The Sounds of Láadan

Láadan was constructed to be simple to pronounce. This description is tailored for speakers of English because the material is written in English; but the sound system has been designed to present as few difficulties as possible, no matter what the native language of the learner.


a        as in “calm”
e        as in “bell”
i         as in “bit”
o        as in “home”
u        as in “dune”


b, d, sh, m, n, l, r, w, y, h — as in English
th      as in “think”
zh      as in “pleasure”

There is one more consonant in Láadan: it is “lh” and it has no English equivalent. If you put the tip of your tongue firmly against the roof of your mouth at the point where it begins to arch upward, draw the corners of your lips back as you would for an exaggerated smile, and try to say English “sh,” the result should be an adequate “lh.” It is a sound with a hissing quality, and is not especially pleasant to hear. In Láadan it occurs only in words that are themselves references to something unpleasant, and can be added to words to give them a negative meaning. This is patterned after a similar feature of Navajo, and is something so very handy that I have always wished it existed in English.

When a Láadan vowel is written with an accent mark above it, it is a vowel with high tone. English doesn’t have any tones, but that will be no problem for you, since you can express it as heavy stress. Think of the way that you distinguish the noun “convert” from the verb “convert” by stressing one of the two syllables. If you pronounce a high-toned Láadan vowel as you would pronounce a strongly-stressed English syllable, you will achieve the same effect as high tone. Because Láadan does not use English stress, this will not be a source of confusion.

A First Dictionary and Grammar of Láadan
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