We will not undertake a description of the phonology of the Wayuu language (wayuunaiki) here, other than making a few informal observations regarding the alphabet, sounds and accent.


Wayuunaiki has 20 letters: a, ch, e, i, j, k, , l, m, n, o, p, r, s, sh, t, u, ü, w, y. The reader will notice that two of the letters, ch and sh are represented with digraphs (two symbols that represent a single sound). The letters "c" and "h" do not occur separately in wayuunaiki.


Most of the consonants are pronounced as they are in English with the following exceptions:
• The stops, k, p, t are not "aspirated" (given a puff of air at the end), as they are in English.
• The j is pronounced like English "h".
• The l is a lateral, as in English, but is pronounced by flexing the tongue tip back to flap forward across the roof of the mouth only briefly.
• The r is a lightly trilled "r" with a degree of friction. When it occurs in the syllable -rü at the end of a word, it occurs without "voicing" (similar to whispering).
• The is a "glottal stop" which is pronounced like the catch in the throat before each of the two syllables in the exclamation "uh-oh!".

The vowels are fairly invariable with the following likenesses to (American) English:
• The a is pronounced like the "o" in "hot".
• The e is pronounced like the "ey" in "hey" except that it has no off-glide.
• The i is pronounced like the "ee" in "feed".
• The o is pronounced like the "o" in "rode" but without the off-glide.
• The u is pronounced like the "u" in "rude".
• The ü is pronounced similar to the "oo" in "book", but without rounding the lips.

Wayuunaiki has both double consonants and double vowels. These are pronounced for a slightly longer duration than their single counterparts.

aneekaa choose
miichi house
anneerü sheep
asottaa break
Syllable accent

• The accent in wayuunaiki words normally falls on the second syllable.

ipa stone
asalaa meat
sira woman's belt

• However, if the first syllable contains a double vowel (or a vowel glide), or if it ends in a consonant, then that first syllable is accented.

eisalawaa lie down
taashii be free
atpanaa rabbit

• If the first syllable ends in the glottal stop , preceded by a single vowel, the accent falls on the third syllable, unless the second syllable has a double vowel or ends in a consonant, in which case that second syllable is accented.

aꞌyatawaa to work
oꞌunaa go
aꞌyaataa to strike with a blow
jeꞌyutkat the scorpion

David Captain