and long. Nasal vowels are pronounced through the nose, like the vowels in the French words bon and Jean. Nasal vowels are usually represented in one of the following three ways:

1) With a tilde (ã, ĩ, ũ, etc.)
2) With a nasal hook (ą, į, ų. etc.)
3) With a superscript N (an, in, un, etc.)

We have used tildes, but it should be noted that nasal vowels were very poorly recorded in early studies of Alsea, and since the language is now extinct, the knowledge anyone has of nasalization in Alsea is spotty at best.

Alsea Consonants and Consonant Clusters

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Alsea pronunciation:
ts  c  ts Like ts in tsunami.
č  c, tc, ch, tch, DJ  t ~ d Like ch in chair. Sometimes, especially between vowels, it was pronounced more like the j in jar.
ts'  c', , ts!  t Like ts, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
č'  c', c!, tc!  t Like č, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
h    h Like h in English hay.
hw    hw Soft sound like blowing out a candle.
k  G  k ~ g Like the soft k in skin. Sometimes, especially between vowels, it was pronounced more like the g in go.
ky  k,  ky Like the c in cute.
k'     Like k, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
kw    kw A rounded k sound, similar to the qu in English queen. Sometimes, especially between vowels, it was pronounced more like the gw in Gwen.
k'w  w, k!w  w Like kw, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
l    l Like l in English light.
ł  hl, kl  ł This sound is a lateral fricative that doesn't really exist in English. The Alsea pronunciation sounds like the "ll" in the Welsh name "Llewellyn." Some English speakers can pronounce it well if they try to pronounce the "breathy l" in the word clue without the c in front of it.
m    m Like m in English moon.
n    n Like n in English night.
p  B  p ~ b Like the soft p in spin. Sometimes, especially between vowels, it was pronounced more like the b in bin.
p'  , p!   Like p, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
q  K, , ck  q Like k only further back in the throat. This is the same q sound used in Arabic.
q'  , q!   Like q, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
qw    qw Like the qu in English queen, only pronounced further back in the throat.
q'w  w, q!w  w Like qw, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
s    s Like s in sun.
t  D  t ~ d Like the soft t in star. Sometimes, especially between vowels, it was pronounced more like the d in day.
t'  , t!   Like t, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
tł'  L, L!, , '  tł' This sound does not exist in English. It sounds a little like a t and an l pronounced simultaneously, but said very forcefully.
w   w Like w in English way.
x  q x Raspy sound like the j in Spanish jalapeño or the ch in German ach.
xy  x,  xy Like x with a short y sound pronounced after it.
 x X Like x only further back in the throat. It sounds a little like the way some French speakers pronounce their r's.
  Xw Like only rounded. To English speakers, this sounds a little like hocking before spitting.
y    j Like y in English yes.
'     A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."

Alsea Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Alsea texts and myths
   Alsea vocabulary
   Alsea picture dictionary
   Alsea numbers
   Penutian languages
   Northwest Coast languages
   Native Americans of Oregon

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