Marquesan Pronunciation Guide

The following guide to the pronunciation of Marquesan is excerpted from my book, Marquesan Phrasebook / Livre des phrases marquisiennes (2010).

Pronunciation (adapted from Zewen 1987)

The Marquesan language has sixteen letters.  The best guide for how to pronounce the language is simply to listen carefully as Marquesans speak it; however, if this opportunity is not available, the following notes can be used as a starting point.  There is some small variation in the pronunciations used by Marquesans of the Southern and Northern groups, but the rules below apply to both.


Marquesan has four explosive consonants: P, T, K, and (the glottal stop).  The T is pronounced as in English (example: tail).  The P and the K are also pronounced roughly the same as they are in English, except with less aspiration, which means putting less force behind the letter and producing less of a burst of air after the sound (examples: P sound in spend, K sound in welcome).  The glottal stop (‘) is like a voiceless consonant, made by pressing the vocal cords together to stop the flow of air (example: uh-oh!).

There are two nasal consonants: M and N, which are also pronounced as they are in English (examples: mat, nip).

There are three fricative consonants: F, V, and H (a glottal fricative), all pronounced as they are in English (examples: fill, vine, hand).

Finally, the last two consonant sounds are R and S.  Always the S, and sometimes the R, is found in words that have been adapted from European languages.  The R is generally pronounced rolled, and the S is pronounced as a sharp English S (example: sand).


Marquesan has the same five vowel sounds as English: A, E, I, O, and U.  Considerably simpler than their treatment in English, these vowels are always pronounced in exactly the same way, without any off-glides, or transitional sounds which blend vowel sounds together.  Vowels in Marquesan are pronounced according to the following guide:

A      : makes an ah sound, as the “a” in father (“fah ther”) or above (“ah buv”)

E       : makes an ei sound, as the “a” in may (“mei”) or bait (“beit”)

I        : makes an ee sound, as the “e” in me (“mee”) or believe (“bee leev”)

O      : makes an oh sound, as the “o” in no (“noh”) or obey (“oh bei”)

U      : makes an oo sound, as the “u” in rule (“rool”) or duo (“doo oh”)

Marquesan often uses more than one vowel in a row, which can easily confuse the native English speaker.  Be careful to pronounce each vowel’s sound separately, in this case; although in speaking these sounds may blend together slightly, there are no set rules about combining certain vowels as there are in English.  One example is oe, meaning you.  English speakers want to pronounce this as one pronounces the “oe” in toe.  Instead, the Marquesan oe is pronounced “o-ay” (with a nice, rounded “o” sound).  Also watch out for long vowel sounds, which are regular vowel sounds drawn out and stressed as in the “ee” in free.  There can be a key difference in meaning between a word pronounced with a short vowel sound and the same word pronounced with a long vowel sound.

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