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Vowels

a, i, u, e

There are four vowels in the Alutiiq language: a, i, u, and e. There is no o in Alutiiq. The vowels a, i, and u are called prime vowels. They can be doubled or combined with each other for emphasis. The shorter sound e is known as a reduced vowel, and it cannot be combined with another vowel within a syllable to make a stressed sound.

Click on the sound file below to hear each of the vowel sounds: a, i, u, and e.

Prime Vowels

A, i, and u are considered prime vowels, as they can produce a longer sound than the vowel e. They can be doubled (aa, ii, uu) or paired to form diphthongs, which are vowel combinations of two prime vowels (ai, au, ia, iu, ua, ui).

A is pronounced like the short a in English “father.”

alagnat berries  
arhnaq sea otter  
amikuq octopus (N)  

The vowel i sounds like the ee in English “see.” Wheni is on either side of an r or a q, it sounds more like the i in English “sit.” This is because the r and q in Alutiiq are pronounced far back in the mouth, so the closeness to these consonants slightly alters the way the mouth produces the i.

imaq ocean  
akit money  
iqalluk salmon  

 The prime vowel u in Alutiiq sounds like the oo sound in the English name “Sue.” When u is found on either side of a q or an r, it sounds more like the o in “open.” This is because the r and q in Alutiiq are pronounced far back in the mouth, so the closeness to these consonants slightly alters the way the mouth produces the u.

ulukaq ulu knife  
iruq leg  
uksuq winter  

Reduced Vowel

E is known as a reduced vowel because its sound is shorter than the other vowels. Unlike the other three vowels, e cannot be doubled, cannot be paired with another vowel. Some people may remember seeing an underlined e known as the voiceless e in certain Alutiiq words in past years. In the new alphabet, this silent letter has been eliminated, and replaced by and apostrophe ('). The e sounds like the e in English “ticket”.

emaa grandmother  
kemek meat  
ellpet you  

Note: When you see a word with an underlined e, you know it is written in the old spelling rules - an example of this is P.H. Knecht's Alutiiq Language (Sugtestun) Lessons book, printed in 1994.

Vowels are pronounced in different parts of the mouth, with the jaw in a high (nearly closed), mid, or low (more open) position.

Location of Production Front Central Back
High i   u
Mid   e  
Low   a