by Richard Shawyer
Please note that this page uses Unicode to represent phonetic characters, and one of the Wolof characters, . If your browser is set up for unicode with the correct font installed that includes the Unicode IPA Extensions range, you will see two ŋ characters. Otherwise, you will see one character with a small box or question mark beside it. The other phonetic characters will also show up as small empty boxes or question marks. Refer to the Unicode setup instructions to setup your browser for Unicode. The full content of the phonetics pages is also available in a single.pdf format file (117 kB).
Every language consists of a limited number of sounds. By mastering each sound one by one, it is possible to speak a language without accent. The purpose of these pages is to provide instructions for each vowel and consonant in Wolof that might help the native English speaker in his pronunciation. You are advised to take them one by one, working on them until you can both hear and produce them with ease.
The English speaker will have greatest problems with those sounds which do not exist in English:
The English speaker is also likely to have problems with vowels which are similar but not the same between the two languages:
The task is made more difficult by the existence of minimal pairs. That is, sounds which are very similar to the ears of English speakers but used to differentiate words in Wolof:
Wolof words do not have a mixture of open and closed vowels. They will either all be open or all closed. This is particularly important with the use of suffixes. The vowel created by the suffix is determined by the other vowels in the word. e.g. julli + ag + ul = julléegul.
BREWSTER, E. Thomas; BREWSTER Elizabeth S 1976 Language Acquistion Made Practical (Pasadena, Lingua House)
DIALO, Amadou 1983 Eléments systématiques du Wolof Contemporain (Dakar, CLAD)
DONEUX, J.L. 1975 Quelle phonologie pour le Wolof? (Dakar, CLAD)
KANE, Boubacar 1974 A Comparative Study of the Phonological Systems of English and Wolof (Dakar, CLAD)
SAMUEL, John T Bendor 1983 Introduction to Practical Phonetics (Horsleys Green, SIL)