Washo Sound System

This document explains the sound system of Washo. Throughout the discussion, description of the sound system will be [CW:ac]companied by information regarding the practical orthography adopted for the Washo Digital Archive, an orthographic convention which follows closely the orthographic convention developed by Professor William Jacobsen Jr. It should be noted that the Washo community has not adopted a unified standard for writing down the Washo language. As such, the practical orthography presented here is only one of many that are currently in use within the Washo community and therefore should not be taken to represent the standard of the community.

There are six distinct vowel qualities in Washo and vowels may be distinctly short or long.


Short Long
i dílek 'mallard duck' Audio file c'í:bel 'louse'
e pélew 'rabbit'
Audio file
t'é:liwhu 'man'
Audio file
a gális 'winter'
Audio file
wá:laš 'bread'
Audio file
o gót'aha 'break it!'
Audio file
gó:beʔ 'coffee'
Audio file
u súkuʔ 'dog'
Audio file
c'igú:guš
Audio file
ɨ p'ɨ́ʔlɨyi 'he is fishing'
Audio file
mɨ́:de 'brown bear'
Audio file

The vowel [ɨ] is high central unrounded and is found in stems only and never in affixes.

The consonantal inventory of Washo is considerably more complex. Stops can be plain, voiceless aspirated, and glottalized. Plain stops are realized variable as prevoiced, voiceless unaspirated, or slightly aspirated. Following Jacobsen, plain stops and affricates are represented here as /b d g dz/ while aspirated stops are /p t k/. Glottalized stops and affricates are /p’ t’ k’ c’/.


Plain
Voiceless aspirated Glottalized
Labial baŋáya 'earth, outside'
Audio file
pélew 'rabbit'
Audio file
p'á:wa 'in the valley'
Alveolar dawp'áp'ɨl 'flower'
Audio file
tugáp'ɨl 'eyelash' t'á:gɨm 'pinenuts'
Audio file
Post-alveolar

c'iŋa:m 'container, such as dish, plate'
Audio file

Velar gawá:yɨʔ 'horse'
Audio file
kókšiʔ 'onion'
Audio file
k'etep 'bottle'

Glottal stop is phonemic in the language. It is observed word-initially, medially and word-finally.

Word-initial
Word-medial
Word-final
ʔáŋal 'house' gúʔu 'mother's mother' gúšuʔ 'pet'
ʔáyɨs 'antelope'
Audio file
tóʔo 'neck, mother's uncle' dewYúʔliʔ 'devil'
ʔát'abiʔ 'fish'
Audio file
dáʔaw 'lake'
Audio file
dámuʔ 'dress'
Audio file

Three fricatives are found in Washo: /s š h/. The glottal fricative is observed only in word-initial and post-tonic preconsonantal positions.

Word-initial
Word-medial
Word-final
sí:šu 'bird'
Audio file
p'ísew 'ear'
bík'us 'cradle basket, baby basket'
Audio file
súkuʔ 'dog'
Audio file
ʔí:sa 'older sister, half sister, cousin' gális 'winter'
Audio file
šálaʔ 'pitch'
Audio file
digúšuʔ 'my pet'
Audio file
bá:muš 'muskrat'
Audio file

Nasals in Washo can be found in three places of articulation: labial, alveolar, and velar.

Labial Alveolar Velar
mí:ʔlew 'everybody'
Audio file
nént'ušu 'old woman'
Audio file
ŋáwŋaŋ 'child, baby'
Audio file

Nasals, liquids and glides in Washo may be voiced, voiceless, and glottalized. Following Jacobsen, voiceless sonorants are capitalized while voiced sonorants are in lower-case. Glottalized sonorants are represented as ʔ + sonorant sequences.

Voiced Voiceless Glottalized
hímu 'willow'
Audio file
deMúʔuš 'train, vehicle, runner'
Audio file
daʔmóʔmoʔ 'woman'
Audio file
balášu 'butter' mé:Lu 'old man'
Audio file
báʔlew 'Paiute'
Audio file
wá:šiw 'Washo'
Audio file
diWáʔi 'I'm the one who's doing it'
háʔwaʔ 'four'
Audio file

A ubiquitous feature of Washo sound system is its range of long consonants. Long consonants, also known as geminates, are found exclusively after short stressed vowels. The only consonant type that cannot be geminated are the plain stops. The consonant following a long stressed vowel is always short. (see Yu 2008 for more details). In the following examples, the relevant consonant is bold-faced.

Short consonant
Long consonant
wá:laš 'bread'
Audio file
lek 'mallard duck'
Audio file
wá:šiw 'Washo'
Audio file
šaŋ 'blood'
Audio file
k'á:k'aʔ 'heron'
Audio file
k'aʔ 'one'
Audio file

Introduction to Washo