American Indian languages * American Indian tribes * American Indian cultures

Shoshone Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

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

Sponsored Links

Shoshone Vowels

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Shoshone pronunciation:
a    a Like the a in father.
aa    a Like a only held longer.
ai  e  e ~ ε Like Spanish e, similar to the a in gate. In some dialects, the Shoshoni pronunciation sounds more like the e in get.
aaii  aai  e Like e only held longer.
e  u  ə Schwa sound like the e in roses.
ee    ə Like e in roses only held longer.
i    i Like the i in police.
ii    i Like i only held longer.
o    o Like the o in note.
oo    o Like o only held longer.
u   u Like the u in flute.
uu    u Like u only held longer.

Shoshone Diphthongs

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Shoshone pronunciation:
ai ay  aj Like English eye.
oi  oy  oj Like the oy in boy.

Shoshone Consonants

We Use:
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Shoshone pronunciation:
b  p, v  p ~ β At the beginning of a word, this sound is pronounced like the soft p in spin. Between two vowels, it is pronounced like the bilabial v in Spanish navidad. This sound resembles an English v sound but is pronounced between the two lips instead of with the top teeth against your lip.
ch    t Like ch in child.
d  t, r  t ~ At the beginning of a word, this sound is pronounced like the soft t in star. Between two vowels, it is pronounced like tt in English butter.
dz  ts, ds  dz Like ds in Edsel.
f    Φ This sound does not exist in English. It is pronounced by narrowing your lips and blowing through them, as if you were playing a flute.
g  k, gh  k ~ At the beginning of a word, this sound is pronounced like the soft k in sky. Between two vowels, the Shoshone pronunciation sounds like g in Spanish saguaro.
h    h Like h in hay.
j    d Like j in jar.
k  g, kk  k Like the soft k in sky.
kw  qu, cu kw ~ kw Like qu in English square.
m    m Like m in moon.
n    n Like n in night.
p  b, pp  p Like the soft p in spin.
s    s Like s in see.
s  s   Like sh in shell.
t  d, tt  t Like the soft t in star.
ts  tz, ch  ts Like ts in cats.
w  u w Like w in way.
y    j Like y in yes.
z  ts  z Like z in zoo.
zh     Like a French j. In English, you can hear this sound at the end of words like garage.
 , ?   A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."

Shoshone Stress

Shoshone 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 Shoshone 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 first syllable of a Shoshone word.

Shoshone Voiceless Vowels

Voiceless vowels (also known as whispered vowels) don't exist in English. If you've ever heard spoken Japanese, the soft breathy 'u' in the middle of names like Asuka or Satsuki is an example of a voiceless vowel. Pronouncing a syllable with a voiceless vowel as if you were stage-whispering that syllable (but not the other syllables around it) will help you say it correctly.

Unlike in Comanche, voiceless vowels are not specially marked in modern Shoshone orthographies. You just have to remember which vowels are pronounced voicelessly when you learn a vocabulary word. Vowels are generally devoiced between two voiceless consonants (ch, k, p, s, sh, t, and ts) or between a voiceless consonant and the end of a word.

Shoshone Double Consonants

When a Shoshone word is spelled with double letters, like enne (you) or dommo (winter), 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 n sounds in "fun night" are pronounced like the ones in enne. In some dialects of Shoshone, the letters p, t, and k are also pronounced double length, so that the p in ape' (father) is pronounced like the p sounds in "top panel."

Shoshone Dialects

The dialects of Shoshone are particularly divergent, especially where vocabulary is concerned. Some Shoshone dialects have been much influenced by Ute and Paiute, and others have borrowed many vocabulary words from non-Uto-Aztecan neighbors. Though Shoshone speakers can easily understand the dialects of other Shoshone bands living close to them, it is often difficult for them to understand the Shoshone dialects spoken by bands living further away.

Shoshone Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Shoshone vocabulary
   Shoshone picture dictionary
   Shoshoni body
   Shoshone colors
   Shoshoni numbers
   Shoshoni alphabet and phonology
   Uto-Aztecan languages
   Great Basin Native Americans
   Languages of Wyoming
   Shoshoni mythology

Sponsored Links

Back to the Native American Cultures homepage
Back to Native American Words

American Indian art * Indian lodges * Navajo Nation * Beading crafts * Indian tattoos

Would you like to help support our organization's work with the Shoshone language?

Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2020 * Contacts and FAQ page