Whakahuatanga - Pronunciation
There are five vowels and ten consonant sounds in the Maori alphabet. You can listen to their sounds by clicking on the letters in the list 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.
While there are five vowels, combinations of vowels (diphthongs) are common. You should regard the set of vowel sounds as a much larger group than simply the five vowels themselves.
A vowel can be long or short. A long sound is shown by a macron (a bar appearing over a vowel to indicate it is lengthened during pronunciation e.g. ‘a’ as in motoka). Orthographic conventions advise when a macron is used.
Vowels are pronounced as follows:
Maori language doesn’t have consonant clusters (a group or sequence of consonants that appear together in a syllable without a vowel between them).
Consonants are mainly pronounced as they are in English. The exceptions being:
Varies depending on which vowel appears after it. When succeeded by an ‘a’, ‘e’ or ‘o’, it’s pronounced with little or no sibiliant (s) sound.
When followed by an ‘i’ or ‘u’, it includes a slight sibilant sound, however not nearly as much as an English ‘t’.
Commonly called a ‘rolled’ or ‘liquid’ r. If you’re able to imitate the purring sound of a cat, you’ll know exactly what’s required to pronounce the consonant correctly. Failing this, the sound you should aim for is something similar to an English ‘d’ – but softer.
The ‘ng’ digraph (representing the combined sound of two consonants) is pronounced 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.