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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 case (big letter, capital letter) and lower case (small letter). The lower case letters are the regular 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. (In Esperanto it's often called "ĉapelo", which means hat.) The diacritic above U is called a breve.

When proper accented letters are not possible, alternative spellings can be used in their place. 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, which uses an X placed after the letter instead of a circumflex or breve: cx, gx, hx, jx, sx, ux.

Pronunciation

The letters A, E, I, O, and U are vowels. All other letters are consonants. Every letter must be pronounced. Silent letters don't exist in Esperanto.

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

When a word has two or more vowels, one vowel is pronounced more strongly than the others. This is called stress. In Esperanto the stress is always at the second to last vowel (in these examples a capital letter shows which vowel is stressed): tAblo, nenIam, rapIda, taksIo, familIo, revolvEro, krokodIloj, eskImo, diskUtas, mEtro, metrOo, Apud, anstAtaŭ, trIcent, mAlpli, Ekde, kElkmil etc.

The word ending O can be replaced by an apostrophe. The apostrophe counts as a vowel (even though it's not pronounced), 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 a vowel does not affect its meaning in Esperanto. You can pronounce them with any length you wish, be it long, medium, or short.

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 "ay" in "day", and O not like "ow" in "glow" (in most English accents).

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 semivowels J and Ŭ are vowels as far as pronunciation is concerned, but they act as consonants. They are always short and they don't recieve stress. A semivowel always appears before or after a real vowel. Normally Ŭ appears only in the combinations "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". In principle these changes are never correct, but in practice they are often tolerated if they don't cause misunderstandings. Some people tend to unvoice a voiced consonant at the end of a word: apud → "aput", sed → "set", hund' → "hunt", naz' → "nas". However, these sound changes are not accepted. They should be carefully avoided.

Speakers of some languages tend to pronounce the combinations KV and GV as "kŭ" (kw) and "gŭ" (gw): akvo → "akŭo", kvin → "kŭin", gvidi → "gŭidi". Ŭ never directly follows a consonant in Esperanto words, so misunderstandings hardly ever occur because of this. Nonetheless, pronouncing KV and GV like this is generally considered 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 isn't any rule about this. You're allowed to aspirate them if you want, but do make sure that the aspiration does not sound like a full H.

L is produced by a partial obstruction of airflow at the teeth. If there's an obstruction only at the teeth, you get a so-called "light" L (as in the English word "light"). If at the same time you raise the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, you get a "dark" L (as in the English word "hill"). In Esperanto the dark L is a perfectly acceptable alternative of the regular light L, but do make sure that it doesn't sound like a Ŭ (like the English W sound). This happens when you remove the obstruction at the teeth.

When N stands before a palato-alveolar or a velar consonant, many have a tendency to change the N into a postalveolar 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 postalveolar or velar nasal with which the N could be confused. Similary, many tend to pronounce M as a labiodental (with lip and teeth) before another labiodental sound: amforo, ŝaŭmvino etc. This is not a problem either. However, you should be careful not to pronounce the N as a labiodental: infero, enveni etc., because then N and M become indistinguishable, which isn't acceptable. Of course it's always possible to use the standard pronounciations of N and M.

The R in Esperanto is usually pronounced at the teeth, but in fact it does not matter where in the mouth the sound is produced. For example, the uvular R is perfectly fine alternative. The important thing about the R is that it should be a trilled consonant. So the uvular R should be a trill as well, which means that the uvula should vibrate against the tongue. The R should trill the same amount, no matter in which part of the word it occurs. For example, in rivero both R's should be pronounced the same. Several other types of R-sounds are used as well, and in practice this is acceptable. However, you should should make sure that your R-sound can't be confused with any other consonant, or with one of the five vowels.

The length of a consonant does not affect its meaning in Esperanto. You can pronounce them with any length you wish, be it long, medium, or short.

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