Yurok sounds

Yurok has 29 consonants and 11 vowels. The links below lead to short guides to all the Yurok sounds, with descriptions of pronunciation, differences in pronunciation, English comparisions, and audio examples.

Technically, a vowel is a sound in which air flows freely through the mouth; a consonant is a sound in which air is more tightly constrained by motions of the tongue, lips, etc. In reading about Yurok pronunciation, keep in mind the distinction between sounds and letters; sounds are features of the language, while it is possible to use different letters to represent the same sound. (Over the years, for example, several different writing systems have been used to write the same set of Yurok sounds.)


An important aspect of pronunciation that is not described here is stress — some syllables in Yurok have more emphasis or loudness than others. For example, the word hesek' 'I think' is stressed on the first syllable and the word komchuemek' 'I know it' has two stresses, one on the first syllable and one on the second syllable: HES-ek' and KOM-CHUE-mek'. Stress is not written in Yurok, but it is sometimes important (since it determines vowel quality) and unexpected (since Yurok stress patterns are different from English stress patterns).


Yurok has 11 basic vowel sounds, including six short vowels and five long vowels. (A long vowel is held twice as long as a short vowel.) Click on the links below for pronunciation details. Note that there is no long vowel corresponding to short e.

SHORT a e ee o ue er
LONG aa eee oo uue err

Sometimes short vowels have reduced pronunciations in unstressed syllables. The letter i is sometimes used for a reduced pronunciation of e or ee, and the letter u for a reduced pronunciation of o. (We recommend against this, because the same vowels in the same words can also have a non-reduced pronunciation.) For details, see the links above for e, ee, and o.


Yurok has 29 basic consonant sounds. They can be arranged into five groups using the linguistic terminology below: stops; glottalized stops; fricatives; nasals & glides; and glottalized nasals & glides. Click on the links below for pronunciation details.

STOPS p t ch k kw '
p' t' ch' k' kw'
FRICATIVES s hl sh x g h
NASALS & GLIDES w m n l r y
'w ~ w' 'm ~ m' 'n ~ n' 'l ~ l' 'r ~ r' 'y ~ y'

Within each group, sounds are arranged according to articulation, from the front of the mouth (on the left) to the back of the mouth. The sound written with an apostrophe (') is called a glottal stop; note that there is no such thing as a glottalized glottal stop.

Short vowel + glide combinations

The sounds r, w, and y are glides. Since glides tend to affect the pronunciation of short vowels, so may be helpful to hear examples of the combinations below. (The combination ue + y is usually spelled uy, not uey.)

Gaps are for combinations that do not exist in Yurok: a + w, a + y, e + r, ee + y, ue + w, er + r. Abbreviations refer to speakers: AF = Aileen Figueroa, CR = Carrie Roberts, JJ = Jimmie James, GM = Glenn Moore Sr., VM = Violet Moore, FS = Florence Shaughnessy, GT = Georgiana Trull, JVP = Jessie Van Pelt.

+ R + W + Y
'ne-lew "my net" (AF)
cheykenee "small" (JVP)
teseer "beaver" (GT)
cheeweyek' "I'm hungry" (AF)
hlkyorkwek' "I watch it" (FS)
ho'ow "cedar" (VM)
poykoh "pan" (VM)
heepuer "a little downriver" (JJ)
nepuy "salmon" (CR)
nerperw "meat" (GM)
'weryhl "egg" (GT)