Lenape Spelling System



We have been trying to perfect the easiest orthography possible to use in spelling Lenape words. It is mainly a phonetic alphabet, that is, each letter has only one sound. The alphabet is as follows:

a - ch - e - h - i - k - l - m - n

o - p - s - sh - t - u - w - x - y

The following are the vowels, all the rest are consonants:

a - e - i - o - u

The vowels are further divided by the use of accent marks. The accent marks are only to show vowel quality, and once you have learned the word, they need not be used in normal writing.

a - à - e - è - ë - i - ì - o - ò - u - ù

The accent marks used are:

  • `  =  used to show a variant pronunciation of a vowel
  • ë  =  used on -e- to show that it is the neutral vowel
  • '  =  used to separate two sounds which would otherwise be pronounced differently if they were together

Vowels

Vowel Lenape Word English Translation Comments
a
ahas crow like the -a- in English "father"
 
hatapi bow  
à
làpi again like the -u- in English "cup"
 
ntàpi I am here  
e
eyok they go like the -a- in English "fate"
 
newa four  
è
wèmi all       like the -e- in English "net"
 
tèpi enough  
ë
ntëmpëm my brain like the -a- in English "sofa"
 
sëke it s black    
i
ila warrior like the -i- in English "machine"
 
nitis my friend (this word is used only by a man speaking of another man)
ì
kìtkil he is huge like the -i- in English "it"
 
kìtpùl industrious person  
o
konait perhaps like the -o- in English "open"
 
shohpe shore  
ò
òk and like the -o- in English "for"
 
òkwës fox  
u
hus bucket like the -oo- in English "fool"
 
chusku he wades through the water  
ù
hùkòn pot-hook like the -u- in English "pull"
 
tùkwim black walnut (the nut only)  

Consonants

Consonant Lenape Word English Translation Comments
ch chinkwe bobcat like the -ch- in English "church"
  chimhe he rows a boat, or, he paddles a canoe  
h hàkhàkw bottle like the -h- in English "hand"
  hàtës sinew  
k ku no like the -k- in English "hawk"
  kwis your son  
l lòkëwe yesterday Like the -l- in English "lip"  (This -L- sound in Lenape comes at the beginning of a word or in the middle of a word between vowels or before the consonants -h- or -x-)
  lukàt flour  (made from wheat)  
l òl egg This -L- sound in Lenape comes at the end of a word or in the middle of a word before another consonant, except -h- or -x-.  There is no equivalent sound in English, (this -L- is voiceless). If you feel your throat when pronouncing the -L- in the English word 'lot' you will feel a vibration.  This is voicing.  Now, start to say 'lot' but just let the air pass over your tongue with no vibration of the vocal cords.  This is the sound of the voiceless -L-
  ashëwìl he swims (the voiceless -L-)
m mitkëm pole like the -m- in English "met"
  mùxul canoe or boat  
n nux my father like the -n- in English "net"  
  ni I or me or my  
s sànkwe weasel like the -s- in English "sick"
  sipu stream  
sh shëwàn it is salty like the -sh- in English "shoe"
  shiki it is pretty  
s'h ans´ha dip it up         like the -s- + -h- in English "kiss her"
t tòke it is soft like the -t- in English "ten"
  tëme wolf  
w wil head like the -w- in English "work"
  wikhè he builds a house  
x xanikw squirrel like the -ch- in German "kochen"
  òxe it is daylight  
y yuh alright or okay like the -y- in English "yes"
  yukwe now  

Special Consonant Combinations

Letters At the beginning of a word At the end of a word, or in the middle of a word before a vowel or before -h- or -x- In the middle of a word before any consonant except  -h- or -x-
m + p like the -b- in English "back" Lenape Example: mpa = I come mpisun = medicine like the -mb- in English "ember" Lenape Example: hèmpës = shirt like the -mp- in English "hemp" Lenape Example: aonhèmpse = she has a blue dress
n + ch like the -j- in English "jungle" Lenape Example: nchuski = I wade nchu = friend (man speaking to man only) like the -ng- in English "engine" Lenape Example: pënchi = he enters something through a small opening like the -nch- in English "pinch" Lenape Example: mpënchtunèna = I put my finger in his mouth
n + k like the -g- in English "go" Lenape Example: nkata =  I want nkwis = my son like the -ng- in English "anger" Lenape Example: winkàn = it tastes good like the -nk- in English "tank" Lenape Example: pëpankpe = it drips
n + s like the -z- in English "zero" Lenape Example: nsùkwis = my mother-in-law nsit = my foot like the -ns- in English "answer" Lenape Example: answikàn = a fish net [note that the n + s combination will nasalize the preceding vowel] like the -ns- in English "answer" Lenape Example: anskan = last dance after a stomp dance [note that the n + s combination will nasalize the preceding vowel]
n + sh Like Eng. -z- in Azure, or -s- in Measure Lenape Example: nshis = my uncle nshimwi = I flee like the -nsh- in English "kinship" Lenape Example: manshapi = a bead [note that the n + sh combination will nasalize the preceding vowel] like the -nsh- in English "kinship" Lenape Example: panshpèkw = cantaloupe [note that the n + sh combination will nasalize the preceding vowel]
n + t like the -d- in English "dip" Lenape Example: nta = I go ntakohchi = I am cold like the -nd- in English "wind" Lenape Example: ènta = when like the -nt- in English "winter" Lenape Example: këntka = you dance

Stress

In Lenape the stress normally falls on the vowel in the next to last syllable, as in the words  salàpòn  (frybread)  and tipas (chicken).  If the vowel in the next to last syllable is an -ë- the stress will often be placed on the preceding syllable.

By English WORD or PHRASE

Word/Phrase Sentence Story
 

By Lenape WORD or PHRASE

Word/Phrase Sentence Story

You do not need to use accented letters or a complete word to do the search.