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Lenape Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

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

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Lenape Vowels

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Lenape pronunciation:
a  aa   Like the a in father.
à  , a   Like the a in what.
e  ee  e Like the e sound in Spanish, similar to the a in Kate.
è  ε, e  ε Like the e in net.
ë  ə, u  ə Schwa sound like the e in roses.
i  ii  i Like the i in police.
ì  I, i  I Like the i in pit.
o  oo  o Like the o in note.
ò  , au   Like the au in caught.
u  uu  u Like the u in tune.
ù  U, u   Like the u in put.

Lenape Diphthongs

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Lenape pronunciation:
aw ow, au  aw Like ow in English cow.
ay ai  aj Like English eye.

Lenape Consonants

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Lenape pronunciation:
č  ch, c, j  t~d Like ch in char or j in jar (see Voicing, below).
h    h Like h in English hay.
k  g  k ~ g Like k in skate or g in gate (see Voicing, below).
kw  kw kw~kw Usually it is pronounced like qu in English queen, but at the end of a word, it is pronounced more like a k with a puff of air after it.
l    l Like l in English light.
m    m Like m in English moon.
n    n Like n in English night.
p  b  p ~ b Like p in spill or b in bill (see Voicing, below).
s  z  s ~ z Like s in Sue or z in zoo (see Voicing, below).
š  sh, sch, zh  ~ Like sh in shy or ge sound at the end of mirage (see Voicing, below).
t  d  t ~ d Like t in sty or d in die (see Voicing, below).
w   w Like w in English way.
x  ch, kh  x ~  Guttural sound that doesn't exist in English. The Lenape pronunciation is like ch in German ach or g in Spanish saguaro (see Voicing, below).
y    j Like y in English yes.

Lenape Consonant Voicing

Some pairs of consonants that are distinct in English are merged in Lenape/Delaware pronunciation. These pairs of consonants are:

k and g
p and b
t and d
s and z
č and j

When they come after an m or n, these consonants are always pronounced voiced (as g, b, d, z, and j.) Anywhere else in a word, these consonants are pronounced voiceless (as k, p, t, s, and č.)

For example:

tun is pronounced tun
ntun is pronounced ndun
mëpi is pronounced mëpi
mpi is pronounced mbi

In the southern Lenape dialect today, n's and m's are not usually pronounced when they appear in consonant clusters at the beginning of a word. So the word ntun is simply pronounced dun by those speakers, and the word mpi is simply pronounced bi. When the word is pronounced in a sentence after a vowel, however, the n or m is still pronounced, such as nëmëne mpi, I drink the water, which is pronounced nëmëne mbi, the same as the northern dialect.

Lenape Stress

Lenape has less pronounced word stress than English does. In English, unstressed vowels are often weakened to schwas, which makes the stress sound very 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.) But in Lenape, all vowels are pronounced fully regardless of stress. If you weaken an unstressed vowel to a schwa you will often change the meaning of the word, so be careful not to do this!

Although stress is less pronounced than it is in English, it is still present. A stressed syllable is usually pronounced with slightly higher pitch in Lenape. Generally speaking, the stress is on the second to last syllable of an Lenape word. However, there are many exceptions, and some modern Lenape orthographies mark a word's stress with an acute accent, like á, or by underlining the stressed vowel, like a.

Lenape Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Lenape words
   Lenape Delaware animals
   Lenape Delaware body
   Lenape Delaware colors
   Lenape Delaware numbers
   Lenape alphabet and phonology
   Algonquian
   Woodlands Indians
   Native Americans of New Jersey
   Lenape mythology

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