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Part 1: The Alphabet and Sounds of Kamakawi

1.1: Alphabet and Sounds

Kamakawi is a very simple language for a native English speaker to pronounce, since all 21 of its sounds appear in English, in one environment or other. So, here's the alphabet, and its sounds. In the first column will be the orthographic representation of the phoneme (for now!), followed by the name of the letter (that thing you sing when you sing that ABC song), followed by the sound or sounds that letter makes in glorious IPA™!!!!! Here's the list:

Orthographic Form

Name of the Letter


A, a


[ɑ] or [ə]

P, p



T, t


[t] or [ɾ]

K, k



E, e


[e] or [ɛ]

M, m



N, n



I, i


[i] or [j]

L, l



O, o


[o] or [ɔ]

F, f


[f] or [v]

U, u


[u] or [w]

H, h, '


[h] or [ʔ]

Now, the first--no, let's call it second--thing you may notice is that some of these letters have more than one sound. Such a thing should not be uncommon to an English speaker, since each of our English letters has approximately eighty-nine different sounds, depending on the speaker, the context, and the time of day. Kamakawi is much simpler in this respect. I'll now list the contexts in which the variants can be found:

  • A, a: When "a" occurs in stressed syllables, or in the first syllable of a word, it keeps the long [ɑ] sound like in "father". Anywhere else in the word, it gets the short [ə] sound as in "sofa".

  • P, p: This rascal always sounds like the "p" in "special", which is what we all are: Special!

  • T, t: When "t" occurs in between two unstressed vowels which are (a) at least one syllable before the stress and (b) after the initial syllable of the word, it's rendered as [ɾ], the "t" in "writer", which is a short little sound, that sounds like if you (or anyone else, really) were to fire one bullet of a machine gun once. Or just like the "r" in the Spanish word "corazón", or the "tt" in "butter", or the "dd" in "udder", etc. Anywhere else it sounds exactly like the "t" in "stipend" (and I'm getting a handsome one for maintaining this website!).

  • K, k: "K" always sounds like the "k" in "skin". Soft, smooth, delicious skiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin...

  • E, e: Not a really large difference. It's [e], which sounds like the "a" in "gate" when it occurs in the first syllable of a word, the last syllable of a word, or the stressed syllable of a word. Anywhere else, it's [ɛ], which is like the "e" in "get".

  • M, m: This guy always sounds like the "m" in "My, what a lovely hat!"

  • N, n: "N" always sounds like the two "n"'s in "nightly nerd". "I'll be your nerd this evening; how may I serve you?"

  • I, i: Any time you see this before a vowel which isn't "i", and is not at the beginning of a word, and is not stressed, this should be pronounced [j], which is like the "y" in "yum!". Otherwise, you pronounce this sound like the "ee" in "sweet".

  • L, l: This letter is pronounced [l], which is a sound that, believe it or not, no longer exists in most varieties of English. The closest to it would be the "l" in the word "leisure"--sometimes. There should be no pressure building up in the velar area of your mouth when you pronounce this "l". Think of when someone makes fun of someone else thusly: "Awwww! It sounds like someone's in looooooooooooooove!" Mind, they're not making the baby voice where they say, "In wuv", but the other one. If you can hear the distinction between that "l" and the "l" in "lob", then you're in business.

  • O, o: Neither of these sounds exists in English anymore. Strange. Now, imagine the "o" in "show". What it really sounds like is a combination of the "a" in "sofa" [ə], and the "oo" in "moo" [uw]. Can you hear that? Anyway, the two Kamakawi "o"'s are purer than that. When stressed, word-initial, or word-final, the Kamakawi "o" sounds like [o], which is reminiscent of the "o" in "note", but with your lips rounded more, and without any kind of [w] sound at the end. The other, which has this symbol [ɔ], and occurs in all other positions, used to be like the "aw" in "law", but is no longer. If you can imagine a more o-like sound for that "aw", higher than the "a" in "father", and with lips rounded, then you might be getting close to [ɔ].

  • F, f: This is [v] as the "v" in "vitamin C" when it occurs in between two vowels. Otherwise, it's [f], like the "f" in "fantabulous".

  • U, u: Any time you see this before a vowel which isn't "u", and is not at the beginning of a word, and is not stressed, this should be pronounced [w], which is like the "w" in "wonderful tonight". Otherwise, you pronounce this sound like the "oo" in "hoot".

