Lesson 2 – Sounds and Spelling

The Yankunytjatjara language uses the English spelling system but in different ways. Luckily it is far more regular than English so it is easier to understand and learn. The Yankunytjatjara alphabet as 23 letters in it. It’s important to note four letters have lines underneath them to indicate they are different to their non underlined companions. Look out for these when reading Yankunytjatjara.

The Yankunytjatjara alphabet:

a aa i ii k l ḻ ly m n ṉ ng ny p r ṟ t ṯ tj u uu w y

k

k – as in skate. This sound is between a ‘k’ (kite) and a ‘g’ (gate) in English.

Try saying:

Yankunytjatjara
English
kungka
woman

p

p – as in spark. This sound is between a ‘p’ (pass) and a ‘b’ (but).

Try saying:

papa
dog

t

t – as in time.

Try saying:

tali
sandhill

m

m – as in mad.

Try saying:

malu
kangaroo

n

n – as in nice.

Try saying:

nanytju
horse

l

l – as in lunch.

Try saying:

liri
throat

ḻ – as in curl said in a North American accent. The tip of the tongue curls back in the mouth.

Try saying:

puḻka
big

ṟ – As in barn, said in a North American accent. The tip of the tongue curls back in the mouth. This may also be written as a capital ‘R’ in some materials.

Try saying:

maṟa
hand

r

r – In Yankunytjatjara this is a trilled sound. Similar to a Scottish trill. Like ladder but longer.

Try saying:

waru
blackfooted wallaby

w

w – as in wing.

Try saying:

wiya
no

y

y – as in toy

Try saying:

yaḻṯa
coal

ng

ng – these two letters stand for one sound. As in sing.

Try saying:

ngutu
chin

tj

tj – these two letters stand for one sound. As in fudge and judge.

Try saying:

tjapu
small

ny

ny – these two letters stand for one sound. As in onion or canyon. Never like pony.

Try saying:

nyiku
elbow

ly

ly – these two letters stand for one sound. As in million. Never like silly.

Try saying:

palya
ok, good


Vowels

a

a – as in sofa. Never like hate or hat.

Try saying:

aṉangu
Western Desert people

aa

aa – like father but drawn out.

Try saying:

nyaa
what

i

i – as in pit or beat. Never like bite.

Try saying:

ila
near, close

ii

ii – like see but drawn out.

Try saying:

nyii-nyii
zebra finch (bird)

u

u – as in put. Never like but.

Try saying:

unu
ash, ashes

uu

uu – like pool but drawn out.

Try saying:

yuu
shelter, windbreak


Next up we’ll be taking a look at words and sentences you can use when talking about the family.

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