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Cheyenne Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

Welcome to our Cheyenne alphabet page! The following charts show the pronunciation for the Cheyenne 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 Algonquian languages homepage to see how Cheyenne relates to other languages from the Algonquian family. To hear the Cheyenne language spoken, you can visit this excellent website which has audio files of Cheyenne speakers pronouncing many common words.

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Cheyenne Vowels

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Cheyenne pronunciation:
a    a Like the a in father.
aa  a:  a Like the a in father, only held longer.
e    I ~ ε Like the i in pit or the e in pet.
ee  e:  e ~ ε Like the e in get or the ai in gait, only held longer.
o   o Like the o in note.
oo  o: o Like the o in note, only held longer.

Cheyenne Diphthongs

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Cheyenne pronunciation:
ae ai, ay, ï  aj Like English eye.
ao aw, au   Like aw in English saw.
oe oi  oj Like oy in English boy.

Cheyenne Voiceless Vowels

Voiceless vowels (also known as whispered vowels) don't exist in English. If you've ever heard spoken Japanese, the soft breathy 'u' in the middle of names like Asuka or Satsuki is an example of a voiceless vowel. Pronouncing a syllable with a voiceless vowel as if you were stage-whispering that syllable (but not the other syllables around it) will help you say it correctly.

Note: With very few exceptions, vowels at the end of a word are always pronounced voiceless, even when they are not written that way.
Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol:
 , â  
ė  , ê  
 , ô  

Cheyenne Consonants

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Cheyenne pronunciation:
h  x, ch  h ~ x Before a vowel, it is pronounced like the h in English hay. Before a consonant, most Cheyenne speakers pronounce the h more raspily, like the j in jalapeño.
k  g  k Like the soft, unaspirated k in skate.
m    m Like m in English moon.
n  ñ  n Like n in English night.
p  b  p Like the soft, unaspirated p in spin.
s    s Like s in see.
š  sh   Like sh in shy.
t  d  t ~ d Like the soft, unaspirated t in star.
ts  c, z  ts Like ts in tsunami or cats.
v  w  v ~ w Like v in vine or w in wine .
x  kh  x Guttural sound that doesn't exist in English. Like ch in German ach.
    A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."

Cheyenne Tones

Unlike most Algonquian languages, Cheyenne 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 Cheyenne, such high and low tones are used in nearly every word, giving the language a lively sound.

Vowels with high tones are marked with acute accents in Cheyenne:

á é ó

The pronunciation of Cheyenne tones is actually slightly more complicated than this--vowels without high tones can be pronounced with either medium or low tone, and overall pitch starts out higher and becomes lower over the course of any Cheyenne sentence. But the difference between high and low tones is the most important part to get right, because that can change the meaning of a Cheyenne word:

he'e       liver
hé'e       woman

Cheyenne Voiceless Vowels and 'H'

A voiceless vowel before an H collapses into the syllable following it. A word like o'khome is actually pronounced [okhom]. A word like mheo'o is actually pronounced [majo].

This can make words with these letter combinations difficult and unintuitive to read, and some Cheyennes are working on simplifying this part of the orthography.

Cheyenne Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Cheyenne words
   Cheyenne animals
   Cheyenne body words
   Cheyenne colors
   Cheyenne alphabet and pronunciation
   Algonquian peoples
   Plains Indian languages
   Native Americans of Oklahoma

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