The Hani Language and Culture

The work below is independent of The Hani Babel Text Page. Please see also: Hani Language Site — Hani language site by Spence Hill, approved by C.J. Cherryh.

Phonemes: Sounds, Alphabet, and Pronunciation Key

Consonants — Unaspirated
f v p b m rr ll h
s z t d n r l w
c j k g ng ny ly y
Consonants — Aspirated
fh vh ph bh mh rrh llh hh
sh zh th dh nh rh lh hw
ch jh kh gh ngh nhy lhy hy
Long Short
yy, y y
ii, i i
ee, e e
aa, a a
oo, o o
uu, u u
Vowel Pairs = Dipthongs
-- -i -e -a -o -u -h -w -y
i- ii ie ia io iu ih iw iy
e- ei ee ea eo eu eh ew ey
a- ai ae aa ao au ah aw ay
o- oi oe oa oo ou oh ow oy
u- ui ue ua uo uu uh uw uy
h- hi he ha ho hu hh hw hy
w- wi we wa wo wu wh ww wy
y- yi ye ya yo yu yh yw yy

Pronunciation Key

Hani English
a ah or uh
b b
c k: before (a, o, u, w);
c s: before (ä, e, i, y);
ch ch
d d
e ay or eh
f f
fh f + h;
g g: always hard (get, give);
h h before any letter;
h h or silent after a vowel;
i ee or ih
j j
k k
kh kh: Chanukkah, loch, Bach, jalapeño;
l l
lh, ll h + l
m m
n n
ng ng in sing
o oh or aw
p p
q k, kw
r r (trilled or purred)
rh h + r (trilled or purred)
s s, ss
sh sh
t t
th th
u ooh or oo
v v
w w: always a semi-consonant;
x ks, gz
y y-: as a consonant before or after a vowel in a syllable;
y y: as a vowel alone in a syllable; ah-ee, ee, or ih
z z
zh zh: s as in treasure

Hani Pronunciation Notes

Some years ago, I emailed C.J. Cherryh to ask about the proper way to pronounce hani words. My questions and her replies are here.

Hani Pronunciation, per C.J. Cherryh

Hani KH = [x] as in loch, Bach, jalapeño; [h] as in hat; or [k] as in cat?
More like CHanukkah.
LH, LL (e.g. Llun). Does this differ in sound from L at all? Did it in the past?
ALMOST KHLUN. But breathed.
Same question, but for FH.
Spit-hiss-FFF-hhh [guttural]
Doubled vowels (aa, ee, ii, oo, uu) — are they pronounced separately, e.g. “Ahn-ooh-oorn” or are they long, e.g. “Ahn-oohrn?”
I suppose otherwise the vowels are generally long and short, something like Middle or Old English (or most modern European languages for that matter)?
Positionally affected. Surrounding consonants help determine.
R, RR, RH: Is there any consistent difference, such as American R, Spanish rolled R and *really* rolled RR, French R for RH?
Yes. RH is a lion cough. The others are rolled or purred.


  1. fh = [fx]; like “spit-hiss-FFF-HHH!”;
  2. kh = [x]; a strong h, like in Chanukkah, Bach, loch, or jalapeño;
  3. ll = [hl] or [xl];
  4. r = [r]; American R, a retroflex R; Note: Both r and rr may be trilled (or purred);
  5. rr = [rr]; A very trilled (purred) R, as in Spanish RR, or as in Italian;
  6. rh = [hr] or [xr] or [R]; a “lion cough”;


  1. Long vowels are sometimes shown by double vowels (aa, ee, ii, oo, uu).
  2. Short vowels may be shown by doubling the following consonant.
  3. Vowel length is otherwise shown by position within a syllable:
  4. A vowel is usually long if the syllable ends in a vowel.
  5. A vowel is usually short if the syllable ends in a consonant.
  6. Y is a vowel, long or short: Py, Py-an-far. Short Y is ih [i] as in bit. Long Y is ee [i:] as in beet or ah-ee [ai] as in bite.
  7. Y is also a semi-consonant: Ayhar
  8. AI and AY are usually ah-ee [ai], but sometimes eh-ee [ei].