Pronunciation Guide

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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[edit]

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

Sometimes, you may hear e pronounced æ a as in bang (before ng or k). This can happen before ng or k, e.g. bebmeng (arrived), ngarrbek (echidna).

Consonants[edit]

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[edit]

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

Syllables[edit]

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

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[edit]

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