  • H, h, ': Anytime you see an "h", pronounce it like the "h" in "hilarious". This, coincidentally, will only be at the beginning of a word. Whenever this character appears in the middle of a word, it will take the form ', which is a glottal stop, which is just like the catch in your throat in between the "uh" and the "oh" in "uh-oh". Also, if you were about to say "apple", but then someone jumped and told you to stop and hold it, you'd probably be holding a glottal stop. It's kind of a closure in your throat. So kind of that it is, in fact. Most people have it for the "tt" in "kitten", for an additional example. (Not Thom Yorke of Radiohead, though [cf. "True Love Waits".)

  • 1.2: Orthography (a.k.a., How You Write It)

    So, here's the deal. Kamakawi has its own fancy orthography. It's a hieroglyph system, like the kind found in Middle Egyptian. In order to put this on a webpage, I'd need create some sort of crazy dynamic font, or I'd have to paste a jpeg of every single word I decided to put up in Kamakawi. I don't want to do this, so I'm not. Instead, a Romanization scheme works quite nicely. So, it's exactly as what you've seen above, though, since I'm using both h and ', I'll also use v, w, and y. Thus, it will be simpler for you (and for me), but less aesthetically pleasing to me (and you). I've come to learn to live with many things, though, so this shall have to number amongst their ranks.

    1.3: Stress (How to Cope in 32 Easy Steps)

    Steps 1-32: Stress is on the second to last syllable, always. No exceptions. Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never. It's always on the second to last syllable, the penultimate syllable, the last syllable but one, the syllable just to the left of the last syllable, the syllable next to the last syllable, und so weiter. Monosyllabic words are stressed if they are: nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs. (Additional note: Monosyllabic words that are nouns, adjectives, verbs or adverbs have vowels which are loooooonger than normal vowels. So now you can't say I didn't tell you so.)

    1.4: Pronunciation Practice

    So, now that you know where the stress is...

    Pop Quiz!:

    Where is the stress? (You have 45 minutes to complete this pop quiz.)


    Correct! The stress is on the second to last syllable. I also would have accepted, "That one that's like not, like, at the end, but like, just, like, right near it". Only those two answers, however, were acceptable.

    Anywho, let us practice speaking some Kamakawi.

    The first thing to know is that there are no diphthongs in Kamakawi (unless you count "wi/o/e/a" and "yo/u/a/e" as diphthongs. I don't, so there are none). As such, each vowel is always fully pronounced. So, let us first practice saying each of these vowel sequences:

    1.) euoeaei
    2.) oioaeu
    3.) ueoaei
    4.) iaoaia
    5.) aeiaoe
    6.) aeiu

    I hope you pronounced these aloud, and that many of your closest friends and associate contemporaries were there to help you out. ~:D If not, you can always do it again--and again and again and again. One thing you'll notice, though, is that there were no "y"'s or "w"'s in there. Those were just strings of vowels to get you used to things. Here, now, are those same words with stress and "y"'s and "w"'s. (Note: Periods indicate syllable boundaries; the apostrophe, in this case and in this case only , indicates stress and not a glottal stop.)

    1.) e.wo.e.a.'e.i 
    2.) o.yo.a.'e.u 
    3.) i.a.o.'a.ya 
    5.) a.e.ya.'o.e 
    6.) a.e.'i.u

    You'll notice that in this last one the "i" doesn't become a "y". That's because it's a real word and not a random string of vowels. In this particular word the stress comes on the "i", because it's the beginning of the word "iu", "to go through", which is suffixed to the word "ae", "to be inside", to form the word "to go into". When reading words, you'll know which should be pronounced which way, because they'll either be written with a "y" or an "i". This will also tell you where to draw the syllable boundaries, and, hence, where the stress lies, since it always lies on the last syllable but one. Now, to throw in some consonants:

    1.) makilotumu 
    2.) eika 
    3.) kewelea 
    4.) fuila'ila 
    5.) inivie 
    6.) itakemiwilimi 
    7.) nomele 
    8.) helea 
    9.) hali'a 
    10.) apateke

    Hopefully you shouldn't find these words too hard to tackle. If you do, I can find some way to record them on some sort of sound file and send them your way. If said sound files also do not help, then I shall give birth to a child which will leap forth from my forehead fully clad in sun-bright armor which shall speak Kamakawi fluently and shall have no other purpose on Earth than to better your pronunciation.

    So, without further ado, we can proceed to learning up some language. (P.S.: For those interested, word number 10 is the word for "alphabet". The rest you'll undoubtedly encounter along the way.)

    Skip to Part 2!