The last two language blogs were about the pronunciation of the vowels, oral vowels in Pronouncing Wandat Words 1, and nasal vowels in Pronouncing Wandat Words 2. This time we’re moving on to the consonants.
Most of the consonants are pronounced in ways easy for English speakers to imitate, even if they are spelled differently. The sounds s, h, m, n, w, y are pronounced as in English.
Although English “s” can be pronounced as “z” (e.g., “raise”), Wandat s is consistently only pronounced as in “see”.
Although English “y” can be pronounced as a vowel in “sky”, Wandat y is consistently a consonant, as in “yes”.
Although English “h” is only pronounced at the beginning of a syllable, Wandat h is pronounced wherever it appears, including at the end of a syllable.
The sounds m, n, and w are like English.
Wandat r is like English “r” in “run” (not “er” in “never”), and not like the “r” in French, or Spanish.
The sounds of š and ž, although spelled differently than in English, are essentially the sounds in the middle of “fishing” and “vision”. Sarah Dushane in her recordings pronounced both with the tongue slightly more forward than usual in English, if you want to try a more exact Wandat accent. (In technical terms, the English sounds are palato-alveolar while Sarah Dushane’s are alveo-palatal). We write š rather than English “sh” for a few reasons: 1) to be consistent in writing – one letter per sound and one sound per letter, 2) sh is used in Wandat for an h sound after an s sound (like the “sh” in English “grasshopper”), as in Sarah Dushane’s pronunciation of numbers with “ten”, e.g. tewáhshę “twenty”, and 3) there’s no unambiguous way to spell ž in English!
The sounds t, k are surprisingly the hardest out of all the ones we’ve seen so far. Barbeau described them in contradictory ways, sometimes calling them aspirated (like in English) and sometimes unaspirated (like in French or Spanish). English t and k sounds at the beginning of a word have a little puff of air (aspiration) following them, Spanish and French t and k sounds do not (if you’re pronouncing English words to yourself right now to see it for yourself, it has to be at the beginning of a word! “Tale” has a puff, but “stale” does
not, and let’s not even get into the sound of “later”). This little difference is a major part of a Spanish or French accent in English, or an English accent in French or Spanish. Sarah Dushane was very consistent in using the French/Spanish style t and k rather than English. So, when you see the syllable ke in Wandat, think Spanish “que”, not English “Kay”! When you see Wandat tu, think French “tout”, not English “too”!