Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lesson Plan #0: Pronunciation, Tones and Names

Lesson #0: Pronunciation and Tones

As a kind of "final project" to wrap up the unit on Ket I'll be posting lesson plans for a hypothetical 101-level Ket course.


Ket is a hard language to pronounce but with some practice it becomes easy.  Following are tables of Ket phonemes.  When allophones are shown, they are ordered from word-initial, to intervocalic, to word-final.  Please memorize allophones, as actual pronunciation may differ from the orthography used here. (e.g. bikit "foreigner" pronounced [biɣit].  Irregular allophonic usage will be marked.

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
b [b, v, p] s j k [k, ɣ, g] q [qχ, ʁ, q] h [h, χ]
m t, d [d, ɾ]


l [, ɮ, ɬ]

...and vowels:

Front Central/Back Unrounded Central/Back Rounded
i ɨ [ɨ, ɯ] u
e [e, ɛ] o [o, ɔ] ə [ə, ʌ, ɤ]
a [æ, a, ɑ]

Ket also uses a Cyrillic alphabet in printed works. However, let's stick to the Latin one for now.

Tonal System:

Ket has four tones:
High Even qoj “uncle, aunt”
Glottalized qo'j “wish”
Rising-Falling qooj “neighboring”
Falling qòj bear

When we agglutinate morphemes together, we drop tones, unless marked otherwise.

Make sure you have your tones right! After all, you'd hate to call someone's aunt a bear.


Source for tables: Vajda 2013


  1. Lol I ro so enjoy languages with tones in it.

  2. Me too! Professor Vajda makes an interesting point that Ket tones have an uncanny similarity to Vietnamese. I don't speak Vietnamese myself, but wouldn't it be interesting if there were some reason for this lost in the mists of time?