Friday, January 2, 2009

Week 1: Pronunciation Guide for the Double Vowel System

There is no standard writing system with Ojibwe language. Some people use "Phonetics" while others use "Syllabics" and others use the "Double Vowel System." No one way is right or wrong.

We are going to learn and use the Double Vowel System here, which was developed in the later twentieth century by Charles Fiero and John Nichols. As a writing system, it is very often used in the United States and Canada among language teachers and it is used in most Ojibwe language books. Although the letters used are taken from the English alphabet, the sounds of some of the letters are a little bit different.

The Ojibwe Alphabet is a, aa, b, ch, d, e, g, h, i, ii, j, k, m, n, o, oo, p, s, sh, t, w, y, z, zh and the glottal stop '.

The Ojibwe alphabet has no C, F, L, Q, R, U, V, or X.

Ojibwe Vowels: The 7 vowels are a, aa, e, i, ii, o, oo. Four of the vowels are long… aa, e, ii, oo. Three of the vowels are short… a, i, o. The long and short refer to the amount of time you hold on to the sound when you say it.

a - makes the "uh" sound as in the English word "about"
aa - makes the "ah" sound as in the English word "cob"
e - makes the "ay" sound as in the English word "cafe"
i - makes the "ih" sound as in the English word "pin"
ii - makes the "ee" sound as in the English word "see"
o - makes the "oh" sound as in the English word "obey"
oo - sometimes makes the same sound as the "oa" in "boat" and at others the same sound as the "oo" in "boot"

Ojibwe Consonants: All of the consonants are hard sounding. For example, in English the "G" can have two sounds as in "Great" and "George." The "G" in "Great" is hard sounding. With the following chart, the English sound equivalent is bolded.

b - brave
ch - champion
d - dreams
g - great
h - hope
j - jovial
k - keep
m - merry
n - need
p - pride
s - sun
sh - shine
t - time
w - wishes
y - yams
z - zoo
zh - measure
- uh-oh (the short pause you use between the uh and the oh is the equivalent to the glottal stop)

I find that if you concentrate on the vowels, it will be easier to learn. Most of the consonant sounds are the same as in English. The only problems I've witnessed students having with the consonants, is keeping the "G" hard, and pronouncing the "J" as in "jump" or "jovial" and not with a softer "zh" sound.

Other Sounds: These letters together make different sounds.
ay - buy
aw - ouch

Some places will use the "nh" on a word to show a nasalization sound.  Other places will use an underline to show nasalization.

Another Sound Chart 1 2 may also be helpful. Check those out as well.

The Anishinaabe Hangout Crew talk about dialects and Ojibwe sounds.