Acehnese phonology

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A trio of Acehnese speakers.

Acehnese has a large vowel inventory, with ten oral monophthong vowels,[1] twelve oral diphthongs,[2] seven nasal monophthong vowels,[3] and five nasal diphthongs.[4]


Native-speaking linguists divide vowels in Acehnese into several categories: oral monophthongs, oral diphthongs (which are further divided into the ones ending with /ə/ and with /i/), nasal monophthongs, and nasal diphthongs.[5]

Oral vowels[edit]

Oral monophthong vowels in Acehnese are shown in the table below.[6]

Close i ɯ u
Close-mid e ə o
Open-mid ɛ ʌ ɔ
Open a

Oral diphthong vowels ending with /ə/ are shown in the table below.[7]

/iə/ /ɯə/ /uə/
/ɛə/ /ʌə/ /ɔə/

Oral diphthong vowels ending with /i/ are shown in the table below.[8]

/əi/ /oi/
/ʌi/ /ɔi/

Nasal vowels[edit]

Nasal monophthong vowels in Acehnese are shown in the table below.[9]

Close ĩ ɯ̃ ũ
Open-mid ɛ̃ ʌ̃ ɔ̃
Open ã


The table below shows the Acehnese consonant phonemes and the range of their realizations.[10]

Labial Labiodental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop p b t d c ɟ k ɡ ʔ
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Prenasalized consonant mb nd ɲɟ ŋɡ
Trill r
Fricative f s z ʃ h
j w


  • Syllable-final k always represents /ʔ/ save in certain recent loans
  • /f/, /z/, and /ʃ/ are borrowed sounds, and are often replaced by /ph/, /dh/, and /ch/ respectively
  • /mb/, /nd/, /ɲɟ/, and /ŋɡ/ are also known as "funny nasals"[11]


The orthography of Achenese features 31 letters: the 26 letters of the basic Latin alphabet, è, é, ë, ô, and ö.

Grapheme Phoneme
Open syllable Closed syllable
a /a/ ba /ba/ ‘carry’ bak /baʔ/ ‘at, tree’
e /ə/ le /lə/ ‘many’ let /lət/ ‘pull out’
é /e/ baté /bate/ ‘cup, betel tray’ baték /bateʔ/ ‘batik’
è /ɛ/ /bɛ/ ‘smell’ bèk /bɛʔ/ ‘prohibitive "don't" (e.g. bèk neupajôh boh gantang teucrôh lôn 'don't you eat my fries')'
ë /ə/ huë /huə/ ‘pull’ huëk /huəʔ/ ‘choke’
eu /ɯ/ keu /kɯ/ ‘front’ keuh /kɯh/ ‘so (e.g. nyan keuh), pronominal affix for second person (e.g. droe-keuh)’
i /i/ di /di/ 'in, from' dit /dit/ 'few, small amount'
o /ɔ/ yo /jɔ/ ‘afraid’ yok /jɔʔ/ ‘shake’
ô /o/ /ro/ ‘spill’ rôh /roh/ ‘enter’
ö /ʌ/ /pʌ/ ‘fly’ pöt /pʌt/ ‘pluck, pick’
u /u/ su /su/ ‘sound, voice’ sut /sut/ ‘remove, detach’


  • ë is used only for diphthongs ending with /ə/


  1. ^ Pillai & Yusuf (2012:1030), citing Asyik (1987:17)
  2. ^ Pillai & Yusuf (2012:1031), citing Asyik (1987:17–18)
  3. ^ Pillai & Yusuf (2012:1032), citing Asyik (1987:17)
  4. ^ Pillai & Yusuf (2012:1032), citing Asyik (1987:17)
  5. ^ Pillai & Yusuf (2012:1031), citing Asyik (1987:17–18)
  6. ^ Pillai & Yusuf (2012:1031), citing Asyik (1987:17)
  7. ^ Pillai & Yusuf (2012:1031), citing Asyik (1987:17–18)
  8. ^ Pillai & Yusuf (2012:1031), citing Asyik (1987:17–18)
  9. ^ Pillai & Yusuf (2012:1033), citing Asyik (1987:17)
  10. ^ Asyik (1982:3)
  11. ^ Asyik (1982:2), citing Lawler (1977)


  • Pillai, Stefanie; Yusuf, Yunisrina Qismullah (2012). "An instrumental analysis of acehnese oral vowels" (PDF). Language and Linguistics. 13 (6): 1029–1050.
  • Asyik, Abdul Gani (1982). "The agreement system in Acehnese" (PDF). Mon–Khmer Studies. 11: 1–33. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2013.
  • Asyik, Abdul Gani (1987). A contextual grammar of Acehnese sentences (PDF) (PhD thesis). The University of Michigan. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2013.