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Shawnee Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

Welcome to our Shawnee alphabet page! The following charts show the pronunciation for the Shawnee 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 Shawnee relates to other languages from the Algonquian family.

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Shawnee Vowels

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Shawnee pronunciation:
a  u, u, v  a ~ Like the a in father or the a in what.
aa  a, á, ar  a Like the a in father, only held longer.
e    e ~ ε Like the a in gate or the e in get.
ee  e, ā, é, aa, a  e Like the a in gate, only held longer.
i    i ~ I Like the ee in seek or the i in sick.
ii  i, í, ee, e  i Like the ee in see, only held longer.
o  oe o ~ u Like the o in rode or the u in rude.
oo  oa, o, ó o ~ u Like the o in rode or the u in rude, only held longer.

Shawnee Consonants

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Shawnee pronunciation:
č  ch, c, ĉ, j, tch, tsh  t ~ d Like ch in char or j in jar (see Voicing, below.)
h    h Like h in hay.
k  g  k ~ g Like the k in skate or g in gate (see Voicing, below.)
m    m Like m in English moon.
n    n Like n in English night.
p  b  p ~ b Like the p in spill or b in bill (see Voicing, below.)
š  sh, s, ŝ, zh   ~ Like sh in shy or s in pleasure (see Voicing, below.)
t  d  t ~ d Like the t in sty or d in die (see Voicing, below.)
θ  th, 8, B, dg, f  θ ~ Like th in thin or th in this (see Voicing, below.)
w   w Like w in English way.
y    j Like y in English yes.
 ?, h'   A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."

Shawnee Consonant Voicing and Aspiration

In Shawnee pronunciation, all consonants are unaspirated (pronounced without a breath of air). The Shawnee letter k, for example, is always pronounced like the soft "k" in the English word "skill" rather than the hard "k" in the English word "kill." (If you're uncertain about the difference, place your fingers in front of your mouth and say "kill," then "skill." You can feel more air puffing out of your mouth with the aspirated "k" in "kill" than the unaspirated "k" in "skill.") English k is sometimes aspirated and sometimes not, but Shawnee k never is.

Just the opposite from English, Shawnee consonants are sometimes voiced (pronounced with the vocal chords vibrating) and other times unvoiced. (You can feel the difference in English by placing your fingers on your voicebox and pronouncing the words "utter" and "udder.") Shawnee t is sometimes voiced and sometimes not, but English t never is.

For some Shawnee speakers, voicing is used in a consistent way. Those speakers pronounce consonants as unvoiced except between two vowels or after an n or m. Other Shawnee speakers will pronounce the same word with a voiced consonant one minute, and with an unvoiced consonant the next minute. All these Shawnee speakers can understand each other easily. Voicing is not very important to the Shawnee language. It is much more important to remember not to aspirate consonants the way you would in English.

Shawnee Stress

Shawnee 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 Shawnee pronunciation, all vowels are pronounced the same regardless of stress. If you weaken an unstressed vowel 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 a Shawnee word.

Shawnee Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Shawnee Indian words
   Shawnee animals
   Shawnee body
   Shawnee alphabet and pronunciation
   Algonquian
   Eastern Woodlands culture
   Languages of Pennsylvania

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