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Apache Speech Pronunciation

The vowels of Apache are the same as those commonly known as "continental." That is, they are quite similar to those of Spanish and other continental European languages. They are pronounced approximately as follows:

a -- ah
e -- eh
i -- ee
o -- oh
u -- oo


gah -- rabbit
beso -- coin
bigan -- his hand
cho -- large
hay -- where

The vowels are also often nasalized. Nasalization is indicated by a "hook" under the vowel. This is called an ogonek (from Polish), but is an unavailable character in HTML. Therefore, for the purposes of this discussion the ogonek will represented by the circumflex accent:

-- somewhat like on, without completing the n
-- like en, without completing the n
-- like een, without completing the n
-- like own, without completing the n
-- like oon, without completing the n


bigh -- because
nkz-- time
kh -- building
nzh -- good
hat'gha -- why

Vowels can also be pronounced using high or low tones (lowering or raising of the pitch of the voice). Low tones are assumed if the vowel is not marked by the high tone symbol. The acute accent mark is used for the mark of the high tone.


isdzn -- woman
bsh -- metal
gd -- cat
gosdn -- ribbon
t -- water

Vowels are also often prolonged, indicated by doubling.

chaa -- beaver
izee -- medicine
piishii -- nighthawk
shiwoo -- my teeth
d -- spring

The combination of a high tone and nasalization is marked by simultaneous appearance of the acute accent and the ogonek on the vowel. As this cannot be represented in HTML, the umlaut will be used to represent this combination.


nad' -- corn
dl' -- bird

All consonants and consonant clusters are pronounced approximately as in English, but the following:

gh -- somewhat like a gargling sound; does not occur in English


ighaa -- fur
tghaa -- length

n -- can occur as a single syllable, as in Nnee. Both "n's" are distinctly pronounced. In some dialects (notably White Mountain and Bylas dialects) the second "n" is pronounced like a "d".

nnee -- people
nneez -- moustache

Other distinctive Apache sounds are the following:

' -- glottal stop. If one were saying "oh-oh" to a baby, this sounds very similar as an Apache saying o'o. The ' symbol indicates the "catch" in breath between the two o's.


ch'ah -- hat
dit'ood -- wet
ni' -- ground, earth
ha'ndh -- come in (to one)

"Voiceless l." Sounds rather like thl, as if one were lisping thlip, instead of slip. Because HTML does not allow the proper symbol (a slash l--same as the Polish slashed l), for our purposes we will use the English pound sign ().


og -- fish
dihi -- black
' -- horse

The Apache is language is still spoken today. On San Carlos Reservation there are about 4,000 speakers, and on the White Mountain Reservation there are probably 5,000 speakers. These are considered "Western Apache." The Mescalero Reservation has several thousand Mescalero and Chiricahua speakers. They are related Eastern Apache dialects. A small group of Chiricahuas in Oklahoma also speak the Chiricahua dialect. Still another dialect, that has only a few speakers (maybe 3 or 4) now, is Kiowa Apache. They live in Oklahoma near the Kiowa proper. Kiowa and Kiowa Apache are entirely unrelated.

It should also be noted that Navajo, the most-widely spoken Native American language in North America today, is closely related to Western Apache. After some familiarization, native speakers of either language can often "get the gist" of the other language.

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Updated July 5, 2005 - Created July 29, 1999 by Who Else....PurpleHawk