Pronouncing Waⁿdat Words 3

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 and , 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 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 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”!

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