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Uspanteco Mayan Pronunciation and Spelling Guide

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

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Uspanteco pronunciation:
a    a Like the a in father.
aa  a·, a:  a Like a only held longer.
e    e Like the Spanish e, similar to the a in English gate.
ee  e·, e:  e Like e only held longer.
i    i Like the i in police.
ii  i·, i:  i Like i only held longer.
o    o Like the o in note.
oo  o·, o:  o Like o only held longer.
u  v u Like the u in flute.
uu  u·, u:  u Like u only held longer.

Uspanteco Diphthongs

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Uspanteco pronunciation:
ay ai  aj Like English eye.
ey ei  ej Like ey in English they.
oy oi  oj Like oy in English boy.
uy ui  uj like the uoy in English buoy.

Uspanteco Consonants

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Uspanteco pronunciation:
b'  b  б Like b in boy, only implosive. To English speakers, it sounds as if Maya speakers are 'swallowing' the b sound, similar to the way b is pronounced in Vietnamese.
ch  č  t Like ch in chair.
ch'  č', 'ch  t Like ch, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
j  h, x   x ~ h Like the raspy j in Spanish jalapeño. Sometimes it is pronounced more like the h in hay
k  c, qu  k Like k in key.
k'  c', q'u, qu', , 'c   Like k, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
ky    kj Like c in cute.
ky'  k'y  k Like ky, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
l  ll  l Like l in light.
m    m Like m in moon.
n    n Like n in night.
p    p Like the p in pie.
q  k  q Like k only pronounced further back in the throat. This is the same sound as the q in Arabic.
q'  k', , 'k   Like q, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
r     Like Spanish r, somewhat like the tt in English butter.
s    s Like the s in sun.
t    t Like the t in tell.
t'  tt   Like t, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
tz  ts, ¢  ts Like ts in cats.
tz'  ts', ¢', 'tz  t Like tz, only glottalized (pronounced with a pop of air.)
w  hu, v, vu  w Like w in way.
x  š, sh   Like sh in shell.
y    j Like y in yes.
 7   A pause sound, like the one in the middle of the word "uh-oh."

Uspanteco Tone

Uspantec Maya is a tone language. Some Maya 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 Uspanteco, such high and low tones are used in many words, giving the language a musical sound.

There are three Uspanteco tones: high, low, and neutral. Most Uspanteco speakers do not indicate the tone of a word when they are writing at all. Linguists tend to use an acute accent (like á) to represent a high tone and a grave accent (like à) to represent a low tone. Vowels with neutral tone are written with no accent. This is the method we have used on our site.

Uspanteco Indian Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Uspantec words
   Uspanteco picture dictionary
   The Maya family
   Mayan tribe myths

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