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Bribri Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

Welcome to our Bribri alphabet page! The following charts show the pronunciation for the Bribri orthography we have used on our site, as well as some alternate spellings that you may find in other books and websites.

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Bribri Vowels

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Bribri pronunciation:
a    a ~ ə Like the a in father. Sometimes, especially in the beginning of a word, it is pronounced more like the a in about.
e    e Like the e sound in Spanish, similar to the a in gate.
ë    I Like the i in bit.
i    i Like the i in police.
o    o Like the o in note.
ö     Like the oo in book.
u    u Like the u in flute.

Bribri Nasal Vowels

Nasal vowels don't exist in English, but you may be familiar with them from French (or from hearing people speak English with a French accent.) They are pronounced just like oral ("regular") vowels, only using your nose as well as your mouth. To English speakers, a nasal vowel often sounds like a vowel with a half-pronounced "n" at the end of it. You can hear examples of nasal vowels at the end of the French words "bon" and "Jean," or in the middle of the word "Français."

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol:
a  ã ã
e  ẽ
i  ĩ ĩ
o  õ õ
u  ũ ũ

Bribri Consonants

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Bribri pronunciation:
b    b Like b in boy.
ch  č  t Like ch in chair.
d    d Like the d in day.
j  h  h ~ x Like h in hay. Sometimes it is pronounced more raspily, like the j in the Spanish word jalapeño.
k  c, qu  k Like the k in kiss.
l  r   Similar to the ll in English bellow, only pronounced more quickly (so that the tongue only flaps once against the top of the mouth.)
m    m Like m in moon.
n    n Like n in night.
 ng  ŋ Like the ng in sing.
ñ    ñ Like ny in canyon.
p    p Like p in pin.
rr  r  r Like the rolling rr in Spanish perro.
s    s Like s in sun.
sh  x   Like sh in shell.
t    t Like the t in tell.
tk  kt  tk This is a coarticulated sound that does not exist in English. It is actually a k and t pronounced simultaneously.
ts  tz  ts Like the ts in cats.
w  hu  w Like w in way.
y  ll, j  d Like j in jar.
 h, ?   A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."

Bribri Tones

Bribri is a tone language. Some syllables are pronounced with higher pitch than others. In English, the last syllable of a question is pronounced with high pitch, so you can hear the difference between sentences like "You see a man." and "You see a man?" In Bribri, such high and low tones are used in nearly every word, giving the language a lively sound.

There are four tones in Bribri, high tone, low tone, rising tone and falling tone. When tones are marked in Bribri writing, they are usually written with accent marks like this:

a low tone
à high tone
á falling tone
â rising tone

Bribri Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Notes on the Bribri of Costa Rica (Amazon affiliate link)
   Bribri words
   Bribri picture dictionary
   Chibchan language family
   Bribri mythology

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