Vowels



a
(It's the easiest and the biggest!)

To make this sound you open your mouth WIDE (like when the doctor looks at your throat):  "Open wide and say aaaaaaa!"

When you say long aa, it will be about twice as long as short a.  You don't have to think about making it twice as long.  The short a sounds like the bolded sound in the English words automatic and Dakota.  The long aa sounds like the bolded sounds in hall and lost.

Now practice the vowel a in the following words (similar sounds in English are given):

vowel Nimiipuutt the word's meaning
a hham men
a lamta Whitebird, Idaho
a ptan bushes, brush
aa hama man
aa paps red fir
aa tamsas wild rose

You find that short a can sound a little different, depending on the word it is in.

 

o (this is a very round vowel)

This vowel is also very much like the vowel in English.  It also comes in the short and long variety!  When you pronounce this vowel you make your lips nice and round.  the sounds in potato and Arapaho sound like short o.  The long oo sound has the sound in tone and load.

vowel Nimiipuutmt the word's meaning
o kon there
o phol ravine, side canyon
o thon pants, underwear
oo hopop edible pine moss
oo sooyapoo non-Indian

There is a difference between the English long o sounds and the Nimiipuutimt long o.  The English vowel "glides" into a w at the end.  The proper Nimiipuutimt pronunciation keeps the o pure and "clear".

 

u (also round but a little higher and tighter)

This vowel sound is also round like o, but it is made with the tongue a little higher and the mouth a little tighter.  The English words put and look have the short u sound, and the words through and sluice have the long uu sound.

vowel Nimiipuutimt the word's meaning
u hhuy shoulder
u slu eye
uu nusnu nose
uu husus head
uu kuus water

Like the long o, the Nimiipuutimt long u is pure.  It does not glide into a w at the end, as long English sound does.

 

i (not round at all but still high and tight)

This vowel sound is not rounded at all.  It is made with the tongue high and the mouth tight.  In fact, you may be able to sense that the tip of your tongue is close to your teeth.  Short i can differ a little depending on the word, sounding either like the vowel in tick or the vowel in crazy.  The long ii sound is like that in piece and see.

vowel Nimiipuutimt the word's meaning
i sis bellybutton
i tit tooth
ii siis gravy, stew
ii piips bones
ii kii this

When we pronounce long i in English, we have a y glide on the end of it.  In Nimiipuutimt, long i should be kept clear.

 

e (low and front)

This vowel sound is made with the mouth well open like a, but it is made with the tongue farther forward.  This sound is very common in English, although it is usually spelled differently -- with the letter a (as in cat).  However, since we are already suing this letter for the sound in hham "men" and paaps "red fir" (the same sound as in English father), we need a different letter.  That is why we are using the letter e so we can distinguish the two different vowels.

Like the other short vowels, short e can sound a little different depending on the word.  With practice, these differences will become natural to you.  The short e sound is like the vowel in canon, central, set, laugh.  The reason why it sounds so different is where in the word it occurs.  The long ee does not vary in its pronunciation so much.  It sounds like the sounds in lamb and wack.

vowel Nimiipuutimt the word's meaning
e hhen vine
e tlel bluff, hill
e swe forehead
ee weptes golden eagle
ee kelemet pipe
ee hesu eel
ee wetes earth, land

The English examples do not really represent the differences in length between long and short e.

 

 

 



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