Wolof Pronunciation: Alphabet and Pronunciation
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< Language | Wolof | Pronunciation
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Wolof is a language of Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania, and the native language of the Wolof people.
In today's lesson, you will learn how to write the different letters of the Wolof alphabet, how to pronounce these letters whether it is through the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), or through a video with the pronunciation of the letters by a native speaker.
You will also find at the end of this lesson a virtual keyboard to be able to type each special character of this language.
Unlike most other languages of the Niger-Congo family, Wolof is not a tonal language.
The Latin-based orthography of Wolof in Senegal was set by government decrees between 1971 and 1985. The language institute "Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar" (CLAD) is widely acknowledged as an authority when it comes to spelling rules for Wolof. Wolof is most often written in this orthography, in which phonemes have a clear one-to-one correspondence to graphemes. (A traditional Arabic-based transcription of Wolof called Wolofal dates back to the pre-colonial period and is still used by many people).
The first syllable of words is stressed; long vowels are pronounced with more time, but are not automatically stressed, as they are in English.
Wolof Alphabet[edit | edit source]
Vowels[edit | edit source]
Wolof adds diacritic marks to the vowel letters to distinguish between open and closed vowels. Example: "o" [ɔ] is open like (British) English "often", "ó" [o] is closed similar to the o-sound in English "most" (but without the u-sound at the end). Similarly, "e" [ɛ] is open like English "get", while "é" [e] is closed similar to the sound of "a" in English "gate" (but without the i-sound at the end). Single vowels are short, geminated vowels are long, so Wolof "o" [ɔ] is short and pronounced like "ou" in (British) English "sought", but Wolof "oo" [ɔ:] is long and pronounced like the "aw" in (British) English "sawed". If a closed vowel is long, the diacritic symbol is usually written only above the first vowel, e.g. "óo", but some sources deviate from this CLAD standard and set it above both vowels, e.g. "óó". The very common Wolof letter "ë" is pronounced [!], like "a" in English "sofa".
Consonants[edit | edit source]
The characters Latin small letter ng "ŋ" and Latin capital letter ng "Ŋ" are used in the Wolof alphabet. They are pronounced like "ng" in English "hang". The characters Latin small letter n with tilde "ñ" and Latin capital letter n with tilde "Ñ" are also used. They are pronounced like the same letter in Spanish "señor". "c" is pronounced like "ch" in English "choose", while "j" is pronounced like "j" in "June". "x" is like "h" in English "how", while "q" is is the equivalent of “xx” it is more gutural than the sound “h”., "g" is always like "g" in English "garden", and "s" is always like "s" in English "stop". "w" is as in "wind" and "y" as in "yellow.
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)[edit | edit source]
Here is how to write and pronounce the alphabet:
Letters[edit | edit source]
|Letter||A a||B b||C c||D d||E e||Ë ë||F f||G g||I i||J j||K k||L l||M m||N n||Ñ ñ||Ŋ ŋ||O o||P p||Q q||R r||S s||T t||U u||W w||X x||Y y|
Digraph[edit | edit source]
Combination of 2 letters representing one sound:
Note[edit | edit source]
- Apart from “s-f-q-“ all the other consonants can de doubled and this will have a real impact on the meaning of the word, so you’ll need to stressed that doubled consonant. Ex: toog (to sit) # togg (to cook).
- The doubled vowels should be pronounced longer. You will need to pronounce it well because it can make the difference in the meaning of the word. Examples: Xar (sheep) – xaar (to wait) wex (to be sour) – weex (white) wér (to recover) – wéér (to lean) Tis (to spread) – tiis (to be sad) Bor (debt) – boor (side) Fóót (to wash clothes).
Video - Wolof Alphabet Pronunciation by a Native Speaker[edit | edit source]