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 Comments
a
ahas   crow like -a- in English "father"
 
hatapi   bow  
à
làpi   again like -u- in English "cup"
 
ntàpi   I am here  
e
eyok   they go like -a- in English "fate"
 
newa four  
è
all   like -e- in English "net"
 
tèpi enough  
ë
my brain like -a- in English "sofa"
 
sëke it is black    
i
ila warrior like -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 -i- in English "it"
 
kìtpùl industrious person  
o
konait perhaps like -o- in English "open"
 
shohpe shore  
ò
òk and like -o- in English "for"
 
òkwës fox  
u
hus bucket like -oo- in English "fool"
 
chusku he wades through the water  
ù
hùkòn pot-hook like -u- in English "pull"
 
tùkwim black walnut (the nut only)  

 

Consonants

Letter Lenape Word   English Word Comments
ch chinkwe bobcat like -ch- in English "church"
  chimhe he rows a boat, or, he paddles a canoe  
h hàkhàkw bottle like -h- in English "hand"
  hàtës sinew  
k ku no like -k- in English "hawk"
  kwis your son  
l lòkëwe yesterday Like -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 òòl 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 -m- in English "met"
  mùxul canoe or boat  
n nux my father like -n- in English "net"  
  ni I or me or my  
s sànkwe weasel like -s- in English "sick"
  sipu stream  
sh shëwàn it is salty like -sh- in English "shoe"
  shiki it is pretty  
s'h ans´ha dip it up         like -s- + -h- in English "kiss her"
t tòke it is soft like -t- in English "ten"
  tëme wolf  
w wil head like -w- in English "work"
  wikhè he builds a house  
x xanikw squirrel like -ch- in German "kochen"
  òxe it is daylight  
y yuh alright or okay like -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 -b- in English "back" Lenape Example:

mpa = I come

mpisun = medicine

like -mb- in English "ember" Lenape Example:

hèmpës = shirt

like -mp- in English "hemp" Lenape Example:

aonhèmpse = she has a blue dress

n + ch

like -j- in English "jungle" Lenape Example:

nchuski = I wade

nchu = friend (man speaking to man only)

like -ng- in English "engine" Lenape Example:

pënchi = he enters something through a small opening

like -nch- in English "pinch" Lenape Example:

mpënchtunèna = I put my finger in his mouth

n + k

like -g- in English "go" Lenape Example:

nkata =  I want

nkwis = my son

like -ng- in English "anger" Lenape Example:

winkàn = it tastes good

like -nk- in English "tank" Lenape Example:

pëpankpe = it drips

n + s

like -z- in English "zero" Lenape Example:

nsùkwis = my mother-in-law

nsit = my foot

like -ns- in English "answer" Lenape Example:

answikàn = a fish net [note that the n + s combination will nasalize the preceding vowel]

like -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 -nsh- in English "kinship" Lenape Example:

manshapi = a bead [note that the n + sh combination will nasalize the preceding vowel]

like -nsh- in English "kinship" Lenape Example:

panshpèkw = cantaloupe [note that the n + sh combination will nasalize the preceding vowel]

n + t

like -d- in English "dip" Lenape Example:

nta = I go

ntakohchi = I am cold

like -nd- in English "wind" Lenape Example:

ènta = when

like -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.