Consonants: Front-of-the-Mouth Sounds th, sh, lh, tth, ts, ch

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

We have already studied some sounds made in the front part of the mouth (such as s and l). Here are some more complicated ones.

Two Letters – One Sound!  (th, sh, lh)

The letter combinations th, sh, and lh are each pronounced as a single sound in Hul’q’umi’num’. You are familiar with two of these sounds, th and sh, as in the English words thin and shoe. But lh is an unfamiliar letter combination. In pronouncing the above letter combinations always consider them as one sound.

‘eyebrow ‘
‘sea lion’
‘to wish for’

[Words with s + h in sequence can be written with a hyphen: s-h]


This letter combination stands for the first sound of the Hul’q’umi’num’ word lhuptun “eyelash”. There is no English sound like it. One may approximate this sound by whispering the word please and holding the l sound for a few seconds. The tongue is held in the position of l while air escapes out gently through its sides.

‘to go ashore’
‘to bite it off’
‘bulrush mat’
‘door, road’
‘early morning’
‘red ochre’
‘older sibling’

Two Sounds at a Time!

Affricates are two different sounds closely related to each other that blend into one sound. We can think of them as one sound quickly turning into another sound. The three affricates introduced here are tth, ts, and ch. You can think of tthu as a combination of t + th, ts as combination of t + s, and ch as combination of t + sh.


The affricate tth is like a sequence of t + th pronounced as a single sound. There is no sound like it in English. It only appears in a couple of words in Hul’q’umi’num’. One Hul’q’umi’num’ word with tth is the tthu “the”. This determiner that is used to refer to masculine objects when they are in plain sight.

‘the (visible) boat’
‘the (visible) salmon’
‘the (visible) cup’

It is only used by some speakers, especially those in Quw’utsun’. Speakers in Snuneymuxw and and some speakers in Snuw’nuw’us and Stz’uminus use tu instead of tthu.


This letter stands for a single sound pronounced like ts at the end of the English word mats.

‘you people’
‘to get here’
‘up above’

You pronounce this letter combination exactly the same way as you do the ch at the beginning and end of the English word church.

‘iron, steel’

This sound is in very few Hul’q’umi’num’ words.