Pronunciation Guide

 

This guide will help with the pronunciation and reading of the Otoe-Missouria language materials produced by the Language Department.  The main goal of this system of spelling was to create a standard for spelling that is tailored to the unique characteristics of the Otoe-Missouria language and to be flexible enough to accommodate different pronunciations.  This system was created to reflect how the Otoe-Missouria language is spoken, not to determine how it is spoken.

With there being such a small number of speakers and individuals knowledgeable in the Otoe-Missouria language, it was necessary to create this system so students will have easy to understand written materials to study.  Complex linguistic characters, confusing diacritical markings, and other special characters have been kept to a minimum.  This guide will allow for reasonably correct pronunciations of written materials and is intended to supplement hearing the language.

 

Nasalization

Past indicators of nasalized vowels have often led to confusion and incorrect pronunciations.  Often an “n” would be used to denote the nasalization of the preceding vowel.  This often causes unintended pronunciation of a hard “n” as in “no.”  Another system uses a small “n” to denote nasalization of the preceding vowel.  This system is adequate but cannot be easily typed and is often replaced with a regular “n” and again leads to incorrect pronunciation.  To remedy this, a new nasalization indicator is being used.  However, a small “n” nasal indicator will still be shown in the phonetic pronunciations.  For example:

day – hąwe (HAHn-way)

Notice the little “tail” on the nasalized vowel and that the subscripted “n” still appears in the phonetic pronunciation.

 

Double Vowel

A word spelled with two of the same vowel side by side indicates a longer pronunciation of that vowel.  The pronunciation remains the same as it normally would but length is added.  For example:

 

I go to – waaje (WAAH-jay)

The “aa” in “waaje” is still pronounced as they would be normally (as in father) however in this case length is added to the pronunciation.  The “double vowel” is not rare, but neither is it very common.

 

Glottal Stop

A glottal stop is an abrupt “stop and go” in a word.  A good English example would be “uh-oh.”  A glottal stop will be indicated by an apostrophe.  For example:

 

elder – s’age (s’AH-gay)

 

Ð/ð Character

This character is called “eth” (the “th” is soft) denotes the soft “th” sound (as in “they”).

 

Clarifying Combined Terms

Another convention was developed to clarify written terms that are combinations of two or more words.  This is because in a spoken conversation, the intent of the speaker can be easily indicated.  However, the written version may not be so easy to decipher.  For example, the Otoe-Missouria word for “cow” is a combination of the two words “che” and “xga” (“buffalo” and “white” respectively).  In a spoken conversation, the listener will know whether the speaker is talking about a cow or a white buffalo.  In written form it is not that easy.  To handle this, a general rule of thumb has been created: one word = one concept.  To use the above example, “chexga” would mean “cow” whereas “che xga” would mean “white buffalo.”  There is no difference in how it is spoken but someone reading those terms will have an easier time figuring out the intent of the written material.  Given the descriptive nature of the Otoe-Missouria language and how many terms are combinations of other words, creating this convention was necessary.  It should be stressed that this is only a general rule of thumb and may not apply to all scenarios.

 

Intrusive Sounds

Some sounds emerge as a side effect of flowing from one sound to another.  If these sounds are nestled within a word, the full sound will be spelled out.  If these sounds are the result of flowing from one word to another, that sound will not be spelled out.  For example:

 

my grandfather – hįntuga (heenn-TOO-gah)

The flow from hį (which is nasalized and indicates “my”) to tuga produces a hard “n” sound (as in never).  Since this is all done within a word, the hard “n” is used in the spelling.

To further illustrate this point and show that hį is not normally followed by “n”, see the following example:

 

my elder brother (male speaking) – hįyino (heen-YEE-noh)

Now consider when two separate words produce this effect.  For example:

 

good attitude/good teachings – wosgą pi (WOH-sgahn pee)

At normal conversation speed, the flow from wosgą (ways/teachings/attitude) to pi (good) produces an “m” sound.  But because these are two separate words that individually do not possess an “m” sound, the use of “m” is omitted.

In some terms there is an intrusive “h” that is sounded out before a consonant.  This sound is represented in the spelling of that word.  For example:

 

seven – sahma (SAH-hmah)

PRONUNCIATIONS

Vowels

Letter

Pronunciation

a

as in “father”

e

as in “hay” or as in “jet”

i

as in “peek” or as in “pit”

o

as in “row”

u

as in “boo

 

Consonants

Letter(s)

Pronunciation

b

as in “book”

ch

as in “chair”

d

as in “dog”

ð

as in “they”

g

as in “give” or sometimes pronounced a little harder and leans more towards a “k” sound as in “sky”

h

as in “horse”

j

as in “judge”

k

as in “kid”

m

as in “mother”

n

as in “no”

ng, nk

as in “bring” or “mink

ny

as in “canyon”

p

as in “pie”

r

There is no “r” in the Otoe-Missouria language.  The use of the “r” character is to denote a slight rolling of the tongue close to the “rr” sound as in the Spanish “arriba” and sometimes even leans towards an “L”, “D” or “Д sound.  Indeed, you may see this sound spelled with an “L” or a “D” in other materials.

s

as in “sky”

sh

as in “short”

t

as in “table”

th

as in “thought”

w

as in “west”

x

No English equivalent.  It is comparable to the “ch” sound in German.

y

as in “you”

zh

This sound is like the “j” in French.  This sound is very rare and is usually only seen in older (early 1800s) Otoe-Missouria language material.