Lesson 2 – Sounds and Spelling

The Arabana alphabet has 26 letters and is quite different to the English alphabet, so you’ll need to learn the sound that each letter stands for in order to accurately pronounce the Arabana language. For more practice with the sounds of Arabana, have a look through the Arabana learning videos. Here is the Arabana alphabet:

a b d i k l lh ly m n ng nh ny p r r rr rd rl rn t th ty u w y

Vowels

Arabana has three vowels (a, i, u). Here are the Arabana vowels

a

sounds like the ‘a’ in English father, not like the ‘a’ in bat.

mara
hand

i

sounds like the ‘i’ in English bit or sometimes like the longer ‘ee’ sound in beet.

pitha
tree

u

sounds like the ‘u’ in English put, not like the ‘u’ in but.

lhuka
mother

Consonants

k

this sound is similar to English ‘k’ in kite and also like a ‘g’ in gate. The Arabana sound sits between both of these sounds in English.

arkapa
red ochre

l

sounds like the ‘l’ in English love.

kalku
wattle seed

lh

these two letters sound like an ‘l’ in English alarm, but you need to put the tip of your tongue between your front teeth while you are saying the ‘l’, to slightly change the sound of it.

lhuka
mother

ly

these two letters sound like the ‘ll’ in English million.

ngadlyurru
green

m

same ‘m’ sound as in English mad.

minha
what

n

same ‘n’ sound as in English another.

antha
I

ng

this sound is the same as the ‘ng’ in English sing. Unlike in English, this sound is sometimes at the start of words in Arabana. To practice the sound, try saying ‘sing-ngurku’.

ngurku
good

nh

these two letters sound like a ‘n’ in English under, but you need to put the tip of your tongue between your front teeth while you are saying the ‘n’, to slightly change the sound of it.

nhiki
this, here

ny

these two letters sound like the ‘ni’ in English onion.

nyilka
slow

p

his sound is similar to English ‘p’ in pass and also like a ‘b’ in but. The Arabana sound sits between both of these sounds in English.

tyalpa
food

r

this is the retroflexed ‘r’. Notice the underline on this letter. This sound is the same as the ‘r’ used in English, like in paradise. This sound is represented with a capital ‘R’ in older resources.

wara
who

r

this is a tapped ‘r’. This sound does not exist in English. This sound is made by tapping the tip of your tongue to the top of your mouth. Try saying ‘ladder’ really quickly. The sound that the ‘dd’ makes is similar to the tapped ‘r’ in Arabana.

intyara
where

rr

this is a rolled ‘r’. This sound does not exist in English. Make the tapped ‘r’ (as above), but draw the sound out a little bit longer so that the tongue is vibrating at the top of your mouth.

arru
hello

rd

these two letters sound like the ‘d’ in English Adam, but with the tongue curling back in the mouth as you say the ‘d’ to give it an ‘r’ quality.

thangkarda
sitting

rl

these two letters sound like the ‘ll’ in English pillow, but with the tongue curling back in the mouth as you say the ‘ll’ to give it an ‘r’ quality.

karla
creek

rn

these two letters sound like the ‘n’ in another, but with the tongue curling back in the mouth as you say the ‘n’ to give it an ‘r’ quality.

yukarnda
going

t

this sound is similar to English ‘t’ in touch and also like a ‘d’ in dog. The Arabana sound sits between both of these sounds in English.

anti
soon

th

these two letters sound like a ‘t’ in English data, but you need to put the tip of your tongue between your front teeth while you are saying the ‘t’, to slightly change the sound of it. This does not sound like the ‘th’ in English think, as no air is being pushed out through your teeth.

warrukathi
emu

ty

these two letters sound like the ‘dg’ in English judge.

intyara
where

w

same ‘w’ sound as in English away.

awarda
there

y

same ‘y’ sound as in English yellow.

yatyapara
zebra finch

Other tips on pronunciation

Most Arabana words carry the stress on the first syllable of the word. The ‘stressed’ part of the word is in bold in these examples:

ngadlyurru
green
padni
no
lhuka
mother

b and d are used in Arabana to represent a special sound feature called ‘pre-stopping’.

Pre-stopping is only found in a small number of languages in the world. It means that a really short stop or pause occurs just before another sound.

b

this is used before an ‘m’ in Arabana to show pre-stopping. It is not used in any other places, except for the language name itself Arabana.

kubmarri
blood
wabmara
wind

d

this is used before an ‘n, nh, ny, l, lh’ and ‘ly’ to show pre-stopping. It is not used in any other places in the language.

kudnala
to sleep
pidla
name

All Lessons