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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.


Kunwok IPA Example Comments
a ɑ mah (ok) a as in father
e ɛ kunkeb (nose) e as in pet
i i bininj (man) ee 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)

Sometimes, you may hear e pronounced æ as in cat. This can happen before ng or k, e.g. bebmeng [bɛbmæŋ] (arrived), ngarrbek [ŋɑrbæk] (echidna).


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


  • 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.
  • 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)


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 (in Australian English)
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 (for rowing a boat)
uy uj mannguy (flower) pronounced like ooo-iii, but quickly


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, point (with a pen tip) just before the vowel, count one consonant to the left and move the pointer
  3. the syllable boundary is here unless putting it here would break up a digraph (dj, rd, rl, ng, nj, rn, rr), in which case, go one more consonant to the left


  • kun.dulk (name)
  • kun.ngey (name)
  • be.rluh (aunty)
  • ngud.da (you)
  • (foot)
  • (freshwater crocodile)
  • (Kunbarlanja = Gunbalanya)
  • (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. (it went inside)

Finally, pronounce each syllable in succession.


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