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Navajo Pronunciation and Spelling Guide (Dine)

Welcome to our Navajo alphabet page! The following charts show the pronunciation for the Navajo orthography we have used on our site, as well as some alternate spellings that you may find in other books and websites.

Navajo Vowels

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Navajo pronunciation:
a    a Like the a in father.
aa  a  a Like a only held longer.
e    e Like the e in they.
ee  e  e Like e only held longer.
i    I~i Like the i in hit or the i in police.
ii  i  i Like the i in police only held longer.
o   o Like the o in note.
oo  o o Like o only held longer.

Navajo 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:
ą  â, ã, an  ã
ę  ê, ẽ, en  ẽ
į  î, ĩ, in  ĩ
 ô, õ, on  õ

Navajo Consonants

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Navajo pronunciation:
b  p  b ~ p Like b in bill or the soft p in spill.
ch  č  t Like ch in child.
ch'    t Like ch, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
d  t  d ~ t Like d in day or the soft t in stay.
dl    dł Somewhat like the dle in ladle.
dz  ds  dz Like ds in Edsel.
g  k  g ~ k Like g in gate or the soft k in skate.
gh    γ Like the g in the Spanish word saguaro. It sounds like the "ch" sound in German words like "ach," only voiced.
h  x, j  h ~ x Like h in English hay. Sometimes it is pronounced more raspily, like the j in Spanish jalapeño.
hw    hw Soft sound like blowing out a candle.
j    d Like j in jar.
k    kh Like the hard k in king.
k'     Like k, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
kw    kw Like the qu in queen.
l    l Like l in light.
ł  hl, lh, £, /  ł This sound is a lateral fricative that doesn't really exist in English. The Navajo pronunciation sounds like the "ll" in the Welsh name "Llewellyn." Some English speakers can pronounce it well if they try to pronounce the "breathy l" in the word clue without the c in front of it.
m    m Like m in moon.
n    n Like n in night.
s    s Like s in sing.
sh  š   Like sh in shy.
t    th Like the hard t in tie.
t'     Like t, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
 tl  tł Somewhat like the tle in bottle.
tł'  t  t Like only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
ts  c  ts Like ts in tsunami.
ts'  t  t Like ts, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
w   w Like w in way.
y    j Like y in yes.
z    z Like z in zoo.
zh  ž   Like the ge in garage.
 ?, h   A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."

Navajo Tone

Navajo is a tone language. Some Navajo 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 Navajo pronunciation, such high and low tones are used in nearly every word, giving the language a lively sound.

There are four main Navajo tones: high, low, rising (starts low and becomes high) and falling (starts high and becomes low.) The tones are usually written like this:

á high tone
a low tone
rising tone
áa falling tone

Navajo Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Navajo words
   Navajo animals
   Navajo alphabet and phonology
   Learning the Navajo Alphabet
   Southwest Indians
   Arizona Native Americans
   Navajo legends

Learn more about the Navajo Indian tribe.
Back to Native American Indian Words
Back to the Arizona languages

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