Indigenous languages * Native American tribes * Native American culture

  * Find Native American ancestors in your family tree

Mi'kmaq (Micmac) Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

Welcome to our Mi'kmaq alphabet page! The following charts show the pronunciation for the Mi'kmaq 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 homepage to see how Mi'kmaq relates to other languages from the Algonquian family.

Mi'kmaq Vowels

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Micmac pronunciation:
a     Like the a in father.
á  a', a:   Like a only held longer.
e    e Like the e sound in Spanish. In English, the Micmac pronunciation sounds like a cross between the vowel sounds in met and mate.
é  e', e:  e Like e only held longer.
i   Midway between the vowel sounds in hit and heat.
í  i', i:  i Like the i in police, only held longer.
i  ', ê, ŭ  ə Schwa sound like the e in roses.
o  ô  o Like the o in note.
ó  o', o:  o Like o only held longer.
u  o  u Like the u in tune.
ú  u', u:  u Like u only held longer.

Mi'kmaq Diphthongs

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Micmac pronunciation:
aw au  aw Like ow in English cow.
ay ai  aj Like English eye.
ew    ew This sound doesn't really exist in English. It sounds a little like saying the "AO" from "AOL" quickly.
ey ei  ej Like ay in English hay.
iw    iw Like a child saying ew!

Mi'kmaq Consonants

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Micmac pronunciation:
j  c, ch, tj  t~d Like ch in char or j in jar (see Voicing, below).
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).
q  x, ĝ, kh  x ~  Guttural sound that doesn't exist in English. Like ch in German ach or g in Spanish saguaro (see Voicing, below).
qw  xw xw~xw Guttural sound that doesn't exist in English. Usually it is pronounced like a q and a w together, but at the end of a word, it is pronounced more like a q with a puff of air after it.
s    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  i  j Like y in English yes.

Mi'kmaq Consonant Voicing

Some pairs of consonants that are distinct in English are merged in Mi'kmaq pronunciation. These pairs of consonants are:

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

When they come between two vowels, 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 c.)

For example:

kitpu is pronounced kitpu
kisiku is pronounced kizigu
kispasit is pronounced kispazit


There are some exceptions to this rule, but they're complicated. Since the same consonant is always pronounced the same way in the same position, you can never make an error with voicing that could confuse a Mi'kmaq word's meaning. The worst it can do is make your accent sound bad.

Mi'kmaq Double Consonants

When a Mi'kmaq word is spelled with double letters, like wisséj (nest) or ettek (ripe), 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 wissey, and the t sounds in "night time" are pronounced like the ones in ettek.

Mi'kmaq Schwas

Though all the modern Mi'kmaq orthographies do have a character for representing a schwa sound (the neutral sound like the "e" in "roses" or "o" in "apron"), it is not always written. Most writing systems do not bother spelling sounds that native speakers will always pronounce automatically anyway. For example, in English, we use "ng" to spell the sound at the end of "thing," but we don't spell "thinking" or "sprinkle" as "thingking" or "springkle," because English speakers automatically use an "ng" sound before "k," so it isn't necessary to write it. For the same reason, Mi'kmaq does not write a schwa character in words where it occurs automatically. Fluent Mi'kmaq speakers might not even notice they're pronouncing it there (just as English speakers may not notice they are pronouncing an "ng" sound in "sprinkle.")

So in Mi'kmaq, when a consonant is followed by an l, m, or n, a schwa is always pronounced between the two sounds, but it is left out of the spelling. For example, the word ples is a two-syllable word, pronounced "puh-lace," not "place" or "uh-place." When a consonant at the beginning of a word is followed by another consonant besides l, m, or n, a schwa is always pronounced before the consonants, but again, that is left out of the spelling. So the word ktán is pronounced "uhk-tan," not "ktan" or "kuh-tan." The same thing happens when an l, m, or n at the beginning of a word is followed by another consonant--ntun is pronounced "uhn-tun," not "nuh-tun."

In other letter combinations, schwas are not automatic, so they are included in the spelling if they are present. Sasikík is a three-syllable word with a schwa pronounced between the s and k, for example, but paskék is a two-syllable word with sk pronounced together as in the English word ask. Schwas are also written in clusters of three or more consonants to make them easier to read, such as the word ktik, which is pronounced uk-tuk.

Mi'kmaq Stress

Mi'kmaq 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 Mi'kmaq pronunciation, 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. Generally speaking, the stress is on the second to last syllable of an Mi'kmaq word.

Mikmaq Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Mi'kmaq words
   Micmac animals
   Micmac body
   Mi'kmaq colors
   Micmac alphabet and phonology
   Mi'kmaq alphabet
   Algonquian language
   Woodland Native Americans
   Maine languages
   Mi'kmaq legends



Back to the Amerindian language homepage
Back to Native American Words
Learn more about the Mi'kmaq Indian tribe.



Native American cultures * Native American artists * Chumash language * Ottawa * Native American genealogy

Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?



Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2014 * Contacts and FAQ page