Lesson 0-1: Learning Your Letters
Welcome to your first lesson of Sonora! I’m excited to start you on your learning journey with Unit 0: Introduction to Sonora. In this series of lessons, you’ll be exploring the letters of Sonora – how they are written and how each of them sounds, as well as get started with greetings and other useful phrases!
So without further ado, ak ons adþja!
Sonoran writing is a little different based on if you are writing consonants or vowels, so we’re going to split these up into separate groups. Within the consonant group, we’re going to divide the 14 consonants a little further to tackle consonants in groups based on how they look when written. Before we start however, it is important to note that while English letters each have two forms (capital and lowercase – Aa, Bb, Cc...), Sonoran consonants have 3! These forms are known as the initial, medial, and final forms. When should you use which form?
Initial form: Use the initial form if the consonant you are writing is the first consonant in the word. Note that even if a vowel precedes the consonant, you still use the initial form for the first consonant! Additionally, use the initial form if this is the only consonant in the word.
Medial form: Use the medial form if the consonant is not the first consonant in the word and also not the last consonant in the word.
Final form: The final form is used for any consonants that are the last consonant in the word, assuming they are not the only consonant in the word.
With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at each consonant.
We’re going to start with P, T, and D.
p as in 'pole'
The letter p is straightforward, making the same sound as it does in English.
t as in 'tap'
The letter t is similarly simple, making the same sound as in English.
d as in 'dog'
The letter d remains easy, making the same sound as its English counterpart.
So far, so good I hope! Next up are K and G.
k as in 'keep'
The letter k is just as easy as the previous three, making the same sound as in English.
g as in 'gate'
The letter g has one small thing to look out for – in Sonora, g can only make a hard g sound, and never a soft one like in the English ‘giraffe’.
Nothing too difficult yet… Let’s take a look at F and V.
f as in 'far'
The letter f is still simple, making the same sound as it does in English.
v as in 'vat'
The letter v is also easy, matching its English counterpart.
Turns out, Sonora’s consonants are easy! Or only just about to start getting a little more difficult… This group will put that to the test – here are S, H, and Þ.
s as in 'sit'
The letter s won’t challenge you yet, making it’s typical English sound.
h as in 'loch'
This is the first letter we are going to see that is a little less common in English (though not entirely missing). It’s found in Scottish English as in the word ‘loch’, but if you’re not familiar here is how to find it.
Say the letter ‘k’ really slowly, noticing where your tongue hits the top of your mouth – it should be really quite far back. Keep your tongue there, but instead of stopping the air, release it just a little so you get a hiss as it comes out – that’s Sonoran h!
þ as in 'thorn'
While English doesn’t use the letter þ, English speakers will be familiar with the sound. It’s the th sound found in ‘thorn’, ‘think’, and ‘thick’. Watch out though – English has a second th sound like that of ‘that’, ‘this’, or ‘these’. The Sonoran letter þ is pronounced like the first set, not the second.
Only four more to go! These next two won’t give you a challenge – here are M and N.
m as in 'moon'
The letter m is just like the one in English.
n as in 'new'
The letter n is also just like the one in English.
Last two – L and R.
l as in 'let'
The letter l will be familiar and friendly, matching the l found in English.
r as in 'perro'
No English match here unfortunately. The Sonoran r is rolled like the Spanish r in ‘perro’. However, this sound is notoriously difficult to produce by those who didn’t grow up with it, so if you are unable to roll your r’s, feel free to approximate them by tapping your tongue just once against the roof of your mouth instead, like the d’s in the English word ‘ladder’.
And now you know all 14 consonants of the Sonoran alphabet. Before we move on to vowels, let’s do a little activity – can you recognize each of the following sounds and write them out correctly?
Sonora has 5 vowels, but two of them act strangely as semivowels. We’ll do these in two groups as well, starting with the true vowels.
Sonora’s three true vowels are A, E, and O. Unlike consonants, vowels only have two forms – initial and medial. Use the initial form only if the vowel is the first letter in the word, otherwise use the medial form, placing the vowel off to the right side of the consonant it follows. Each of the vowels found here will be placed with an F to give you context to how they look.
a as in 'cat'
The letter a in Sonora sounds like one of the two English a’s – compare a’s in ‘cat’ and ‘father’. For Sonora, use the one in ‘cat’.
e as in 'bet'
The letter e in Sonora is like a short e in American English, as in the word ‘bet’ or ‘pen’.
o as in 'oder'
This letter is pretty rare in English. A particularly Cockney accent might use it to pronounce the word ‘yawn’, but it’s more like a German o in ‘oder’.
And the final two letters are J and W – Sonora’s strange semivowels. For this lesson, we’re only going to talk about J and W as vowels, and deal with the ‘semi’ part next time. However, it’s important to note that J and W are semivowels because they are actually written as consonants and follow all the rules of writing that consonants do.
j as in 'free'
The letter j in Sonora makes the sound that a pair of e’s makes in English.
w as in 'boot'
Sonora’s w makes the sound that a pair of o’s make in English.
Now that we've covered all the letters, let's do another activity - figure out what the consonant and vowel pairs are below!
That's all of them – all 19 of Sonora’s letters! Now it’s time to put them into practice. Make sure you spend time pronouncing the letters as well as recognizing them – check back with the recordings above to make sure you’re getting the right sounds. Oh, and here's an þ for copy-pasting purposes.