Afaan Oromo/Alphabet

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Alphabet and Pronunciation
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A a short ah sound as in again or what   abalu
B b unstressed b as in body, about   boba'uu
C c hard, glottalized tch sound   ciccitaa
D d stressed d sound as in dad   dadaa
E e e sound as in pen or empty   eger
F f unstressed f as in five or after   faarfannaa
G g unstressed g as in game or ago   goggogaa
H h unstressed h as in hammer   hahaaraa
I i short i as in hit or in   isin
J j unstressed j as in jump or agency   jejjuu
K k unstressed k as in coco   kookii
L l unstressed l as in little   laallee
M m unstressed m as in member   mimmixa
N n unstressed n as in no>b>ne   naannoo
O o O sound as in sore or open   obboleessa
P p unstressed p sound as in paper   paappaayyaa
Q q hard, glottalized k   qaqqabuu
R r slightly rolling, soft r as in sparrow   roorroo
S s unstressed s sound as in Susan   seenessa
T t unstressed t as in tape   tattaa'ii
U u oo sound as in who or Spanish uno   udumuu
V v unstressed v as in avenue or very   viizaa
W w unstressed, soft w sound as in now or wind   wawwaachuu
X x hard, glottalized t   xaaxee
Y y unstressed y as in year or bayou   yayii
Z z unstressed z as in zigzag   zeeroo
Ch ch slightly stressed ch as in chase   cheenchii
Dh dh glottalized d produced with the tongue curled back   dhadhaa
Ph ph glottalized p as in pope (said without breathing)   phaaphaasii
Sh sh unstressed sh sound as in should   shaashii
Ny ny like the Spanish ñ, like onion or cognac   nyanyee
Ts ts
Zh zh

Diphthongs and Long VowelsEdit

aa — as in father, water, army
aw — as in cow or ouch
ay — as in aisle or pie
ee — as in eight or gray
ii — as in evil or teepee
oo — long o as in oboe or sober
oy — as in boy
uu — long oo as in fool or spoon.

Glottalized ConsonantsEdit

The glottalized consonants are c, q, x, and ph. These can be described as explosive ch, k, t, and p sounds, respectively. Leslau (1969) describes the pronunciation of glottalized consonants as follows:

In pronouncing the glottalized consonants, the stream of air coming from the lungs is shut off by closure of the glottis. The air about it is then forced out through a stricture somewhere along the vocal organ. This stricture is a the lips for [ph], at the teeth for [x], at the palate for [c], and at the velum for q.[1]

Double LettersEdit

Vowels and consonants may be repeated to make the sound long. For example, to say the Oromo word annan (“milk”) one must hold the first n sound slightly longer than the second, as in the English word “pen-knife”. A doubled vowel makes the vowel long and can often change the meaning of the word, as in lafa (“ground”) and laafaa (“soft”). Dh, ch, ph, sh, and ny count as single consonants though they are written as two letters.

Spelling RulesEdit

Traditionally, Oromo was written using Ge'ez script as used by Amharic. In 1991, the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization formally adopted a modified Latin alphabet (qubee) as shown at the beginning of this chapter. This qubee replaced the various other transliteration schemes of Oromo to Latin script and helped to standardize spelling of Oromo words. Spelling differences still occur, however, due to personal preferences and dialectal differences. Regardless, certain spelling rules can be observed that match speech patterns.

A word in Oromo cannot begin or end with a double consonant. The word for “sport” is converted to isporti.

Three consonants cannot occur in a row in a word. For this reason, certain suffixes may add an i to prevent this, as in arg (“see”) + na (1st per. plu. suffix) → argina (“we see”).

Vowels cannot change without a break, either a consonant or apostrophe, between them. What breaks are used can differ with spelling preferences and dialects. For example, “very” can be baa'ee, baayee, baa'yee, or baay'ee, and “to hear” can be dhaga'uu or dhagahuu. The apostrophe indicates that the vowels are produced independently and not as a diphthong.

Pronunciation PracticeEdit

  bobaa — “lap”       bobbaa — “excrement”       boba'aa — “fuel”       bobba'a — “he will get out”       boba'a — “it's burning”

  birraa — “Spring”       bira — “near”       biiraa — “beer”

  dhugaa — “truth”       dhuuga — “yogurt”       duggaa — “hymn book”       duuga — “he whittles”

  dhaala — “inheritance”       dhaalaa — “heir”       dhala — “child”       dhalaa — “female”       dallaa — “fence”

  coora — “feeling”       cora — “gathering”       coraa — “remnant”

  jaallataa — “lover”       jaallatta — “you love”       jallataa — “bent, curved”

  haaraa — “new”       aara — “smoke”       har'a — “today”       haraa — “trash”


  1. Leslau, Wolf (1969). An Amharic Reference Grammar. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Office of Education (DHEW). 

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