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Pawnee Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

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

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Pawnee pronunciation:
a     Like the a in what.
aa    a Like the a in father.
e    ε Like the e in get.
ee    e Like the e sound in Spanish, similar to the a in gate.
i    I Like the i in hit.
ii    i Like the ea in heat.
u    u Like the u in flute.
uu    u Like the u in flute, only held longer.

Pawnee Consonants

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Pawnee pronunciation:
c    ts ~ t Like ch in chair or ts in tsunami.
h    h Like h in heart.
k    k Like k in skate.
p    p Like p in spill.
r     Like the r in Spanish pero, somewhat like the tt in American English butter.
s    s Like s in sing.
t    t Like t in sty.
w   w Like w in way.
    A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."

Pawnee Dialects

The Skiri (or Skidi) Band uses a different dialect of Pawnee than the other bands. The pronunciation of many words is slightly different, similar to the differences between northern and southern dialects of American English. Probably the most notable difference is short e, which is pronounced like a short i in Skiri Pawnee. Skiri speakers also drop some vowels, pronounce some words with extra h sounds, and have a few different vocabulary words. These differences are minor and Pawnee speakers don't have any trouble understanding each other.

Pawnee Tone

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

There are four main Pawnee 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
falling tone


In reality, Pawnee tones are somewhat more complex than this, for example, some vowels with rising tone like begin low and glide to high, while others begin high and glide higher. Fortunately in Pawnee, tones almost never affect the meaning of a word, so if you pronounce them incorrectly as you are learning the language, everyone will still understand you. Your accent will improve as you converse with other Pawnee speakers.

Pawnee Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Pawnee Indian words
   Pawnee picture dictionary
   Pawnee alphabet
   Caddoan tribes
   Great Plains tribes
   Native Americans of Nebraska
   Pawnee mythology

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