Ingush Phonology and Orthography

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A brief overview of Ingush phonology


Ingush has three series of stops and affricates:
  1. voiceless
  2. voiced
  3. ejective
The voiceless series is aspirated.

Ingush consonants are realized at eight or nine distinct places of articulation:

  1. labial
  2. dental
  3. alveolar
  4. palatal
  5. (palatovelar -- technically phonemic, but not perceived as phonemic by all speakers)
  6. velar
  7. uvular
  8. pharyngeal
  9. glottal
The voiceless velar fricative /x/ is actually realized intermediate between a velar and uvular articulation.

All words begin with a consonant; the glottal stop is the phonetic realization of the zero initial. Consonants may also be pharyngealized; alternatively, pharyngealization may be analyzed as a vowel feature.


Ingush has a complex vowel system with considerably allophonic variation. There is a contrast between long and short vowels (e.g. /i:/ vs. /i/). In addition, the long vowels have shortened allophones in closed syllables, which often have a realization which is indistinguishable from that of phonemically short vowels.

In pharyngealized syllables, vowels have backed allophones with distinctly pharyngeal articulation.

The mid central vowel (schwa) of Ingush occurs frequently at the end of words, where it is completely elided in most environments.

Ingush sound system in the International Phonetic Alphabet             (More information on the International Phonetic Alphabet)

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Ingush orthography

The orthography currently in use in Ingushetia is based on the Russian cyrillic alphabet. One additional letter, I, is used to represent ejectives (when occuring after a voiceless consonant) and pharyngeals (when occuring after a voiced consonant, word initially, or after a vowel).

This orthography severely underdifferentiates the phonemes of Ingush. While native speakers acquire literacy in it, it is impractical for the student of Ingush, for reference works which must indicate precise pronunciation (such as dictionaries), and for computer-related applications.

Ingush sound system in Cyrillic (characters not visible in all browsers)

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An all-ASCII Latin practical orthography for Ingush

This orthographic system has been developed in consultation with colleagues and Ingush speakers. It has several advantages:
  1. It does not use diacritics or special characters. It is easy to type and to transmit electronically.  (Compare the browser-specific and platform-specific visibility of the Cyrillic chart above.)
  2. It is compatible with the practical Chechen orthography proposed for use by Erwin Komen.
  3. It is strictly phonemic.


Vowels and rising diphthongs Falling diphthongs
ii uu
i y u
ie uo ei
(e) a o ai oi ou
ea aa oa aai aau



p t c ch jk  k q ' w
tt qq
p' t' c' ch' jk'  k' q'
b d dz dzh jg g
f s sh x h hw
v z zh gh
m n
l r

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