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Hul’q’umi’num’ has only five vowels. They are a, e, i, ou, and u.


This vowel is pronounced like the sound a in the English word father or the o in cot.

Click on a Hul’q’umi’num’ word to hear the sound.

‘to get hit ‘
‘to be chubby ‘
‘fat ‘

This vowel is often pronounced like the e in the word bed.


This vowel varies a lot in its pronunciation, depending on the sound that comes after it.


This vowel is pronounced like the i in the word machine.

‘cloth ‘

This vowel is pronounced like the u in but or the a in about.

‘to get here’
‘tooth ‘


It is the most common vowel in Hul’q’umi’num’. In phonetics, this vowel is referred to as schwa.


This vowel is pronounced like the ou in the word group or youth.


It is a rare vowel in Hul’q’umi’num’ found mostly in words borrowed from English or from French via Chinook Jargon.

Pronunciation Practice

Practice reading the following Hul’q’umi’num’ words. Say the word first, then listen to it, then say it again.

‘to get there’
‘to look at it’
‘to bury it’
‘to sneeze’
‘to fall, to tumble’
‘niece, nephew’

Long Vowels

The vowels a, e, i, and ou all have long versions as well.

Listen to the difference between some short and long vowels.

pas “to get hit” paat “to blow it”
net “to be late” neet “to name it”
ten “mother” teem “to call”
men “father” smeent “mountain”

The vowel u (schwa) is never long.

Practice the following words.

‘to blow it’
‘ to call’
‘to go out on the water’
‘horse clam’
‘to name it’
‘to warn him/her’

Schwa in English

The sound of u as in tus “to get there” is called a schwa by phoneticians. In this book we will consistently use the letter u to represent the schwa sound. English also has the schwa sound but it is spelled many different ways. For example, the letter a in the word about and the letter u in the word but are pronounced as schwas.

Find the schwas in the following words. Don’t be fooled by the spelling.

1. around
2. animal
3. instructor
4. button
5. canopy
6. carbon
7. introduction
8. president
9. runaway
10. central
11. enormous
12. tough