Papiamentu consonants

Here are some notes on Papiamentu’s consonants as they are written in the Curaçao spelling system.

b, d, f, h, k, l, m, p, s, t, v and z are pronounced more or less the same in Papiamentu and in English. There may be some small differences in the “place of articulation” and voiced consonants at the end of words may become devoiced, but these are things you will learn automatically by listening to and imitating good speakers of the language. Note that s is always voiceless as in English sissy, it never has the ‘z’ sound that occurs in English rose.

ch as in the English word chip, sh as in ship.

dj has the ‘j’ sound heard in English jump, jam, jive, and zj has the ‘zh’ sound heard in English azure, vision, pleasure.

n as in English now. However, at the end of a word, Papiamentu’s n is usually pronounced like the ng in the English word sing. Papiamentu tin rhymes with English thing. In words of Germanic origin, n at the end of a word is plain old n, as in pèn (which means ‘pen’).

Spanish influences: r is pronounced as an alveolar trill or tap. ñ is like the ‘ny’ in the English word canyon and the ‘ni’ in onion.

• the complicated life of G

g has more variations than the other letters.

When it appears before a, l, o, ò, r and ug is pronounced as in English go grow goobers.

When g is followed by e, è, or i, the letter g has a “guttural” sound like the ‘ch’ in German achtung and in Scottish loch.

In the letter combinations gue and gui, the u is silent and the g is pronounced as in English guest and guide. If you think of the English words guest and guide or Spanish guerra and guitarra, then you will pronounce gue and gui correctly.

• “other”

Technically these are not really consonants: w as in we want water, y as in your yellow yoyo.

Q and x are not used in the Curaçao spelling system, and c is only used in the letter-pair ch.

• note to self: I need to re-write this article and incorporate the things I‘ve learned in the past couple of years.

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