(Information about our sources)

How to pronounce our symbols:

The tough symbols (a longer explanation is below):
e' = the a in English cat
I = the i in English fit
c = ch
zh = the s in English leisure

All the letters in our Potawatomi alphabet:
a b c d e e' g h i I j k m n o p s sh t u w y z zh

Longer explanation:

We find that "writing" Potawatomi is the hardest part to explain (which shows how limited print can be for signifying sounds). That's why we intend to include more and more sound files, so these written explanations become unnecessary. But for now, we're stuck with writing it out long hand to help you know what we mean by our symbols.

  1. We chose to use a Roman alphabet because we felt most of our learners would be first speakers of English. Our orthography is an adapted phonetic alphabet, which has its advantages and disadvantages.
  2. Each of our symbols always stands for only one sound (unlike many English letters, such as vowels).
  3. For the most part, our letters are the same as in English. Really only four symbols are unusual enough to cause trouble: c, e', I, and zh
  4. Our vowels take a little getting used to because we try to keep them consistent:
  5. Sometimes y and w act as "semivowels," when they follow vowels. The result is much like diphthongs in English. Here are some instances (followed by a "sounds like in English" and a Potawatomi example):
  6. The y basically becomes ee; the w, oh or sometimes oo. This effect is also seen in Potawatomi sometimes when w's or y's are functioning in their normal capacity as consonants (example: jaye'k, where it's pretty difficult to tell if the a sounds like ah, or the a and y together sound like ay. Are we getting boringly technical here?).

  7. A couple of other symbols we've experimented with (more and more we're thinking these are unnecessary) are:

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Information about the sources we used to compile this word list

All of these are Kansas Potawatomis unless otherwise indicated.