A B D E F G H I J K L M N Ng O Ö P R S T U V W X Z ‘

The present-day Umu alphabet took shape shortly after contact, as a system for accurately transcribing Umu glyphs. It consists of 26 letters. Most are taken directly from Latin, the remaining are obtained using diacritic marks, a digraph, and the apostrophe.

Letter Pronunciation Notes
Aa [a] as in ‘cot’
[ə] as in ‘but’
stressed
unstressed
Bb [b] as in ‘boy’ tense, initial only
Dd [d] as in ‘dog’ tense, initial only
Ee [ɛ] as in ‘bed’
[e] as in ‘bay’
stressed
unstressed
Ff [ɸ] as in ‘father’ initial only
Gg [g] as in ’good’ tense, initial only
Hh [ɦ] as in ‘behind’ lax
Ii [i] as in ‘see’
Jj [j] as in ‘yet’
Kk [kʱ] as in ‘skip’
[gʱ] as in ’good’
[k̚ ]
initial, lax
medial, lax
final, unreleased
Ll [l] as in ‘pull’
Mm [m] as in ‘mother’
Nn [n] as in ‘not’
Ng ng [ŋ] as in ‘sing’
Oo [ɔ] as in ‘hot’
[o] as in ‘vote’
stressed
unstressed
Öö [ɨ] as in ’roses’
Pp [pʱ] as in ‘spin’
[bʱ] like in ‘boy’
[p̚ ]
initial, lax
medial, lax
final, unreleased
Rr [ɾ] as in ’raton’ tap
Ss [þʱ] as in ‘thinker’ lax, initial only
Tt [tʱ] as in ‘stop’
[dʱ] like in ‘down’
[t̚ ]
initial, lax
medial, lax
final, unreleased
ti initial
[ʨʱi] as in 知人 ‘chijin’
[ʧʱi] as in ‘cheap’
[ʦʱi] as in ‘bitsy’
[ʂʱi] as in 是 ‘shi’ ti medial
[ʥʱi] as in 知人 ‘chijin’
[ʤʱi] as in ‘Jeep’
[ʣʱi] as in ‘sudsy’
[ʐʱi] as in 日 ’ri’
Uu [u] as in ‘boot’
Vv [vʱ] as in ‘vine’ lax
Ww [w] as in ‘weta’
Xx [x] as in ‘Bach’ initial only
Zz [ðʱ] as in ‘other’ lax
[ʔ] as in ‘uh-oh’

Stress & Accents

Normal stress falls on first vowel of a word unless it’s ö, in which case is follows.

When otherwise, the stressed vowel in marked with an acute accent.

The vowels a, e, and o have different stressed and unstressed sounds.

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mata
[ˈmaˌdʱə]

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hiti
[ˈɦiˌʥʱi]


matá
[ˌməˈdʱa]
(not an actual word)

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hití
[ˌɦiˈʥʱi]

Ö & Ő

More often then not in received pronunciation the vowel ö will completely disappear. But in some cases, usually because of a pile up, it must be pronounced stressed, in which case it’s written ő.

Vocal J & W

The syllables and ‘ö become j and w when ö collapses. When this happens these semi vowels behave like short vowels. Or in rapid speech may collapse as well.

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jma
[ˌiˈma] or [ma]

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wma
[ˌöˈma] or [ma]

They’re also written like this at times. Unlike real initial vowels, they’re not preceded by a glottal stop.

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imá
[ˌiˈma]

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ömá

[ˌöˈma]

Palatalization

Sounds affected by palatalization (di and ti) vary regionally in pronunciation. All variations are mutually intelligible and the different sounds remain orthographically indistinct.

This standardized orthography (in both the Umu alphabet and pseudoglyphs) unites all regional dialects despite the absence of any official standard pronunciation. The sounds [di] and [ti] have yet to appear in any variant.

Lax Voice

Umu is a breathy language, similar to Korean. Most consonants are lax, which blurs the distinction between voiced and unvoiced.

Treat lax consonants as if they were followed by an breathy h and tense consonants like plain old voiced consonants like in English.

Consonant Voicing

Some sounds that are distinct in English are merged in Umu. These pairs are:

k and g
t and d
p and b

Initially, they are lax and unvoiced. Between two vowels, they are lax and voiced. When final, they are unreleased.

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paka, sounds like paga, lax
[ˈpʱaˌgʱə]
handle

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tetu, sounds like tedu, lax
[ˈtʱɛˌdʱu]
river, stream

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kap, sounds like kap , lax onset, unreleased final
[kʱap̚]
ball, sphere

Initial mutations cause the tense voiced stops b, g and d. They only occur initially and contrast their lax voiced medial counterparts.

Initial Mutations

The letters b, d, f, g, s and x are not actual phonemes but result from various initial mutations caused by the collapse of the vowel ö. For this reason, these consonants are less common and only occur initially.

The Glottal Stop, the Velar Nasal & W

In a number of dialects, the glottal stop ( ) is pronounced ng. In these dialects, the letter w is rendered ng as well.

This happens because the w sound comes from the collapse of ö near the glottal stop and another vowel (‘ö’V > wV and V‘ö > Vw). The results are diphthongs.

However, In dialects were is realized ng, no diphthongs are formed and ng remains ng.

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‘aw or ngang
people, group, public

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‘ara or ngara
boy, son

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tiw or ting
chief, head, elder, more

On this site, examples are given with the more standard and w, unless they are specific to the ng dialect. Just realize that in some areas, ng substitutes for both and w.

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