Key to Pronunciation


Pronunciation is given using the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet.


The pronunciations given here are those in use in the general speech of South Africans whose home language is English. The pronunciation of a headword may include most common variants, with the most commonly recognised South African English pronunciation given first. Illustrative examples have been taken, as far possible, from the general English vocabulary; for notes on how the South African pronunciation of these words differs from that of the speech of Southern England (the ‘Received Standard’) see The Pronunciation of English in South Africa.

The incidence of primary (main) stress is shown by a superior stress mark /ˈ/ preceding the stressed syllable, and secondary stress by an inferior stress mark /ˌ/. See for example Bamangwato /ˌbamaŋˈɡwɑːtɔ/.

Parentheses are used to indicate elements that may be omitted either by individual speakers or in particular phonetic contexts. See for example broeder /ˈbrʊdə(r)/. Optional lengthening of a preceding vowel is indicated by /(ː)/. See for example jol /dʒɔ(ː)l/, intombazana /intɔmbaˈza(ː)na/.

The use of parentheses around the unstressed vowel /(ə)/ before /l/, /m/, /n/, or /ŋ/ indicates a syllabic consonant, forming an independent syllable. See for example mbira /(ə)mˈbi(ː)rə/, Ndebele /(ə)ndəˈbeːli/, pens en pootjies /ˌpens(ə)n ˈpʊɪkis/.

In rare cases alternative pronunciations are preceded by a question mark, suggesting that the pronunciation is uncertain. See for example leguaan ‖/ˈləkəvɑːn/.


Consonants

/b/ as in boy
/d/ as in dog
/f/ as in fact
/k/ as in cross
/l/ as in look
/m/ as in make
/n/ as in name
/p/ as in place
/ʁ/ as in French repas
/t/ as in tent
/v/ as in valley
/z/ as in zebra
/ɡ/ as in go
/h/ as in ho!
/r/ as in run
/(r)/ as in her
/s/ as in see
/w/ as in wear
/j/ as in yes
/θ/ as in thin
/ð/ as in then
/ʃ/ as in shop
/tʃ/ as in chop
/ʒ/ as in vision
/dʒ/ as in judge
/ŋ/ as in singing
/ŋɡ/ as in finger
/ɲ/ as in Zulu inyoni; French agneau; somewhat like English canyon
/x/ as in Scottish loch; Afrikaans berg; German ach, not found in general English use.
/c/ as in Afrikaans liedjie; French qui, not found in general English use.
/ɬ/ as in isiZulu hlala; Welsh Llewellyn, not found in general English use.
/ɮ/ as in isiZulu indlela, not found in general English use.

Clicks

/ǀ/ as in isiZulu cela, dental click similar to the English sound of disapproval, ‘tsk,tsk’.
/ɡ͡ǀ/ as in isiXhosa Gcaleka, voiced dental click similar to the English sound of disapproval, ‘tsk,tsk’.
/ǂ/ as in isiZulu qala, palatal click.
/ɡ͡ǂ/ as in isiZulu ngquthu, voiced palatal click.
/‖/ as in isiZulu xola, lateral click similar to the clicking sound made to encourage a horse.
/ɡ͡‖/ as in isiXhosa igxagxa, voiced lateral click similar to the clicking sound made to encourage a horse.

Short vowels

/ɑ/ as in Afrikaans bad
/ɪ/ as in pit
/ɪ̃/ as in bin, nasal sound
/e/ as in pet
/ẽ/ as in Portuguese tempo, nasal sound
/ɑ̃/ as in French grand, nasal sound
/æ/ as in pat
/ʌ/ as in putt
/ɒ/ as in pot
/ɔ/ as in isiXhosa Pondo; French sort
/ʊ/ as in put
/ə/ as in another
/(ə)/ as in beaten, silent articulation
/i/ as in Afrikaans riem; isiZulu indaba; French si
/a/ as in Afrikaans man; isiZulu amansi; French mari
/œ/ as in Afrikaans rus; Danish gøre; French jeune
/u/ as in Afrikaans boet; French douce
/y/ as in Afrikaans nuut; French tu
/ɛ/ as in Afrikaans berg; French sept

Long vowels

/ɛː/ as in Afrikaans wêreld; Italian bene
/iː/ as in bean
/ɑː/ as in barn
/ɔː/ as in born
/uː/ as in boon
/ɜː/ as in burn
/eː/ as in Afrikaans venster; isiZulu indlela; German Schnee
/aː/ as in Afrikaans vader; isiZulu lala
/yː/ as in Afrikaans suur
/ʊː/ as in Afrikaans boom

Diphthongs

/eɪ/ as in bay
/aɪ/ as in buy
/ɔɪ/ as in boy
/əʊ/ as in no
/aʊ/ as in now
/ɪə/ as in peer
/eə/ as in pair
/œɪ/ as in Afrikaans muis
/iœ/ as in Afrikaans keur
/ʊə/ as in tour
/aɪə/ as in fiery
/aʊə/ as in sour