Syllable breaks are placed between two geminate consonants.


If there are no geminates, then the final vowel, and every second vowel going backwards are their own syllables.




These two rules are in order of priority, and two closed syllables can only appear next to one another if they both end in geminates, thus:


There are four levels of stress which are assigned to particular forms of syllables. Stress effects the quality and pitch of vowels. The top two levels are grouped together as ‘stressed’, leaving the other two levels as ‘unstressed’.

Primary Stress

Primary stress is characterised by tense vowels with a high pitch. In polysyllabic words, primary stress falls on the last closed syllable. Monosyllabic content words also receive this stress, although this is not explicitly marked in the pronunciation guide.








Secondary Stress

Secondary stress is also characterised by the use of the tense vowels, however, the pitch is lower than the average. This falls on any other closed syllables.



Tertiary Stress

Tertiary stress is charateristed by use of tense vowels with a median pitch. This stress falls on any open syllable after one with quaternary stress. It is also the stress attracted by monosyllabic functional words. It is not explicitly marked; instead denoted by use of a tense vowel symbol with no stress mark.


/pʰi/ (functional word)

/kʰəlu/ (functional word)

Quaternary Stress

Quaternary stress is characterised by a lax vowel with median pitch. It is not explicitly marked. This stress falls on any open syllable directly following one with primary or secondary stress, or an initial syllable that has not yet received a stress. This latter implies that quaternary stress is assigned before the tertiary, despite being of lower rank.



Vowel Length

Stressed vowels are slightly longer than other vowels. WIth this proviso, long and short vowels are in free variation. An unstressed vowel between two identical consonants is elided. This elided vowel is replaced with a central dot (·) in the transliteration. This dot also appears in the compound word ku·li to distinguish it from the stem word kuli.


Interrogative and imperative sentences (questions and orders) are denoted by tone. This tone is either a rising tone (ǎ) or a falling tone (â), placed on the syllable of the appropriate word which has the greatest stress.

Falling tone can also be used to bring focus to a particular word.