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Language Lesson - The Basics

Beginning To Learn Potawatomi       Potawatomi Alphabet       Pronunciation       Vocabulary       Quiz

The Potawatomi Alphabet
Jim Thunder Picture

By Jim Thunder, Sr.


The Potawatomi language consists of the following vowels: A E I O. These vowels are used in every part of the Potawatomi word or sentence to create the needed sounds. Each of these vowels has only one sound and thus are used with any letter or a combination of letters to produce any sound in the Potawatomi language.

It is important to remember the one vowel - one sound concept when reading the old Potawatomi writings. Although the English alphabet is used, the sounds of each letter are totally different. The four vowels themselves are used with certain letters of the English alphabet to form the Potawatomi alphabet. Before we get into the Potawatomi alphabet we must first learn the sounds of the four vowels.

A ----- is pronounced ah as in awning

E ----- is pronounced eh as in elm

I ----- is pronounced ee as in easel

O ----- is pronounced oh as in open


Since the vowels A E I O appear with every consonant of the Potawatomi alphabet, these have been omitted as separate sounds.

B --- Ba Be Bi Bo
  Ba - as in bah Be - as in bet Bi - as in bee Bo - as in boat
  (In some of the old Indian writings, the letter L is used for the B sound.)

D --- Da De Di Do
  Da - as in dawn De - as in den Di - as in dee Do - as in doe

G --- Ga Ge Gi Go
  Ga - as in gall Ge -- as in get Gi - as in geek Go - as in go

H --- Ha He Hi Ho
  Ha - as in hall He -- as in hell Hi - as in heel Ho - as in hoe

Tth --- Ttha Tthe Tthi Ttho
  Ttha - as in jaw Tthe -- as in Jenny Tthi - as in Jean Ttho - as in Joe
  Ttha - as in chalk Tthe -- as in check Tthi - as in cheat Ttho - as in cho
  (Tth is unique to the Potawatomi alphabet. It signifies the sounds CH/J. Sometimes it is also written as TH.)

K --- Ka Ke Ki Ko
  Ka - as in kaw Ke -- as in Ken Ki - as in key Ko - as in kola

M --- Ma Me Mi Mo
  Ma - as in mama Me -- as in get Mi - as in geek Mo - as in go

N --- Na Ne Ni No
  Na - as in naw Ne -- as in neck Ni - as in kneel No - as in no

P --- Pa Pe Pi Po
  Pa - as in Paul Pe -- as in pet Pi - as in pea Po - as in pole
  (Here again, some writers use the L to signify the P sound.)

S --- Sa Se Si So
  Sa - as in saw Se -- as in set Si - as in see So - as in so

T --- Ta Te Ti To
  Ta - as in talk Te -- as in ten Ti - as in tee To - as in toe

W --- Wa We Wi Wo
  Wa - as in want We -- as in wet Wi - as in weed Wo - as in woe

Y --- Ya Ye Yi Yo
  Ya - as in yacht Ye -- as in yet Yi - as in yield Yo - as in yo-yo

C --- In writings by anthropologists and others, C is used to signify the S sound.

Q --- Although there are some Indian writings using the letter Q, most of the Q sounds are made with the letters KW.

U --- The vowel U does not seem to be used very much in the Potawatomi language.

X --- I have not found the letter X used at all in any of my Indian writings.

Z --- Although there are a lot of places the letter Z could have been used, it does not appear on any of my Indian documents.

The alphabet text, examples and audio are from
OPL Book One/CD Audio One
by Jim Thunder, Sr.
Forest County Potawatomi, Wisconsin
Reprinted With Permission