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Kickapoo Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

Welcome to our Kickapoo alphabet page! The following charts show the pronunciation for the Kickapoo 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 Kickapoo relates to other languages from the Algonquian family.

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Kickapoo Vowels

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Kickapoo pronunciation:
a     ~ a Like the a in what, or sometimes like the a in father.
aa  ā, a:, a·  a Like the a in father, only held longer.
e    ε Like the e in bet or the i in bit.
ee  ä, e:, e·  ε ~ æ Like the e in bet or the a in bat, only held longer.
i    i Like the ee in peek.
ii  ī, i:, i·  i Like the ee in peek, only held longer.
o  u o ~ u Like the o in rode or the u in rude.
oo  ō, ū, o:, o· o ~ u Like the o in rode or the u in rude, only held longer.

Kickapoo Consonants

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Kickapoo pronunciation:
c  ch, tc, č  t ~ ts Like ch in chair. Sometimes it is pronounced more like ts in tsunami.
h  ‘  h Like h in English hay.
k  g  k ~ g Like the soft k in skate. Sometimes it is pronounced more like g in gate.
m    m Like m in English moon.
n    n Like n in English night.
p  b  p ~ b Like the soft p in spill. Sometimes it is pronounced more like b in bill.
s  c  s Like s in see.
t  d  t Like the soft t in still. Sometimes it is pronounced more like d in dill.
θ  th  θ ~ Like th in thin. Sometimes it is pronounced more like th in this.
w  ‘ w Like w in English way. Kickapoo speakers frequently drop w's, especially at the beginning of words.
y    j Like y in English yes.

Kickapoo Dialect Variation

In Mexican Kickapoo, the θ sound is pronounced a little differently than it is by Kickapoos in the United States. Instead of putting their tongue under their front teeth, as in English "thin," Mexican Kickapoo speakers place their tongue against the back of their front teeth. It has a distinctive hissing sound. Also, some older Mexican speakers pronounce "s" like the "sh" in English "shy."

Kickapoo is also very closely related to Sauk and Fox. You can see some differences in pronunciation between these three languages here: Sauk-Fox-Kickapoo. Though it is closely related to Sauk and Fox, Kickapoo has many differences from the other two languages, particularly in stress and tone.

Kickapoo Stress and Tones

Most Algonquian words, like English words, generally have one or more stressed syllables, which are pronounced louder than other syllables. Not only that but in English, unstressed vowels are often reduced to schwas, which makes the stress sound especially strong. (An example of this is the word "rebel." When "rebel" is a noun, the stress is on the first syllable and the word is pronounced REH-bəl. When "rebel" is a verb, the stress is on the second syllable and the word is pronounced rə-BELL.)

None of this is true in Kickapoo. No syllable in Kickapoo is pronounced louder than any other syllable, and vowels are pronounced normally regardless of stress. If you reduce an unstressed vowel to a schwa the way you would in English, you could sound like you are saying a completely different word, so be careful not to do this!

On the other hand, unlike most Algonquian languages, Kickapoo 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 Kickapoo, such high and low tones are used in nearly every word, giving the language a lively sound. Most of the time, Kickapoo tones are predictable--for example, a syllable that begins with h, s, or θ is always low tone. The third-from-last syllable of a word is usually high tone, and the last two syllables are usually low tone. Other times, however, the tone of a Kickapoo word cannot be predicted at all. You simply have to learn the tone at the same time you learn the rest of the word's pronunciation.

There are four Kickapoo tones: high, low, rising (starts low and becomes high), and falling (starts high and becomes low.) Rising and falling tones only occur on long vowels, and are considered by some linguists as a high tone on the second half of the vowel or a high tone on the first half of the vowel, for analytical purposes. For the purposes of pronounciation, however, thinking of the tones as "rising" and "falling" may help to encourage proper pronunciation.

The tones are usually written like this:

a low tone
á high tone
rising tone
áa falling tone

Kickapoo Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Kickapoo vocabulary
   Kickapoo animals
   Kickapoo body
   Development of a Kickapoo alphabet
   Algonquian cultures
   Eastern Woodlands tribes
   Native Americans in Oklahoma

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