Pronunciation

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In the following tables, the second column uses the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA); click on the IPA letters for more information.

Vowels

Kunwok IPA Example Comments
a ɑ mah (ok) a as in father
e ɛ kunkeb (nose) e as in pet (not before ng)
e æ bebmeng (arrived) a as in bang (before ng)
i i bininj (man) e as in beet (but with the tongue body pushed up)
o ɒ kunwok (language) o as in not (UK, Australian) or thought (US)
u u kundulk (tree) u as in boot (US, UK), u as in book (Australian)

Consonants

Kunwok IPA Example Comments
b b bobo (bye) b as in baby
d d daluk (woman) d as in dog
dj ɟ djedje (woman's child) j as in jam (but with tongue body against hard palate)
rd ɖ wurdurd (child) like d but with tongue tip curled back
h ʔ yoh (yes) glottal stop, like tt in bottle in some English dialects
k k daluk (woman) k but with no aspiration (at end of syllable)
k g kured (camp) g as in game (at start of syllable)
l l delek (white clay) l as in long
rl ɭ berluh (aunty) like l but with tongue tip curled back
m m manme (food) m as in man
n n nayin (snake) n as in nose
ng ŋ ngalyod (rainbow serpent) ng as in sing
nj ɲ njale (what) gn as in gnocchi
rn ɳ birriwern (everyone) like n but with tongue tip curled back
r ɻ kured (camp) r as in red (but with tongue tip curled back further)
rr ɾ or r djarrang (horse) t as in water (said like a fast d) or else rolled r as in Scottish English
w w wakwak (crow) w as in wet
y j yoh (yes) y as in yes

Notes:

  • consonants are not aspirated like they are sometimes in English (no puff of air after k)
  • some words have doubled consonants like ngabba (father); take care to lengthen these, e.g. ngap.pa
  • rd is usually written d when we can predict an rd is required, e.g. rdird~dird (moon), kuwardrde~kuwardde (stone country)
  • d is pronounced rr when it appears between two vowels and when the following syllable is not stressed, e.g. Yirrurndi (you went back) vs. birridurndi (they went back)

Diphthongs

Kunwok IPA Example Comments
ay aj malaywi (morning) pronounced like aye in Scottish English
aw aw yawkyawk (girl) ou as in ouch
ey ɛj kunngey (name) a as in name
ew ɛw kudjewk (wet season) like el in elk but with rounded lips instead of the l
iw iw kundiw (liver) pronounced like iii-ooo, but quickly
oy ɔj doydoy (kin term) pronounced like 'oy!'
ow ow rowk (all) ow as in row
uy uj mannguy (flower) pronounced like ooo-iii, but quickly

Syllables

When pronouncing words, it is helpful to break them down into syllables. This is a three step process:

  1. underline each vowel
  2. for each vowel insert a dot to the left, incorporating as many consonants as pronounceable
  3. check you haven't split any digraphs (dj, rd, rl, ng, nj, rn, rr)

Examples:

  • kun.dulk (name)
  • kun.ngey (name)
  • be.rluh (aunty)
  • ngud.da (you)
  • kun.de.nge (foot)
  • mo.djarrk.ki (freshwater crocodile)
  • kun.ba.rla.nja (Kunbarlanja = Gunbalanya)
  • ma.ma.rda.we.rre (Mamardawerre)

Some syllables look familiar to English speakers, but you need to be careful not to pronounce them as in English:

  • yaw (English: movement of a boat) but in Kunwok it rhymes with the vowel in "ouch!", e.g. wurdyaw (child)
  • bang (English: loud noise) but in Kunwok it sounds like how we pronounce "bung" (broken), e.g. bangkerreng (knock 'em down storm season)
  • kang (English, start of kangaroo) but in Kunwok it might not even be a single syllable e.g. ka.ngi.men (it went inside)


Finally, pronounce each syllable in succession.

Notes

  • Kunwok placenames sometimes have an English spelling that is distinct from the Kunwok spelling, e.g. Gunbalanya~Kunbarlanjnja