Whakahuatanga  - Pronunciation

There are five vowels and ten consonants in the Maori alphabet. Listen to their sounds by clicking on the letters below.

  • five vowels: a, e, i, o, u
  • eight consonants: h, k, m n, p, r, t, w
  • two digraphs (two letters that combine to form one sound) : wh, ng.

Vowels

While there are five vowels, combinations of vowels (diphthongs) are common. You should regard these vowel sounds as a larger group of simply the five vowels alone.

A vowel can be long or short. A long sound is shown by a macron (a bar appearing over a vowel e.g. ‘a’ in motoka). Orthographic conventions advise when a macron is used.

Vowels are pronounced as follows:

Vowel ShortLong
a as in about far
e as in enter bed
i as in eat sheep
o as in awful pork
u as in put boot

Consonants

Maori language doesn’t have consonant clusters (consonants that appear together in a syllable without a vowel between them).

Consonants are mainly pronounced as they are in English. The exceptions are:

T

Varies depending on which vowel appears after it. When succeeded by an ‘a’, ‘e’ or ‘o’, it’s pronounced with little or no 's' sound.

When followed by an ‘i’ or ‘u’, it includes a slight 's' sound, however not nearly as much as an English ‘t’.

R

Commonly called a ‘rolled’ r. If you’re able to imitate the purring sound of a cat, you’ll know exactly what’s required to pronounce this consonant. Failing this, the sound you should aim for is something similar to an English ‘d’ – but softer e.g. judder.

Digraphs

The ‘ng’ digraph (the combined sound of two consonants) is said as it sounds in the English word ‘singer'. A common mistake is to pronounce it as it appears in the word ‘finger’.

The ‘wh’ digraph is usually pronounced as an English ‘ f’ sound.