Afaan Oromo/Alphabet

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Alphabet and Pronunciation
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Qubee[edit | edit source]

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A a short ah sound as in again or what About this sound abalu
B b unstressed b as in body, about About this sound boba'uu
C c hard, glottalized tch sound About this sound ciccitaa
D d stressed d sound as in dad About this sound dadaa
E e e sound as in pen or empty About this sound eger
F f unstressed f as in five or after About this sound faarfannaa
G g unstressed g as in game or ago About this sound goggogaa
H h unstressed h as in hammer About this sound hahaaraa
I i short i as in hit or in About this sound isin
J j unstressed j as in jump or agency About this sound jejjuu
K k unstressed k as in coco About this sound kookii
L l unstressed l as in little About this sound laallee
M m unstressed m as in member About this sound mimmixa
N n unstressed n as in none About this sound naannoo
O o O sound as in sore or open About this sound obboleessa
P p unstressed p sound as in paper About this sound paappaayyaa
Q q hard, glottalized k About this sound qaqqabuu
R r slightly rolling, soft r as in sparrow About this sound roorroo
S s unstressed s sound as in Susan About this sound seenessa
T t unstressed t as in tape About this sound tattaa'ii
U u oo sound as in who or Spanish uno About this sound udumuu
V v unstressed v as in avenue or very About this sound viizaa
W w unstressed, soft w sound as in now or wind About this sound wawwaachuu
X x hard, glottalized t About this sound xaaxee
Y y unstressed y as in year or bayou About this sound yayii
Z z unstressed z as in zigzag About this sound zeeroo
Ch ch slightly stressed ch as in chase About this sound cheenchii
Dh dh glottalized d produced with the tongue curled back About this sound dhadhaa
Ph ph glottalized p as in pope (said without breathing) About this sound phaaphaasii
Sh sh unstressed sh sound as in should About this sound shaashii
Ny ny like the Spanish ñ, like onion or cognac About this sound nyanyee
Ts ts
Zh zh

Diphthongs and Long Vowels[edit | edit source]

aa — as in father, water, army
aw — as in cow or ouch
ay — as in aisle or pie
ee — as in eight or gray
ii — as in evil or teepee
oo — long o as in oboe or sober
oy — as in boy
uu — long oo as in fool or spoon.

Glottalized Consonants[edit | edit source]

The glottalized consonants are c, q, x, and ph. These can be described as explosive ch, k, t, and p sounds, respectively. Leslau (1969) describes the pronunciation of glottalized consonants as follows:

In pronouncing the glottalized consonants, the stream of air coming from the lungs is shut off by closure of the glottis. The air about it is then forced out through a stricture somewhere along the vocal organ. This stricture is a the lips for [ph], at the teeth for [x], at the palate for [c], and at the velum for q.[1]

Double Letters[edit | edit source]

Vowels and consonants may be repeated to make the sound long. For example, to say the Oromo word annan (“milk”) one must hold the first n sound slightly longer than the second, as in the English word “pen-knife”. A doubled vowel makes the vowel long and can often change the meaning of the word, as in lafa (“ground”) and laafaa (“soft”). Dh, ch, ph, sh, and ny count as single consonants though they are written as two letters.

Spelling Rules[edit | edit source]

Traditionally, Oromo was written using Ge'ez script as used by Amharic. In 1991, the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization formally adopted a modified Latin alphabet (qubee) as shown at the beginning of this chapter. This qubee replaced the various other transliteration schemes of Oromo to Latin script and helped to standardize spelling of Oromo words. Spelling differences still occur, however, due to personal preferences and dialectal differences. Regardless, certain spelling rules can be observed that match speech patterns.

A word in Oromo cannot begin or end with a double consonant. The word for “sport” is converted to isporti.

Three consonants cannot occur in a row in a word. For this reason, certain suffixes may add an i to prevent this, as in arg (“see”) + na (1st per. plu. suffix) → argina (“we see”).

Vowels cannot change without a break, either a consonant or apostrophe, between them. What breaks are used can differ with spelling preferences and dialects. For example, “very” can be baa'ee, baayee, baa'yee, or baay'ee, and “to hear” can be dhaga'uu or dhagahuu. The apostrophe indicates that the vowels are produced independently and not as a diphthong.

Pronunciation Practice[edit | edit source]

About this sound bobaa — “lap”     About this sound bobbaa — “excrement”     About this sound boba'aa — “fuel”     About this sound bobba'a — “he will get out”     About this sound boba'a — “it's burning”

About this sound birraa — “Spring”     About this sound bira — “near”     About this sound biiraa — “beer”

About this sound dhugaa — “truth”     About this sound dhuuga — “yogurt”     About this sound duggaa — “hymn book”     About this sound duuga — “he whittles”

About this sound dhaala — “inheritance”     About this sound dhaalaa — “heir”     About this sound dhala — “child”     About this sound dhalaa — “female”     About this sound dallaa — “fence”

About this sound coora — “feeling”     About this sound cora — “gathering”     About this sound coraa — “remnant”

About this sound jaallataa — “lover”     About this sound jaallatta — “you love”     About this sound jallataa — “bent, curved”

About this sound haaraa — “new”     About this sound aara — “smoke”     About this sound har'a — “today”     About this sound haraa — “trash”

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Leslau, Wolf (1969). An Amharic Reference Grammar (PDF). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Office of Education (DHEW).

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