Guarani/Orthography and pronunciation

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Despite the presence of Guarani words in texts by explorers such as Italian Antonio Pigafetta and German Hans Staden, the achegety, the Guarani alphabet, would only be standardised in 1867, with the modern orthography being officialised only in 1950, in the Congreso de la Lengua Guaraní de Montevideo. Here are the 33 letters, in alphabetical order:

A, Ã, CH, E, Ẽ, G, G̃, H, I, Ĩ, J, K, L, M, MB, N, ND, NG, NT, Ñ, O, Õ, P, R, RR, S, T, U, Ű, V, Y, Ỹ, '

Pu'ae (vowels)[edit | edit source]

Pu'ae jurugua (oral vowels)[edit | edit source]

They all sound like their Spanish, Italian, Finnish, Portuguese or French counterpart.

Letter IPA Pronunciation of the letter (English approximation)
A a a Like a in father
E e e Almost like in say, but a single release
I i i Like in see
O o o Like in low, but a single release
U u u Like in you

Pu'ae ahy'ogua (guttural vowel)[edit | edit source]

Y is considered apart other oral vowels in Guarani. Its IPA symbol is /ɨ/.

The pronunciation of y is like that of the e in roses in some dialects. It is a schwa, that is, a reduced and weak sound, but it is close to the English i in bit, with some articulation resembling u.

Pu'ae tĩgua (nasal vowels)[edit | edit source]

Some vowels in Guarani are nasal, that is, they need nose vibration. This is represented with a tilde (~), both in orthography and IPA.

Pu'ae ahy'otĩgua (nasal and guttural vowel)[edit | edit source]

The process above also happens to y.

Pundie (consonants)[edit | edit source]

Pundie jurugua (oral consonants)[edit | edit source]

Letter IPA Pronunciation of the letter (English approximation)
Ch ch ɕ Like in machine, but with the tongue against the palate
G g ɰ Somewhere between English hard g and y, like in Spanish pagar
Gu gu w Like in English
H h h~x Like in hot, or like in Scottish loch
J j ᵈj A weak d followed by a y
K k k Unaspirated like in skate
Ku ku Unaspirated like in squadron, with a weak semivowel
P p p Unaspirated like in sport
R r ɾ Like the t in American English better
S s s Like in sit
T t t Unaspirated like in stay
V v ʋ Somewhere between v and w
' ʔ A glottal sound, like the stops in uh-oh

The following sounds may be found in Spanish loans:

Letter IPA Pronunciation of the letter (English approximation)
F f f Like in English
L l l Hard like in British English
Ll ll j Like y
Nt ⁿt A weak n followed by an unaspirated t Rr rr r A trill

Pundie tĩgua (nasal consonants)[edit | edit source]

Letter IPA Pronunciation of the letter (English approximation)
G̃ g̃ ŋ Like in English sing
M m m Like in English
N n n Like in English
Ñ ñ ɲ Similar to the ni in onion

Pundie tĩ-jurugua (nasal-oral consonants)[edit | edit source]

Letter IPA Pronunciation of the letter (English approximation)
Mb ᵐb A weak m followed by a b
Nd ⁿd A weak n followed by a d
Ng ᵑɡ A weak ng followed by a g
Ngu ᵑɡʷ A weak ng followed by a g, then a weak w

Nasal harmony[edit | edit source]

Guaraní displays an unusual degree of nasal harmony. A nasal syllable consists of a nasal vowel, and if the consonant is voiced, it takes its nasal allophone. If a stressed syllable is nasal, the nasality spreads in both directions until it bumps up against a stressed syllable that is oral. This includes affixes, postpositions, and compounding. Voiceless consonants do not have nasal allophones, but they do not interrupt the spread of nasality.

Most oral consonants consonants change nothing when they undergo nasal harmony. However, g, gu, r and v have a nasal release.

M, n and ñ only exist as nasal allophones, that is, the form other consonants assume after undergoing nasal harmony. They are transformations of, respectively, mb, nd and j.

Ng and ngu do not change form when they undergo nasal harmony, but their form of a weak ng followed by a strong g becomes that of a simple strong ng, ngu maintaining the weak w following it.

Accent[edit | edit source]

The tilde and the accent mark tonic syllables. If neither of them appear, the accent falls on the last syllable.