Tẹẹ, or Tai, is the language of the Tai tribe of the Ogoni nation of Nigeria. It is to a limited degree mutually intelligible with Khana, the main Ogoni language, but its speakers consider it to be a separate language.
The Tẹẹ ([tɛ̀ː]) sound system is typical of an Ogoni language and identical to that of Khana, with the exception of four or five voiceless sonorants not found in that language. The voiceless w is also found in other Ogoni languages, and voiceless j and l are also found in other languages of Nigeria.
Tẹẹ has three tones, high, mid, and low. There are seven oral vowels, /i e ɛ a ɔ o u/, and five nasal vowels, /ĩ ẽ ã õ ũ/. All may occur long or short. The consonants are as follows:
A glottal stop [ʔ] appears before any otherwise vowel-initial stem. The alveolar consonants are apical.
Tẹẹ includes a rather unusual series of voiceless sonorants. The voiceless palatal /ȷ̊/ sounds rather like the voiceless palatal fricative [ç], but is not as noisy (that is, there is not much random-frequency noise in its sound spectrum). Similarly, /l̥/ is a voiceless approximant, not a voiceless fricative *[ɬ]. The voiceless bilabial nasal, /m̥/, is only known to occur in one word, /àm̥èː/ (an unidentified abdominal organ), and then only for some speakers. All of the voiceless sonorants are actually voiced during the second half of their enunciation. That is, /n̥/ is pronounced [n̥͡n] However, they are considerably shorter than their voiced homologues, and hence cannot be considered /hC/ sequences with an otherwise unattested consonant */h/.
- Ladefoged, Peter (October 1995). "Voiceless approximants in Tee". Fieldwork Studies of Targeted Languages III. UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics. 91: 85–88.