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Mohawk Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

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

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Mohawk pronunciation:
a    a Like the a in father.
a:  a, a·  a Like the a in father, only held longer.
e    ε ~ e Like the e in get or the a in gate.
e:  e, e·  e Like the a in gate, only held longer.
i    i Like the i in police.
i:  i, i·  i Like the i in police, only held longer.
o    o Like the o in note.
o:  o, o·  o Like the o in note, only held longer.

Mohawk Nasal Vowels

Nasal vowels don't really exist in English, but you may be familiar with them from French (or from hearing people speak English with a French accent.) They are pronounced just like oral ("regular") vowels, only using your nose as well as your mouth. To English speakers, a nasal vowel often sounds like a vowel with a half-pronounced "n" at the end of it. You can hear examples of nasal vowels at the end of the French words "bon" and "Jean," or in the middle of the word "Français."

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol:
en  ę, , enh  
en:  en, ę:, :  
on  ų, , onh  ũ
on:  on, ų:, :  ũ

Mohawk Consonants

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Mohawk pronunciation:
h    h Like h in English hay.
k  g  g~k~kh Like g in gate, soft k in skate, or hard k in Kate.
kw  gw, khw  gw ~ kw Like the gw in Gwen or the qu in queen.
r  l  l ~ Like r in right in some dialects, but like l in light in others.
n    n Like n in night.
s  sh, c  s ~ Like s in sell. Before y or i, the Mohawk pronunciation sounds more like the sh in shell.
t  d  d~t~th Like d in die, soft t in sty, or hard t in tie.
ts  j, ch  ts~t~d Like ts in tsunami. Before y or i the Mohawk pronunciation sounds more like the j in jar, and before hy or hi it is pronounced more like the ch in char.
w   w Like w in way.
wh   f ~ Some Mohawk speakers pronounce this sound with the voiceless "breathy w" that many British speakers use in words like "which," but others pronounce it like the f in English fair.
y    j Like y in yes.
 , ?   A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."

Note that in this spelling system, h is always pronounced-- th is pronounced like the th in "outhouse," never the th in "think", and sh is pronounced like the sh in "mishap," not the sh in "shell."

Mohawk Stress and Tone

In most Mohawk words the next to last syllable is stressed, and is also pronounced with a rising tone. This is represented in the standardized orthography with an acute accent, like this:
Since this is the standard way to pronounce Mohawk words, many speakers don't bother with the accent marks and just spell words like these ohkwa:ri and ahsen.

However, there are some words in which the stressed syllable is pronounced with a falling tone, and those are spelled with a grave accent, like this:

Mohawk Dialect Variation

In different Mohawk communities, the language is spoken slightly differently. The most noticeable difference is the letter r, which is pronounced as an l in Ahkwesahsne. Another difference is the pronunciation of ts. In Kahnawake, this sound is always pronounced like the ts in tsunami, but on other reserves it varies. A third difference is the pronunciation of the consonants k and t. In most dialects, these consonants are pronounced voiced (like English g and d) before a vowel. But in Tyendinaga, some speakers pronounce them as unaspirated voiceless consonants before some vowels (like k in English skate or t in English stake.) The differences between Mohawk dialects are comparable to the differences between English dialects spoken in Canada and the United States.

Mohawk Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Mohawk words
   Mohawk animals
   Mohawk colors
   Mohawk alphabet and pronunciation
   Mohawk alphabet standardization
   The Iroquoians
   Woodlands tribes
   Tribes of New York
   Iroquois mythology

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