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Sambahsa pronunciation in English

Page history last edited by Mundialecter 2 years, 6 months ago

1 - Sambahsa Pronunciation



1-1 Preliminary definitions ::


Sambahsa uses the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet.


Id alphabet [alfAbd]

a, b [be], c [tse], d [de], e, f, g [dje], h [hatc], i, j [jye], k [ka], l, m, n, o, p [pe], q [ku], r, s, t [te], u, v [v], w [we], x, y [ü], z [dzed]


Sambahsa’s orthographical and accentual system is quite elaborate; this is because it tries to respect the forms that loanwords have in the source languages, especially West-European languages where orthography plays a key role.


Nevertheless, those rules are entirely regular, and can be mastered through repetition. To ease the learning of those rules, a simpler phonetic transcription system, the Sambahsa Phonetic Transcription (SPT), is used. Words written in SPT are always between brackets [ ].  Be sure to fully understand the SPT before going further.


[a] = like “a” in “car”

[ä] = like “e” in “bed”, but often a bit longer

[b] = as in English

[c] = as “sh” in “shoe”

[d] = as in English

[e] = as in Italian or Spanish. Listen to it: http://tts.imtranslator.net/4Fxa

[ë] = as “e” in “the”

[f] = as in English

[g] = as “g” in “give”

[h] = as “h” in “hope”

[i] = as “i” in “bit”

[j] = as “si” in “vision”

[k] = as in English

[l] = as in English

[m] = as in English

[n] = as in English

[o] = as in English

[ö] = as “u” in “burn”, but slightly longer

[p] = as in English

[q] = the “ach-laut” of German or the “jota” of Spanish. It is written “kh” in the Sambahsa orthography. Listen to “khako” (“I’m not able to”: [qAko] :: http://tts.imtranslator.net/4Fxf

[r] = its pronunciation varies from region to region. Nevertheless, “rr” and “rh” have to be pronounced rolled, as in Spanish.

[s] = as “s” in “say”

[t] = as in English

[u] = as “oo” in “book”

[ü] = the “u” of French or the “ü” of German. According to various rules, it can be written with “u” or “y”. Listen to “styr” (steering wheel) :: http://tts.imtranslator.net/4Fxk

[v] = as in English

[w] = as in English

[x] = it is the “ich-laut” of German. Is written “sh” in the Sambahsa orthography. Listen to “ghianshiek” (rock, stone) :: http://tts.imtranslator.net/4Fxt

[y] = as “y” in “you”

[z] = as “z” in “zero”

[§] = as “th” in “thin”


Stressed vowels are written in capital letters in polysyllabic words, and a [:] following a vowel indicates that this one has to be lengthened. Letters in italics can be left unpronounced.



1-2 Other conventions:


“Vowels” (V) are the letters a, e, i, o, u.

“Semi-vowels” are the letters w & y.

The other letters are “consonants” (C). In explanations, the letter (C) refers to semi-vowels too.


A “diphthong” is a group of two letters which produces a particular sound when they stand together, different from the conjunction of the sounds they would have produced individually.

Likewise, a “triphtong” is a group of three letters which produce a new sound when they stand together.


For the purposes of Sambahsa orthography, “ck” is equivalent to “k + k”.


If not otherwise indicated below, the Sambahsa orthographic letters are pronounced like their SPT equivalents.





  1. Most complicated cases.


“e” ::  - [e] when it is stressed or as the first letter of a word.



“temos” = [tEmos] ;; “darkness”

“emerg” = [emErg] ;; “emerge”


-          is unpronounced alone at the end of a word or followed by only “s” or “t” (but can have effects on the preceding letters).



“emerge” = [emErdj] ;; “to emerge”

“crimes” = [krims]

“survivet” = [survIvd] ;; “ (he/it/she) survives”


Nevertheless, before “t” or “s”, “e” is pronounced [ë] if this “t” or “s” could not be distinguished from the preceding group of consonants, or simply if the loss of the “e” would result in something unpronounceable.



“storgnet” = [stOrnyët]; “stunned”

“changes” = [tcAndjës] ;; “(thou) changest”


The endings “-quet” and “-ques” always correspond respectively to [kët] and [kës].



“blanquet” = [blAnkët] ;; “blanket”

“techniques” = [tëknIkës]


In all other cases, « e » is [ë].


