A Grammar of Vabungula

Part 1 - Alphabet and Pronunciation


Vabungula employs a native alphabet of 25 letters. Every letter has one form - there are no capitals. This alphabet was devised in 1966, followed in 1968 by a standard romanized version. Below is a table of these letters and their romanized equivalents as used throughout this grammar.

The letters below are listed from left to right, top to bottom, in the order of their occurrence in the Vabungula alphabet. The first line displays the letter in the native alphabet, the second the romanized equivalent, and the third line shows the name of the letter in Vabungula. (All letter names have two syllables, the stress falling on the first syllable.)

d.gif (959 bytes) a.gif (940 bytes) k.gif (950 bytes) ee.gif (950 bytes) n.gif (968 bytes)
d a k ê n
dulys amu kênto êmu nalys
v.gif (944 bytes) b.gif (955 bytes) u.gif (955 bytes) g.gif (967 bytes) p.gif (965 bytes)
v b u g p
vêsto buba umu gênli pasto
e.gif (956 bytes) t.gif (987 bytes) o.gif (976 bytes) ss.gif (973 bytes) m.gif (953 bytes)
e t o š m
emu telys omu šêlva manto
s.gif (967 bytes) r.gif (951 bytes) i.gif (987 bytes) l.gif (960 bytes) uu.gif (949 bytes)
s r i l û
sugli rystu imu lolva ûmu
h.gif (934 bytes) f.gif (956 bytes) zz.gif (946 bytes) z.gif (996 bytes) y.gif (959 bytes)
h f ž z y
hanto fulta žuža zapli ymu

This 5x5 square is a standard arrangement of the Vabungula alphabet and is called the mumêkbar. Below is a typical depiction of the mumêkbar showing the letters in a larger format, without translation:

The 21st letter "hanto" has a variant name "hûsyk", presumably to distinguish it from the similar-sounding 15th letter "manto". Note also that the names for all vowels follow the same pattern; namely, the vowel itself followed by "mu". (Mu is the Vabungula word for "letter".)

The romanized Vabungula alphabet differs from the native alphabet in the following points:

The clustertss (pronounced like the English affricate "ch") is romanized by the single letter c. The cluster dzz (pronounced like the English affricate "j"), however, retains its native Vabungula spelling, and is not replaced by the letter j. These two clusters are commonly named "telyšêl" and "dulyžu" respectively.

When i and u occur as the semi-vowels "y" and "w", they are romanized as j and w.


The letters d, k, n, v, b, g, p, t, m, s, l, h, f, and z are pronounced more or less like their English counterparts. The letter L is a "light" L as in German.

The other letters are pronounced as follows:

	a  /a/ as in father
	ê  /ɛ/ as in bed
	u  /u/ as in food
	e  /e/ as in they
	o  /o/ as in go
	š  /ʃ/ as in ship
	r  /r/ as in Spanish para
	i  /i/ as in police
	û  /ə/ as in fun
	ž  /ʒ/ as in pleasure
	y  /ɪ/ as in tin

Please note the letters ê and û, since these are not pronounced as /e:/ and /u:/ as one would expect.

Vabungula is completely phonetic. Words are always pronounced exactly as they are spelled. There are no exceptions.

The vowels A, E, I, O, U, are rather standard and generic, closely resembling the pronunciation of most world languages that use these same letters of the Latin alphabet.

Vowels in Vabungula are pure vowels, such as in Spanish, German, or Japanese. O and E are not diphthongs, i.e., they do not glide into "ou" and "ei" as they do in English.

Vowels are not characterized by length, i.e., there is no distinction between long and short vowels, as is the case in many languages such as German, Hungarian, or Finnish. The sounds /i/ and /i:/, for instance, are allophones in Vabungula.

The vowels ê and û in rapid, colloquial speech are pronounced as /ɛ/ and /ə/ respectively. However, when spoken in isolation or in slow, formal speech, ê tends toward a broader, more open vowel, similar to "a" in American English "man", or the long open German "ä." Phonetically it lies about two-thirds of the way between /ɛ/ and /æ/, closer to /æ/. The formal û tends toward a more closed, slightly rounded vowel, quite similar to the open "ö" in German "Hölle", or the Norwegian "ø." This sound can be produced by slightly rounding the lips while pronouncing a vowel about halfway between /ɛ/ and /ə/. These variant pronunciations, although not normally used in common speech, are regarded as a more "proper" or "correct" way to speak Vabungula.

Glottal stops can be used in Vabungula, but are not significant. Words tend to melt together without glottal stops, as in Spanish. There is only one word in Vabungula that requires a glottal stop: fuiu ("it is false"), which is pronounced fu-WI-'u, with a glottal stop between the second and third syllables.

Vabungula tends to avoid consonant clusters. However, consonant clusters do occur, and occasionally in ways unfamiliar to English speakers. The words mna ("all") and mfa ("should") are pronounced /mna/ and /mfa/, exactly as they are written, and not as /məna/ and /məfa/.

Stress is very significant in Vabungula. The accent usually falls on the syllable that makes the word easiest to pronounce - although there are examples that would seem to demonstrate just the opposite. There are, unfortunately, no fixed rules. (Please note that stress is not indicated in the orthography. Accent marks in the examples below are given for illustration only. Proper stress for an unfamiliar word must be determined by using the dictionary.)

Nouns ending in -L or -AL usually have the accent on the last syllable, or sometimes the first syllable.

   jansál    fullness
   gezamál   movement
   gelakarál feast
   lófamul   text

Shifting the stress can often change the meaning of the word:

   kómol egg
   komól swarm

   mê'no feel
   mênó  touch

This is particularly true with certain noun-verb pairs:

   águk    promise (verb)
   agúk    promise (noun)

   náducka punishment (noun)
   nadúcka punish (verb)

   dóducka reward (noun)
   dodúcka reward (verb)

Note the shift of stress in the following family of words:

       fwilágê    nothing
       fwilár     never 
       fwilám     nowhere 
but:   fwílasum   no one 
       fwílanudž no way

Vabungula adapts itself very well to the Cyrillic alphabet. See the section on Vabungula in Cyrillic.

Grammar of Vabungula | Alphabet | Nouns | Pronouns | Adjectives | Prepositions | Conjunctions | Verbs | Interrogatives | Word Order | Word Formation | Roots | Prefixes and Suffixes | Miscellaneous | Numbers | Word Studies | Miscellaneous Discussions | Basic Vocabulary | DICTIONARY | English Index | Vabungula in Cyrillic | Gospel of John | Gospel of Mark | Book of Revelation | Babel Text | Story of Peter Rabbit | Grammar Notes | Vocabulary | Three Little Pigs | Vocabulary | Jack and the Beanstalk | Three Bears | Old Woman and Pig | Frog Prince | Poppy Seed Cakes | Jolly Tailor | Little Prince | Boris Sergunenkov | Relativity | Jokes | Vabungula Main Page | Languages | Bill Price Home Page

Page last modified on December 30, 2009
Vabungula is an artificial language invented by Bill Price in 1965.
Vabungula co nûsk mugola famêlêtke onudž Bill Price larla alara idekuzorekol.
Copyright © 1999 by Bill Price