Phonology

Vowels

Inuktitut has a minimal vowel system containing three vowels /i/, /a/, and /u/. /i/ represents the most frontal of high vowels; /u/ represents the furthest back of high vowels; /a/ represents the lowest of the vowels. They create the maximal contrastive oppositions in acoustics.

 

Within a word, these three vowels can appear in single, double, or combined distribution. However, the phonological system of Inuktitut does not allow a sequence of more than two vowels. Likewise, vowels do not form a true diphthong as they belong to different syllables. Each vowel in a combined distribution is pronounced distinctively without hiatus.

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The following is a brief guide to Inuit vowel pronunciation, using non-technical terms.

Vowel Pronunciation As in
"i" "ee" or "ey" fee or key
"u" "oo" or "ew" too or new
"a" "a" man
"ai" "i" bike
"au" "ow" now
"ua" "wha" what
"iu" "ee-oo" me-oo

 

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Consonants

Inuktitut includes 14 consonants: /p/, /t/, /k/, /q/, /g/, /r/, /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, /v/, /s/, /l/, /ł/ ,and /j/. These consonants can be single or double (the double /ŋ/ is represented by Vnng-).