Example ::

                        “kohlen” = [kO:lën] ;; “hidden”




“h”:  - is [h] at the beginning of a word and between vowels.



“habe” = [hab] ;; “to have”

“rahat” = [rahAt] ;; “rest”


-          at the end of a word or before a consonant, it is unpronounced but lengthens the preceding vowel.



“bahsa” = [bA:sa] ;; “language”

« bah » = [ba ::] ;; « speak »



« gh », « bh » and « dh » correspond respectively to [g], [b] and [d]. The “h” is only there to indicate that the preceding consonant cannot be subjected to phonetic or grammatical modification of any kind.



  1. Vowels.


“eau” = [o:]; example:   “bureau” = [bürO:]


« aa » = [aa] ;; example :: « saat » = |saAt] ;; « o’ clock, hour »


“ae”, “ay” = [ay] ;; example :: “mae” = [may] ;; “don’t !!


“ai” = [ä] ;; example :: “caise” = [käz] ;; “cheese”


“au” = [Ao] (the “o” is shorter than the “a” before). Example: “Australia” = [aostrAlya]


“ee” = [Eë] ;; example :: “eet” = [Eët] ;; “(he/she/it) was”


“eu” = [ö] ;; example :: “Europe” = [örOp]


« ie » = [i ::] when it is alone at the end of a word ;; but [ye] in other cases.



“publie” = [publI:] ;; “publish”

“publiet” = [publyEt] ;; “published”


“oe”, “oi” & “oy” = [oy] ;; example :: “choengju” = [tcOyngju] ;; “rice alcohol”


“oo” = [oo] ;; example :: “boot” = [boOt] ;; “boat”


“ou” = [u:] ;; example :: “courage” = [ku:rAdj]


« ue » =  ::] ;; example :: « continue » = [kontinÜ ::]


« ui » = [wi] ;; example :: « tuich » = [twitc] ;; “empty”


“uy” = [uy] ;; example :: “lastruym” = [lastrUym] ;; “ship hold”


“u” = [u]; except if there is “e” among the two following letters.


Examples :: 

“bur” = [bur] ;; “ashes”

“bureau” = [bürO:]



  1. Semi-vowels


“w” & “y” are respectively [w] and [y] if they are followed or preceded by a vowel.


Example :: “wey” = [wey] ;; ‘we”


Otherwise, “w” is a very short [u] and “y” is [ü].


Examples ::

“sehkwnt” = [sEkunt] ;; “they follow”

“type” = [tüp] ;; “guy”


Nevertheless, alone or followed by “s” at the end of a word, “y” and “ys” are respectively [i] and [is]


Examples ::

“baby” = [bAbi]

“babys” = [bAbis]



  1. Consonants


“sch” = [c] ;; example :: “muraischmusch” = [muräcmUc] ;; “swamp-fly”


“ch” = [tc], but [k] before a consonant.



“cheus” = [tcös] ;; “choose”

“Christ” = [krist]


“gn” = [ny] ;;   example :: “gnoh” = [nyo:] ;; “know”


“kh” = [q] ;;  example :: “khiter” = [qItër] ;; “evil”


“ph” = [f] ;; example :: “philosophia” = [filozOfya]


“qu” ;; “q” never appears alone but followed by “u”. “qu” is [kw] before “a”, “o” and “u”, and [k] before “e”, “i” and “y”.


Examples ::

“quod” = [kwod] ;; “what ??

“quis” = [kis] ;; “who ??


“sc” = [sk], but [s] before “e”, “i” and “y”.


Examples ::

“scutt” = [skut] ;; “shake”

“science” = [syents]  



“sh” = [x] ;; example :: “shienciu” = [xyEntsyu] ;; “overgrown”


“ss” = [s] ;; example :: “permission” = [përmisyOn] ;; “permission”


“th” = [§] but turns to [t] before or after [s], [c], [j].



Examples ::

“thamf” = [§amf] ;; “stench”

“esthetic” = [estEtik]


“c” = [k], but turns to [ts] before “e”, “i” and “y”.



“condition” = [kondityOn]

“petrificit” = [pëtrifItsit] ;; “(he/she/it) petrified”


“g” = [g], but turns to [dj] before “e”, “i” and “y”. “gh” is always [g]


Examples ::

“gulf” = [gulf]

“large” = [lardj]


“j” is always [j]


“r” [r] has various pronunciations according to the native background of speakers. The recommended (but not compulsory) form is the “r” as found in the German dialects spoken in Saarland or Luxembourg.

