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Chimila Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

Welcome to our Chimila alphabet page! The following charts show the pronunciation for the Chimila 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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Chimila Vowels

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Chimila pronunciation:
a    a Like the a in father.
aa  a:  a Like a only held longer.
e    e ~ ε Like the e sound in Spanish, similar to the a in gate. Sometimes it is pronounced more like the e in get.
ee  e:  e Like e only held longer.
i    i Like the i in police.
ii  i:  i Like i only held longer.
o    o Like the o in note.
oo  o:  o Like o only held longer.
u    u Like the u in flute.
uu  u:  u Like u only held longer.

Chimila Aspirated and Glottalized Vowels

There are two types of vowels in the Chimila language that do not exist in English. Aspirated vowels sound breathy, as if they are being pronounced simultaneously with an h. They are usually written with a superscript h after them. Glottalized vowels sound creaky, as if the speaker's voice cuts off and resumes. They are usually written with a or superscript ʔ after them.

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol:
a’  aʔ
e’  eʔ
i’  iʔ
o’  oʔ
u’  uʔ

Chimila Consonants

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Chimila pronunciation:
b  b  b Like b as in boy.
d    d Like d in day.
g    g Like g in girl.
h  j  h Like h in hay.
j    d Like j in jar.
k  c, qu  k Like the k in kiss.
l    l Like l in light.
m    m Like m in moon.
n    n Like n in night.
ng    ŋ Like ng in sing.
ñ  nh  ñ Like ny in canyon.
p    p Like the p in pin.
r    ʔ Like the r in Spanish pero, somewhat like the tt in American English butter. This sound is pre-glottalized (pronounced with a slight pop of air at the beginning.)
s    s Like s in sun.
t    t Like the t in tell.
w    w Like w in way.

Chimila Double Consonants

When a Chimila word is spelled with double letters, like ndittake (water), the consonant must be pronounced with double length. For an English speaker, the easiest way to pronounce a consonant with double length is to imagine a word break between the two consonants. The t sounds in "night time" are pronounced like the ones in ndittake.

Chimila Tones

Chimila 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 Chimila, such high and low tones are used in nearly every word, giving the language a lively sound.

There are two tones in Chimila, high tone and low tone. Tones are not normally marked in written Chimila, and the source we have used for our vocabulary does not indicate tone. However, some writers, especially linguists, mark high tones in Chimila with an acute accent, like this:

a low tone
á high tone

Chimila Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Ette Taara words
   Chimila picture dictionary
   Chibchan languages

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