Consonants Followed by W

Spelled clusters such as KW and SW (etc.) sometimes sound like two consonants, and sometimes not. In general, you can hear a W-like sound in such spellings at the end of the word, but not elsewhere. The pronunciation of such spellings is described below.

At the end of the word

You can hear a type of W sound at the end of a word in combinations spelled like KW. In such cases, the letter W can sound either like a voiceless [ ʷ ] or like an H, [ ʰ ]. To make the voiceless W sound, pretend that you are blowing out a candle. This is also the sound that some English speakers use at the beginning of words like which or what.

Here are some examples:
The letters KW sound like [ kʷ ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒥᓂᐦᐄᒄ Click here to hear this word minihiikw mini – hiikw
ᐊᑎᐦᒄ Click here to hear this word atihkw atihkw
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᒥᔅᒄ Click here to hear this word amiskw amiskw
ᑳᒄ Click here to hear this word kaakw kaa – kw

But sometimes, KW sounds more like [ kʰ ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐄᔮᐦᑎᒄ Click here to hear this word iiyaahtikw ii – yaah – tikw
Southern Syllables IPA
ᑳᒉᐳᒄ Click here to hear this word kaachepukw kaa – che – pukw

You can also hear a type of W sound at the end of the word in spellings like SHU. In this case, U represents the W-like sound.

SHW sounds like [ ʃʷ ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᓃᔓ Click here to hear this word niishu niishu
Southern Syllables IPA
ᓃᔓ Click here to hear this word niishu niishu

Everywhere else

In spellings like KW, or TW, you might hear a brief [ w ] sound. A [ w ] sound is audible and spelled.

SHW sounds like [ ʃ(w) ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒋᔣᑖᓐ Click here to hear this word chishwaataan chishwaa – taan
Southern Syllables IPA
ᒪᓂᔐᐤ Click here to hear this word manishweu mani – shweu

KW sounds like [ kw ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒌᔥᑖᔥᒀᓂᔥᐦ Click here to hear this word chiishtaashkwaanishh chiish – taash – kwaanishh
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐐᐦᑴᔮᐅᐊᑯᐦᑉ Click here to hear this word wiihkweyaauakuhp wiih – kwe – yaau – akuhp

HW always sounds like [ hw ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐙᐦᐙᐤ Click here to hear this word waahwaau waahwaau
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐋᐸᐦᐌᐤ Click here to hear this word aapahweu aapahweu

More often, however, the W is silent. In such cases, the W affects the pronunciation of the following vowel instead, (especially in combinations like WAA and WAAU). No [ w ] sound is audible, even though it is spelled.

TW sounds like [ t ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒥᑣᐦᑖᑭᓐ Click here to hear this word mitwaahtaakin mi – twaah – taa – kin
Southern Syllables IPA
ᑯᑣᔥᒡ Click here to hear this word kutwaashch ku – twaashch

SW sounds like [ s ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᓃᔂᓱᒻᑎᓂᐤ Click here to hear this word niiswaasumtiniu nii – swaa – sum – ti – niu
Southern Syllables IPA
ᓃᔂᔥᒡ Click here to hear this word niiswaashch niisw – aashch

KW sounds like [ k ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐄᔮᐦᑎᒀᔥᑦ Click here to hear this word iiyaahtikwaasht ii – yaah – ti – kwaasht
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᐦᑎᒀᐴ Click here to hear this word ahtikwapuu ah – ti – kwa – puu

MW sounds like [ m ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐋᒸᔮᐦ Click here to hear this word aamwaayaah aa – mwaa – yaah
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐋᔑᒸᒄ Click here to hear this word aashimwaakw aa – shi – mwaakw

NW sounds like [ n ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᑳᒋᓍᒡ Click here to hear this word kaachinwaach kaa – chi – nwaach
Southern Syllables IPA
ᑳᒀᓍᒀᐤᐦ Click here to hear this word kaakwaanwaakwaauh kaa – kwaa – nwaa – kwaauh
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