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Anishinaabe Alphabet

Updated: 6-28-2011 7:18 AM

The Ojibwe alphabetic order is as follows:


a, aa, b, ch, d, e, g, h, ’, i, ii, j, k, m, n, o, oo, p, s, sh, t, w, y, z, zh


Note that the double vowels are treated as standing for unit sounds, and are alphabetized after the corresponding single vowels. The character ’ represents a glottal stop, which is a significant speech sound in Ojibwemowin.

Long and short vowels

There are three short vowels: i, o, a.

The four long vowels are: ii, oo, e, aa. The four long vowels take more time to say than the short vowels. Three of them are paired with corresponding short vowels and so are written double: aa, ii, oo. The fourth long vowel is not paired with any short vowel and so is written without doubling: e.

The long and short refer to the amount of time you hold on to the sound when you say it – the four long vowels take more time to say than the short vowels.  

a          “uh” sound as in “about”

i           “ih” sound as in “pin”

o          “oh” sound as in “obey” or “oo” as in book”

aa        “ah” sound as in “cob”

e          “ay” sound as in “café”

ii          “ee” sound as in “see”

oo        “oa” sound as in “boat” or “oo” as in “boot”


Nasal vowels are indicated by writing the appropriate basic vowel followed by nh.  Before a y or a glottal stop (‘) the h may be omitted in writing.  There are no direct English equivalents.  

aanh     banajaanh  =  nestling

enh       nisayenh  =  my older brother

iinh        awesiinh  =  wild animal

agaashiinyi or agaashiinhyi  =  (someone) is small

oonh     giigoonh  =  fish


Vowels are nasalized before ns, nz, and nzh. The n is then omitted in pronunciation such as:

               gaawiin ingikendanziin  =  I don’t know it

               jiimaanens  =  small boat

               oshkanzhiin  =  someone’s fingernail(s)

Long vowels after a nasal consonant m or n are often nasalized, expecilly before s, sh, z, or zh. It is often difficult to decide whether to write these as nasalized vowels or not.  Example: we write the word for “moose” without indicating the phonetic nasalization, many prefer to write it with an n: mooz  or  moonz               

Hard and Soft Consonants

The non-nasal consonants occur in pairs with one member of the pair a strong of fortis consonant and the other member of the par a weak or lentis consonant. The strong consonants do not occur at the beginning of words (unless a vowel is left off), may sound long or double, and are voiceless. The weak consonants can occur at the beginning of words and are often voiced, especially in the middle of words.