Book:Mk'anbu mruk'í Mák’ai-wawá! - Chapter 1
Ít̗ák and welcome to the first chapter of Mk'anbu mruk'í Mák’ai-wawá!, a textbook for learning to speak Mák’ai-wa! Mák’ai-wa is the primary language of Mák’ai, a country in central Ejawe. Throughout its long history, Mák’ai-wa has been an important cultural and trade language throughout the region, with some TBD million native speakers both in Mák’ai and abroad. Learning Mák’ai-wa is a great way to get more insight into Mák’ai culture, so I hope you enjoy your journey throughout this textbook!
Before we can get into learning Mák’ai-wa proper, it's important that we cover some basics about pronunciation and the writing system. This chapter is going to mostly focus on this, and while it might be a bit boring, it's essential to make sure you're comfortable reading and pronouncing Mák’ai-wa words before moving on to the next chapter. There's plenty of recordings here for you to listen to, and some exercises to practice what you've learned! We'll start with the vowels, then move on to consonants, and finally discuss a few things regarding word structure that make Mák’ai-wa a bit different to English. Let's get started!
Key concepts in this lesson:
- How to read and pronounce Mák’ai-wa
- Basic word structure
The sounds of Mák’ai-wa[edit source]
Before you start learning to speak Mák’ai-wa, you have to learn the different sounds that are in the language. A lot of the sounds in Mák’ai-wa are, fortunately, like those in English, but there are some that sound quite different!
First, let's start with the vowels!
1. Vowels[edit source]
Unlike English, Mák’ai-wa only has three vowels - 'i', 'a', and 'u'. These are pronounced roughly as follows:
- 'i' - like the 'ee' in 'meet' (listen: )
- 'a' - like the 'a' in 'father' (listen: )
- 'u' - like the 'oo' in 'good' (listen: )
Mák’ai-wa also has one diphthong - 'ai', which is pronounced roughly like the English word 'eye'. Click on the file below to hear it pronounced:
Unlike English, Mák’ai-wa also has tones. This means that the relative pitch at which you say a word affects its meaning. Fortunately, the tone system in Mák’ai-wa is fairly straightforward, with only two different tones - a high tone and a low tone. The high tone is marked with an acute accent ('á', 'í', or 'ú'), while the low tone is unmarked ('a', 'i', or 'u'). Have a listen to the following words to hear the difference tone makes in Mák’ai-wa!
Tones might be a bit alien at first, but they're not too hard once you get the hang of them. Every time you see a vowel with an acute accent ('á', 'í', or 'ú'), just make sure to pronounce it at a higher pitch than normal. Practice listening to the examples above and repeating them to yourself until you're comfortable with the differences in pitch. Remember, the difference in tone is not absolute. If you are trying to make a high tone, it just needs to be higher than the previous low tone - not every high tone or low tone needs to be at exactly the same pitch.
That's all when it comes to vowels in Mák’ai-wa, so let's move on to consonants!
2. Consonants[edit source]
English-like sounds[edit source]
Let's start with the easy ones. The following consonants in Mák’ai-wa are pronounced exactly the same as their English counterparts:
'p', 'b', 'k', 'g', 'm', 'ng' (as in 'sing'), 'r', 'w', 'y', and 'j'
Mák’ai-wa also has the English sound 'ch', like in 'chew' (/t͡ʃ/ in IPA), but it is spelt as 'tj' instead. A word like 'chew' in English would be spelt something like 'tju' in Mák’ai-wa.
Apicals vs Laminals[edit source]
Probably the trickiest part of Mák’ai-wa for English speakers is the distinction it makes between what are called apical stops and laminal stops. This distinction affects what are called alveolar sounds - the sounds in English that are made with the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind your top teeth, where you might burn your mouth if you eat hot pizza too fast. These 'alveolar' sounds in English are 't', 'd', 'n', and 'l'. Say these sounds in a row and feel where the tip of your tongue is. That ridge, just behind the teeth, is the alveolar ridge that we're talking about - Mák’ai-wa makes some sounds in this part of your mouth that are a bit different to English.
