Chapter 1 Appendix: Algonquian Pronunciation Guide

Chapter 1 APPENDIX:  An Algonquian Pronunciation Guide: A Reconstruction

In Algonquian, the sounds f and v (fricatives) are not used, and the r and l sounds are rare. Stress is less pronounced than in English and is usually placed on the last or next to last syllable of a word, rarely on the first. All vowels are pronounced fully regardless of stress. In this book, most names are spelled phonetically, in simple orthography rather than in linguistic notation and without diacritical (accent) marks. Alternative spellings are given where found. The most complete information seems to be for Algonquian dialects spoken by the Wampanoag, Narraganset, Massachuset, Western Abenaki, and Eastern Abenaki. For more help with pronouncing Algonquian names and place names see Dr. Frank Waabu O’Brien’s appendix at In addition to the web site, O’Brien has published Understanding Indian Place Names in Southern New England (2010) and Guide to Historical Spellings and Sounds in New England Algonquian Languages, based on the research of colonial missionaries J. Eliot, J. Cotton, and R. Williams (2012). These works are part of The Massachusett-Narragansett Revival Program of the Aquidneck Indian Council (see the web site for details).

Vowels and Dipthongs

As Written Variants As Spoken
a ah, aa, á Short a as in father (áe = ah-ee; áuke = ah-kee)
a ei, ey Long a as in lake (rare)
ai ay, aj Diphthong as in eye
au aw Diphthong as in caught, bought, raw
aw ao, au, ow Diphthong as in cow
e ie, ee, ea Long e as in he, green, ear
e eh, ‘ (glottalized) Short e as in bed, mess
i ih, ii, ‘ (glottalized) Short i as in hit
iw eu Diphthong as in reunion, feud
o oh, ow Long o as in bone, grow
oi oy, oj Diphthong as in boy
ô, â an, aun, awn, on, anum Nasalized, as in French Jean, bon, blanc
oo ou As in mood, food
u à, uh, ah, aa Short u (or schwa) as in sofa, cut
u yu Long u as in use


As Written Variants As Spoken
b, p bb, p, pp big, pig, puppy, tubby  (The bilabials are interchangeable)
c, k, q cc, ck, kk, ckq(w), kw, kh cow, account, kick, queen, sheik(h)
ce ci, s civil, cede
ch   chair, sachem (wadchu = wa-chew)
d, t dd, dt, tt dip, tip, but, muddy, putty  (The alveolar stops are interchangeable)
g gg, gk, ‘(glottal) go; gutteral as in German ach
gw gwh, gh Gwen, aarg(h)
h hh hot
j dz, ds Roads, juice
m mm mud, hammer
n nn sun, gunner
s, z ss sop, rocks, toes, mussel
sc, sk, sq shk, shq, skc, skw skill, musk, squid (gutteral)
sh tsh she, push
tch ts itch, tsunami, Betsy
w ww win
wh, wi hw, hwh what, why (a whistling sound)
y yy, j, u (long) yes, you, use