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Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

Welcome to our Passamaquoddy-Maliseet alphabet page! Passamaquoddy-Maliseet is not a difficult language for English speakers to learn to pronounce--with only one exception, all of its sounds are similar to sounds that exist in English. However, spelling can sometimes cause problems for language learners. Passamaquoddy-Maliseet was not originally a written language, and there have been multiple different alphabets used to write Passamaquoddy and Maliseet words.

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The following charts show the pronunciation for the 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 Algonkian homepage to see how Passamaquoddy-Maliseet relates to other languages from the Algonkian family.

Maliseet-Passamaquoddy Vowels

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Maliseet pronunciation:
a     Like the a in father.
e    ε Like the e in red.
eh  ae, ă, â  æ Like the a in hat.
i    i ~ I Like the ea in heat. Sometimes it sounds more like the i in hit.
o  u, ŭ, û  ə Schwa sound like the e in roses.
u  o, oo  u ~ o Like the u in tune. Sometimes it sounds more like the o in tone.

Maliseet-Passamquoddy Diphthongs

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: How To Pronounce It:
ai  ay  aj Like English eye.
aw  au  aw Like ou in out.
ew  eu  εw This sound doesn't really exist in English. If you mimic an exaggerated stereotype of a "Southern belle" saying "how," you will be close to it.
ei  ey  ej Like ay in way.
iw  iu, yu  iw Like a child saying ew!

Maliseet-Passamaquoddy Consonants

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Passamaquoddy pronunciation:
c  j, ch  t~d Like ch in char or j in jar (see Voicing, below).
h    h Like h in English heart.
k  g  k ~ g Like k in skate or g in gate (see Voicing, below).
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).
q 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. Between vowels it is pronounced more like gw in Gwen (see Voicing, below).
s  z  s ~ z Like s in Sue or z in zoo (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.
y    j Like y in English yes.

Maliseet-Passamaquoddy Consonant Voicing

Some pairs of consonants that are distinct in English are usually merged in Maliseet-Passamaquoddy. These pairs of consonants are:

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

When they come before or after a consonant, these consonants are always pronounced voiceless (as k, p, t, s, and c.) When they come between two vowels, these consonants are always pronounced voiced (as g, b, d, z, and j.) The only time when these consonants are distinguished from one another is at the beginning of a word before a vowel. There they are voiced in some words and voiceless in others. In the orthography we are using, the apostrophe ’ is used at the beginning of a word if the consonant should be voiceless. For example:

’pisun is pronounced pizun
piskuwon is pronounced biskuwon
pkot is pronounced pkot
pokomk is pronounced bogomk
’pahkam is pronounced pahkam


Other orthographies always write "p" whenever a p sound is unvoiced and "b" whenever it is voiced, but this causes problems of its own, because then the spelling of a word would have to change every time you put a new prefix on it (and Maliseet-Passamaquoddy verbs use dozens of different prefixes.)

The voicing rule can seem complicated at first, but once you practice it enough, it is very regular and easy to learn. In the meantime, even if you get the voicing wrong, you will still be understandable. Your accent will just sound bad.

Maliseet-Passamaquoddy Double Consonants

When a Maliseet-Passamaquoddy word is spelled with double letters, like cossu (mosquito) or tokkiw (until), 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 s sounds in "dress suit" are pronounced like the ones in cossu, and the k sounds in "book club" are pronounced like the ones in tokkiw.

Maliseet-Passamaquoddy Stress

Maliseet-Passamaquoddy 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 Maliseet-Passamaquoddy pronunciation, all vowels are clearly spoken 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. Generally speaking, the stress is on the last syllable of an Maliseet-Passamaquoddy word.

Maliseet-Passamaquoddy Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Maliseet words
   Maliseet-Passamaquoddy picture dictionary
   Maliseet body
   Maliseet alphabet and pronunciation
   The Algonquians
   The Eastern Woodlands
   Languages in Maine

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