So what are the different kinds of 'alveolar' sounds that Mák’ai-wa has?
- The first set, the 'apical' sounds, are basically the same as those in English except that your tongue is a little bit further back in the mouth. These are written using the same spelling as English - 't', 'd', 'n', and 'l'.
- The 'laminal' sounds are a little bit more tricky. For these sounds, instead of putting the tip of your tongue on the alveolar ridge (the ridge behind your top teeth), you stick your tongue through your teeth. This is the same kind of action you make when you pronounce a sound like 'th' in English. These sounds are written with a little accent underneath them - 't̗', 'd̗', 'n̗', and 'l̗'.
Let's have a listen!
(like English, but a little further back)
(with your tongue between your teeth)
Now for some practice!
Exercise 1.1: Read the following Mák’ai-wa words and have a go at trying to pronounce them. Then, listen to the recording to see how well you did. Remember to pronounce the tones as well!
A) átá, 'stick'
B) wat̗í, 'language'
C) yán̗á, 'beautiful'
D) lal̗inád̗u, 'crescent'
Exercise 1.2: Listen to the recording, then choose which of the two options you think is the correct one: (click here for the answers).
A) átá, 'stick' or át̗á, 'dad'
B) bali, 'riverbank', or bal̗i, 'tree stump'
C) níra, 'hair', or n̗íra, 'shadow'
D) d̗u, 'move', or du, 'cold'
Mák’ai-wa has another set of sounds that are quite different to those in English, called ejectives. There are three of these sounds in Mák’ai-wa - t̗', t', and k'. Notice how these sounds are written with an apostrophe.
An ejective sound is basically the kind of sound you might make when beatboxing. To try and pronounce these sounds, try saying a 'k', 't', or 't̗' while holding your breath. The result should be a much louder, 'punchier' sound than the regular 'k', 't', or 't̗'. Have a listen to them here!
Again, let's try some exercises to practice making these sounds!
Exercise 1.3: Read the following Mák’ai-wa words and have a go at trying to pronounce them. Then, listen to the recording to see how well you did. Again, make sure to pronounce the tones!
A) múmuk'u , 'old person'
B) tját̗'á, 'dirty'
C) t'urlá, 'food'
Exercise 1.4: Listen to the recording, then choose which of the two options you think is the correct one: (click here for the answers).
A) ít̗'ak, 'to cut' or ít̗ák, 'hello'
B) t̗'ur̗, 'monarch', or t̗ur̗ , 'tooth'
C) t'urlá, 'food', or turla, 'frost'
Other sounds[edit source]
Mák’ai-wa has one more sound which we haven't covered yet - the trilled 'r'. This is written as r̗ and is pronounced like the 'r' sound in Spanish or Russian. If you don't know how to trill your r's, a good way to practice is to try saying the phrase 'prince of prussia', but swapping the 'r' sounds for 'd's, as in 'pdince of pdussia'. Start off saying this slow at first, and then slowly build up speed until you're saying it quickly. You should end up trilling your 'r'!
