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Alphabet and Pronunciation

The Esperanto alphabet contains 28 letters — 5 vowels and 23 consonants:

a a a father
b b b boat
c ts ʦ mits
ĉ ch ʧ charming
d d d deportation
e e e wet
f f f famous
g g g gargantuan
ĝ j ʤ general
h h h homeward
ĥ ch/kh x German achtung
i ee i teen
j y j yodle
ĵ zh ʒ treasure
k k k kite
l l l long
m m m moat
n n n nautical
o o o olfactory
p p p political
r r r Spanish señora (with a trilled [r])
s s s suspend
ŝ sh ʃ shore
t t t tank
u oo u boot
ŭ w w western
v v v invasion
z z z zither

When writing in media that cannot accommodate circumflexes and breves (oldschool message boards and such), the custom nowadays is to transcribe them with a following x: la cxehxa regxo ludas sxakon jxauxde instead of la ĉeĥa reĝo ludas ŝakon ĵaŭde.

Every vowel in Esperanto constitutes a separate syllable, even adjacent vowels:

Francio [fran-'ʦi-o] France
filino [fi-'li-no] daughter
avenuo [a-ve-'nu-o] avenue

In English, some vowels can combine with other vowels to form sounds pronounced as a single (or close to single) syllable, as in coin and couch. These combination vowel sounds are called diphthongs. In Esperanto, vowels never combine with other vowels, but with the consonants j or ŭ to produce one of eleven diphthongs — six “falling” (aj, ej, oj, uj, and ) and five “rising” (ja, je, ji, jo, and ju)*.

*The diphthongs ŭa, ŭe, etc., while theoretically possible in Esperanto, are rendered va, ve, etc., even after g and k: Vaŝingtono, gvido, kvoto. The only real exception is the exclamation ŭa!, used for imitating a baby’s cry.

Tonic Stress

Without exception, words in Esperanto are stressed on the next-to-the-last syllable, as in fortuno [for-'tu-no] and mencii [men-'ʦi-i]. While this makes proper stress easy and unambiguous, English-speakers will need to take care not to stress familiar-looking words with traditional stress: opero (“opera”) is [o-'pe-ro], not ['o-pe-ro], Anglio (“England”) is [an-'gli-o], not ['an-gli-o], for example.