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Letters

Here is the Esperanto alphabet:

  • Aa ami to love
  • Bb bela beautiful
  • Cc celo goal
  • Ĉĉ ĉokolado chocolate
  • Dd doni to give
  • Ee egala equal
  • Ff facila easy
  • Gg granda big
  • Ĝĝ ĝui enjoy
  • Hh horo hour
  • Ĥĥ ĥoro choir
  • Ii infano child
  • Jj juna young
  • Ĵĵ ĵurnalo newspaper
  • Kk kafo coffee
  • Ll lando country
  • Mm maro sea
  • Nn nokto night
  • Oo oro gold
  • Pp paco peace
  • Rr rapida fast
  • Ss salti to jump
  • Ŝŝ ŝipo ship
  • Tt tago day
  • Uu urbo city
  • Ŭŭ aŭto car
  • Vv vivo life
  • Zz zebro zebra
Capital letters: A, B, C, Ĉ, D, E, F, G, Ĝ, H, Ĥ, I, J, Ĵ, K, L, M, N, O, P, R, S, Ŝ, T, U, Ŭ, V, Z
Lower case letters: a, b, c, ĉ, d, e, f, g, ĝ, h, ĥ, i, j, ĵ, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, ŝ, t, u, ŭ, v, z
Names of the letters: a, bo, co, ĉo, do, e, fo, go, ĝo, ho, ĥo, i, jo, ĵo, ko, lo, mo, no, o, po, ro, so, ŝo, to, u, ŭo, vo, zo

Capital and lower case letters:

Each letter has two forms: upper (capital) and lower (small) case letters. The lower case letters are the common form. The upper case letters are often used as the first letter of the sentence, and as the first letter of a proper name.

Diacritics

Six letters are unique to Esperanto: Ĉ, Ĝ, Ĥ, Ĵ, Ŝ and Ŭ. They have diacritical marks. The diacritic ^ is called a circumflex or a "hat". The diacritic above U is called a breve.

Alternative spellings can be used in place of the proper accented letters. The official alternative is the H-system which is found in the Fundamento de Esperanto. In the H-system an H placed after the letter replaces the circumflex, and the breve over the Ŭ is completely left out: ch, gh, hh, jh, sh, u. In computer word processing, in emails, etc., many people use the X-system, an X placed after the letter,X, instead of the circumflex or breve: X.

Pronunciation

The letters A, E, I, O, and U are vowels. The rest are consonants. There are no silent letters, all of them must be pronounced.

Vowels

Vowel Description IPA symbol
I like i in machine [i]
U like oo in moose [u]
E like e in pet [e]
O like o in November [o]
A like a in father [a]

Stress

One vowel is stressed for words with two or more vowels. The stress is always at the second to the last vowel. (the capital letter shows where the stress is located): tAblo, nenIam, rapIda, taksIo, familIo, revolvEro, krokodIloj, eskImo, diskUtas, mEtro, metrOo, Apud, anstAtaŭ, trIcent, mAlpli, Ekde, kElkmil k.t.p.

The word ending O can be replaced by an apostrophe. The apostrophe is considered like an unpronounced vowel, so the placement of the stress does not change: taksI', familI', revolvEr', metrO'.

Variants of vowels

The articulatory features of a vowel can freely vary within certain limits. What matters most is that each vowel be distinct from any other of the five vowels.

The length of pronouncing a vowel in Esperanto does not affect its meaning. The speaker can pronounce them in any length they wish.

Every Esperanto vowel is pronounced "without movement" which means that you don't move the tongue from one position to another while pronouncing the vowel. In other words, unlike diphthongs which glide from one vowel sound to another, Esperanto vowels are pure. For example, E should not sound like "ej", O not like "oŭ".

Consonants

Consonant Description IPA symbol
B like English b [b]
P like English p [p]
D like English d [d]
T like English t [t]
G like g in gay [g]
K like English k [k]
V like English v [v]
F like English f [f]
Z like English z [z]
S like English s [s]
Ĵ like s in pleasure [ʒ]
Ŝ like English sh [ʃ]
Ĥ like ch in Scottish loch [x]
H like English h [h]
C like English ts [ts]
Ĝ like g in gem [dʒ]
Ĉ like ch in church [tʃ]
M like English m [m]
N like English n [n]
L like English l [l]
R trilled like Spanish r [r]
J like y in young [j]
Ŭ like oo in moose [w]

Semivowels

The semivowel J and Ŭ are vowels as far as pronunciation is concerned, but they act as consonants. They are always short and can never take an accent. A semivowel always appears before or after a real vowel. Ü usually appears only in the combination "aŭ" and "eŭ".

Variations in consonants

When an unvoiced consonant stands directly before a voiced consonant, many tend to voice it: akvo → "agvo", okdek → "ogdek". And inversely, when a voiced consonant stands before an unvoiced one, many tend to pronounce it unvoiced: subtaso → "suptaso", absolute → "apsolute". These changes, in principal, are never correct but are often tolerated in practice if they don't result in misunderstanding. Some people occasionally tend to unvoice a voiced consonant at the end of a word: apud → "aput", sed → "set", hund' → "hunt", naz' → "nas". That change, however, is not acceptable. It should be carefully avoided.

Speakers of some languages tend to pronounce the combination KV and GV as "kŭ" and "gŭ": akvo → "akŭo", kvin → "kŭin", gvidi → "gŭidi". Ŭ never directly follows a consonant in an Esperanto word, and therefore misunderstandings can hardly occur, but that pronunciation is generally regarded as incorrect.

In some languages the sounds P,T,K,C and Ĉ are pronounced with aspiration, as if they were followed by a weak H. In Esperanto these consonants are normally unaspirated, but there is no rule about this. You can aspirate them if you want, but make sure the aspiration does not sound like a full H.

L is produced by partial constriction of airflow at the teeth. This produces a light L (as in the English word 'light'). If at the same time the tongue is raised to the roof of the mouth it results in a dark L (as in English 'hill'.) The dark L is a good alternative but make sure that it doesn't sound like Ŭ, which may happen if the main constriction at the teeth is lifted.

When N stands before a palato-alveolar consonant there is a tendency to change the N into a palatal sound (small difference), or into a velar sound (big difference), in order to simplify the pronunciation:tranĉi, manĝi, longa, banko etc. This is not a problem because in Esperanto there is no palatal or velar nasal with which the N could become confused. Similary we tend to pronounce M as a labiodental (with lip and teeth) before another labiodental sound: amforo, ŝaŭmvino etc. This also does not present a problem. But one should guard against pronouncing the N as a labiodental: infero, enveni etc., because then N and M might become indistinguishable which is unacceptable. Of course the basic pronounciation of N and M can always be used.

R is usually rolled or trilled, but in fact it does not matter how the sound is produced. For example, the uvular R (guttural R, French R) is a good alternative. The important thing about the R is that it should vibrate. This is also true of the uvular R, which means that the uvula vibrates against the tongue. The R vibrates no matter in which part of the word it occurs. For example, in rivero both R's are pronounced the same. Other types of R-sounds are also in used and in practice are quite acceptable. However one should take care not to confuse the R-sound with any other consonant or vowel.

The length of consonants in Esperanto is completely irrelevant. They can be pronounced as one pleases, long, short, or somewhere in between.

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