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Lesson 0-2: Strange Sounds

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Last lesson, I alluded to the fact that certain letters can make different sounds in different situations – notably with J and W. We’ll get to that pair this lesson, but before we do we are going to cover many other situations where letters might change their sound.

Consonantal Digraphs

Certain consonants change sounds when placed next to other specific consonants. The first in this set are F, S, Þ, and H, each changing sound when placed on either side of a D or a G.

When f is found beside a d or g, it makes the sound of a v instead.

When an s is placed next to a d or g, it makes a z sound like in the English word ‘zoo’.

When an þ is placed next to a d or g, it makes the other English ‘th’ sound – the one found in ‘this’ or ‘that’.

When h is placed next to a d or g, it makes a sound not found in English at all. The sound is that found in the Icelandic word ‘saga’. In order to produce the sound, do the same thing you did to get the original Sonoran h sound, but this time start with a g instead of a k.

The first three should be simple enough, so make sure to practice that fourth sound! We’ve got one more set for this section – whenever any of H, P, T, or K are followed by a J, the combination produces a new sound – that found in the English word ‘hue’. The beginning of the sound changes a little based on the first letter of the combination, but they all end up in the same place.






In Sonora, you can never have two vowels in a row within a word. However, this is where J and W being semivowels comes into play, as you can pair any of the other three with a j or w. You can also pair J and W together!


Instead of just listening to them, let's play a little game instead. See if you can match the sounds found in English to how they would be spelled in Sonoran!













Vowel Harmony

The last section for this lesson will be a little more complex. You see, we haven’t quite covered all the vowel sounds found in Sonora, as both e and o have a hidden second sound. This is due to a phenomenon known as Vowel Harmony. Sonora divides its harmony into Light and Dark sounds. Dramatic, isn’t it? You already know the light harmony sounds made by e and o, so lets take a look at what the dark harmony sounds are.

When the letter e takes on dark harmony, it produces the vowel sound found in the English words ‘swim’ or ‘bin’.

When the letter o takes on dark harmony, it produces a sound only found in the very specific dialects of English – it’s the sound New Zealanders make when they say the word ‘bird’. You can alternatively think of it as the Danish letter ø. If neither of those give you the idea, go back to the light harmony ‘e’ sound in Sonoran, the one made by the English word ‘bet’. Now produce that same sound but with rounded lips.

Now you know what the two dark harmony sounds are – when do they occur? Dark harmony is less common than light harmony in Sonoran because it has to be triggered – vowels default to light harmony. Triggering harmony is done by what are known as determining consonants – consonants that determine a word’s harmony. These consonants are:


p, t, k, f


d, g, v, þ

The first one of these letters to appear in a word determines the harmony of the word. Any other consonant has no effect on the harmony. For example, in the word skenra (shoe) the s is not a determining consonant, so we don’t yet know what the harmony is. However, the next consonant is a k, which aligns with light harmony and locks it in for the word.

What do I mean by locks it in? Only the first determining consonant has any effect on the word. Let’s look at another example – gseskon (sibling) has both a g (dark) and a k (light). The word follows dark harmony because the g locks it in before we see the k.

There is one little caveat to this rule – any vowels that come before the first determining consonant in a word will follow light harmony, regardless of the rest of the word’s harmony. A great example of this is the word ogrom (giant), where the first o makes its light harmony sound, while the second comes after a dark harmony g and makes its dark harmony sound instead.


Test yourself with this activity - does each word follow light or dark harmony?














That’s all for this lesson. I leave you with a pile of words to test yourself on and check with listening!


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