However, “rr” and “rh” have to be rolled, like in Spanish or Italian, while “rl” should be pronounced like a “Japanese” “r”, i.e. where the “r” and the “l” nearly coalesce into each other.


“s” = [s] but turns to [z] between two vowels.


Examples ::

“son” = [son]

“decision” = [dëtsizyOn]


« x » = [ks] but can turn to [gz] if ite ases the pronounciation.


« z » = [dz] ;; example :: « zangir » = [dzAndjir] ;; « chain »



1 - 3 Final remarks ::


Some letters, especially the endings, can be slightly modified by a neighbouring sound.


Example :: “hands” = [handz]


Some consonants, as well as the vowel [ë], can even be omitted.


Example :: “franceois” (“French”) is officially [frantsëOys] but in truth [fransOys] because [t] lies within a consonantal cluster, and because unstressed [ë] lies near stressed [o].


If a verbal form begins with [sC-], “oi” can be added before it, for reasons of euphonics.


Example : “skap” (to escape) > “oiskap”.




1 – 4 Accentuation in Sambahsa :


Begin with the final syllable of the word and work backward until you reach a syllable that can or must be accented.

Always stressed:

-Vowel before -h or a double consonant (including ck);


-the syllable before final -e.




-          “prodah” = [prodA:] ;; “to hand over”

-          “recess” = [rëtsEs]

-          “frontdeck” = [frondEk] ;; “foredeck”

-          “taslime” = [taslIm] ;; “to surrender”



- The first of two vowels together (other than i and u acting as semivowels)


-          armee = [armEë] ;; “army”

-          Australia = [aostrAlya]

-The final syllable of words ending in

-in (but not -ing),

-ui (when pronounced "wi"),
-oCel (where C is a single consonant).




-          “hotel” = [hotEl]

-          “suadin” = [swadIn] ;; “fair weather”

-          “reling” = [rEling] ;; “railing (of a vessel)”

-          “kierey” = [kyerEy] ;; “ram”

a, o, u before a consonant or semivowel (except a single "-s").



-          “cadaloc” = [kadalOk] ;; “anywhere”

-          “naval” = [navAl]

-          “dayluk” = [daylUk] ;; “mainland”


Never stressed:





-          fortrehc = [fortrE:k] ;; “for-” = “away”; “to depart for a trip”

-          recess = [rëtsEs] ;; “re-“ = “back”

-          bevid = [bëvId] ;; “be-” = factitive meaning ;; “to show, to prove”.

-The letter "w" used as a vowel


Example ::  - sehkwnt = [sE:kunt] ;; “they follow”.

-A final syllable ending in



 or single –s



- “schives” = [civz] ;; “to shift” (infinitive)

-          “territorium” = [territOryum]

-          “insule” = [Insül] ;; “island”


- A vowel/semivowel alone at the end of a word.



-          “okwi” = [Okwi] ;; “eyes”

-          “baby” = [bAbi]


- E, i, and y as the last vowel of a word followed by a semivowel (exception: final -ey) or by one or several consonants (except double consonants).



-          “seghel” = [sEgël] ;; “sail”

-          “tolkit” = [tOlkit] ;; “he/she/it talked”



In compound words, the stress is the same as if the elements were separate words; the suffixes –ment and -went are considered part of a compound.


-          gouverne = [gu:vErn] ;; “to govern”

-          gouvernement = [gu:vErnëmënt]

-          nest = [nest]

-          corcuksnest = [korkUksnëst] ;; “crow’s-nest”


However, -ument leads to  [-Ümënt]

These rules do not necessarily apply to proper names.


The use of a hyphen preserves the accentuation on both sides.


Some particles in Sambahsa are called “clitics”; they have no accentuation of their own. “Proclitics” thus form an accentuational unit with the following word.

Articles and the negation ne, when it is unstressed, are proclitics.

“Enclitics” form an accentuational unit with the word before. The particles ghi, ge are enclitics.

Clitics like the personal pronouns, when they are unstressed, can thus form an accentuational unit with the word before or after them (in general, a verb).


Two clitics (or a proclitic and an enclitic) can come together and form a new accentuational unit.

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