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ContentsPrevious: 58. Place Names [Miwok and Mono only]

Handbook of Indians of California (1919), by A. L. Kroeber (1919)


Appendix.
PRONUNCIATION OF NATIVE WORDS.

Many an Indian language contains more different sounds than the Roman alphabet has letters. If, according to a basic rule of philology, a distinct character were to be employed for each distinct sound, an alphabet of several hundred characters would have had to be devised for this book, since there are nearly a hundred native dialects in California of which some record has been made, and the vast majority of these contain sounds that are not identical. Such a scheme of orthography is both impracticable and unnecessary for anything but purely linguistic studies. On the other hand, the writing of Indian words with the current English values of the letters—sometimes falsely called "phonetic"—was out of the question, because words written in this way can often be read in two or three ways. If anyone can correctly pronounce a foreign word written by the English method, it is not because he can read it, but because his tongue remembers the pronunciation. It is impossible to convey to others a fixed pronunciation of alien terms rendered in English orthography.

The system of spelling followed in this work employs only letters of the Roman alphabet and three or four diacritical marks. In general, the vowel signs have the sound of the letters in the languages of the continent of Europe, the consonant signs the sound of the English letters. This system does not permit of any one of the Indian languages referred to being pronounced with absolute correctness. On the other hand, if the description of the sound or sounds denoted by each letter is carefully observed, this spelling will permit of the pronunciation of the native terms in this book with sufficient accuracy for an Indian to recognize all the words quoted from his dialect.

aas in father, sometimes as in what; in Yurok only, sometimes as in bad.
busually a little more difficult to distinguish from p than in English.
cnot employed; s or k has been written instead.
chas in English, or nearly so.
dsomewhat as in English; but its quality is like that of b, its tongue position like t.
dhin Mohave and Luiseño only, like th in English the.
djas in English, but with some approach to ch quality (compare b, d, g).
eas in met, there; sometimes like a in mate.
frare; the upper lip touches the lower lip, not the teeth.
gas in go, but harder to distinguish from k than in English; in Yurok, always a "fricative," that is, like g in Spanish gente or colloquial German wagen; in Pomo, and occasionally in other languages, both values of g occur, but are designated by the one letter.
hsometimes as in English; occasionally fainter; sometimes more harshly made with constriction at the back of the mouth, producing a sound equal, or nearly so, to Spanish j or German ch. H must always be sounded, even at the end of words.
hla "surd" l, made without vibration of the vocal cords.
hwa "surd" w, much like wh in English which.
ias in pin, long or short, or as in machine, long or short.
jnot used, except in dj.
kin languages which possess g, is as in English; in those which do not, it is usually somewhat nearer g than is English k, at least at the beginning and in the middle of words. Indian k is often pronounced much farther back in the mouth than English k.
lnever quite the same as in English, but near enough in sound to be unmistakable.
msubstantially as in English.
nsubstantially as in English.
ngas in English singing, not as in finger.
oas in come, ore; when long, sometimes like o in note, more frequently like aw in law.
pas in English, but with a tendency of approach toward b like that of k toward g.
qnot used; kw has been written instead.
rmuch as in German, French, Spanish, or Irish brogue; only in Yurok it is "soft" as in American English. Yurok er is a vowel.
sis a sound of the same type as English s, though rarely quite identical. In languages like Yana and Mohave, in which sh has not been written, s is usually as similar in effect to English sh as to English s.
shmuch as in English, but probably never quite the same.
ttends to approach d as k does g. Pomo, Yuki, Costanoan, Yokuts, Luiseflo, Diegueño, Mohave, and perhaps other languages, possess one t made with the tip of the tongue against the teeth, and another against the front palate, the latter sounding almost like English tr; but the two sounds have been represented by one letter.
thin Mohave only, like English th in thin.
tlan "affricative surd" l, much like tl in English little.
uas in rule, long or short; or as in full, long or short; never as in unit.
in Shoshonean, Chumash, Yokuts, Miwok, Maidu, is spoken with the tongue in position for u, the lips formed as if for i or e. It is almost the "opposite" in articulation from German ft or French u.
vin Shoshonean, Mohave, and Karok; the lower lip touches the upper, not the teeth. w as in English, or nearly so. x. not used. The sound of English x is represented by ks; the "fricative palatal" sound usually denoted by x in works on American Indian languages is here represented by h.
yas in English.
zas in English zebra.
zhrare; like s in pleasure or z in azure.
'

the so-called glottal stop; a contraction of the larynx or Adam’s apple, closing the breath passage; a cessation of sound, or pause, and therefore inaudible except sometimes as a faint click or catch. When written after p, t, k, ch, ts, tl, the closing of the larynx is usually simultaneous with the first part of the consonant, while the last portion of the sound is reenforeed and has to the ear something of the quality of a smack or crack.

denotes the accented or most loudly spoken vowel of the word. Accent is generally less marked in the Californian Indian languages than in English, and its designation has been omitted in all but a few instances.

when used, denotes a long vowel; but as a rule, length and shortness of vowels have not been distinguished. Lengthened consonants are represented by being written twice. This device does not indicate shortness of the preceding vowel as in English.



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