3. Summary[edit source]
To summarise, here are all the different sounds in Mák’ai-wa, along with a brief description, in alphabetical order:
|Like the 'a' in English 'father', but with a low tone.|
|Like the 'a' in English 'father', but with a high tone.|
|Like the 'b' in English 'bad'|
|Like the 'd' in English 'dad', but slightly further back in the mouth.|
|Like the 'd' in English 'dad', but with your tongue between your teeth.|
|Like the 'g' in English 'glad'.|
|Like the 'ee' in English 'heed', but with a low tone.|
|Like the 'ee' in English 'heed', but with a high tone.|
|Like the 'j' in English 'jab'.|
|Like the 'c' in English 'cat'.|
|Like the 'k' sound used in beatboxing.|
|Like the 'l' in English 'lad', but with your tongue slightly further back in your mouth.|
|Like the 'l' in English 'lad', but with your tongue between your teeth.|
|Like the 'm' in English 'mad'.|
|Like the 'n' in English 'nag', but with your tongue slightly further back in your mouth.|
|Like the 'ng' in English 'sing'.|
|Like the 'n' in English 'nag', but with your tongue between your teeth.|
|Like the 'p' in English 'pad'.|
|Like the 'r' in English 'rad'.|
|A trilled 'r', like in Spanish or Russian (see above)|
|Like the 't' in English 'tag', but with your tongue slightly further back in your mouth.|
|Like the 't' sound used in beatboxing, but with your tongue slightly further back in your mouth.|
|Like the 't' in English 'tag', but with your tongue between your teeth.|
|Like the 't' sound used in beatboxing, but with your tongue between your teeth.|
|Like the 'ch' in English 'chad'.|
|Like the 'oo' in English 'good', but with a low tone.|
|Like the 'oo' in English 'good', but with a high tone.|
|Like the 'w' in English 'wad'.|
|Like the 'y' in English 'yet'.|
Word structure[edit source]
There's one other thing that we need to discuss before finishing this chapter, and that's word structure. Unlike English, syllables in Mák’ai-wa can also consist of just a nasal ('m', 'n̗', 'n', or 'ng'), or sometimes an 'l' sound. This means that if you see words that start with one of these letters and then another consonant in Mák’ai-wa, they are pronounced as two separate syllables. For example, let's take the name of this textbook, Mk'anbu mruk'í Mák’ai-wawá! The first word, mk'anbu, is pronounced with the 'm' sound as its own syllable - 'mmm-k'an-bu', not like 'em-k'an-bu'. The second word, mruk'í, is the same, so it's pronounced 'mmm-ru-k'í', not like 'em-ru-k'í'. Have a listen to these two words below!
- mk'anbu -
- mruk'í -
Another thing that can be a bit tricky is that these nasal sounds can also have tone, like the vowels in the section on vowels above. This can only happen if you have a nasal-only syllable at the start of the word, so if a nasal is anywhere other than the start of the word, you just pronounce it like normal. If a nasal is marked with high tone, it will also have an acute accent, like the vowels. Listen to the following words as an example:
- ń̗gut̗íwu, 'renowned' -
- n̗gut̗íwu, 'ignorant' -
And one final note - the 'ng' sound is always pronounced like the 'ng' in 'sing', rather than as 'n' + 'g' (like in 'finger', for example). If a word is pronounced as 'n' + 'g', it is written as 'ngg', as in nggáwa, 'below'.
Congratulations! You've now finished the content for Chapter 1. Let's summarise what we learned!
- The three Mák’ai vowels - 'a', 'i', and 'u'.
- The two Mák’ai tones - high and low, and that they can be used on vowels and nasal sounds (m, n, n̗, and ng)
- The consonant sounds of Mák’ai, including:
- Sounds that are the same as English.
- The laminal and apical sounds.
- The ejectives
- The trilled 'r'
- Syllable structure in Mák’ai-wa.
With that done, it's time to move on to some final exercises below to cement what you've learned!
Exercise 1.5: Read the following Mák’ai-wa words and have a go at trying to pronounce them. Then, listen to the recording to see how well you did. Remember to pronounce the tones as well!
A) gun̗jí, 'meat'
B) Mák’ai, 'Mák’ai'
C) jál̗áwa, 'interesting'
D) kíd̗ímak, 'comfortable'
E) ngbála, 'train station'
F) nk'a, 'bird'
G) r̗íyúr̗, 'mountain'
H) ḿt̗ayikáyar, 'museum'
I) n̗t̗í, 'quiet'
J) rul̗a, 'because'
K) Mk'ái-t̗ir̗, 'Mk'ái-t̗ir̗' (capital of Mák’ai)
L) t̗'ur̗gín, 'kingdom'
M) t'angjúrak, 'foreign'
Click here for the next chapter!