Sounds and orthography
Consonant and vowel phonemes
Tigre has a fairly typical set of consonant phonemes for an Ethiopian Semitic language, including the set of ejective consonants. Like Tigrinya, Tigre has preserved the two pharyngeal consonants which were apparently part of the ancient Ge'ez language. Tigre also has the set of seven vowels characteristic of Ethiopian Semitic, with one key difference: the distinction between the two vowels which are phonetically close to [ɐ] (traditionally the "first order vowel" and ä in the most common transcription system) and [a] in languages such as Tigrinya and Amharic is in Tigre more a matter of length than of quality: [a] vs. [aː].
The charts below show the phonemes of Tigre. For the representation of Tigre sounds, this article uses a modification of a system that is common (though not universal) among linguists who work on Ethiopian Semitic languages, but it differs somewhat from the conventions of the International Phonetic Alphabet. For the long vowel /aː/, the symbol "ā" is used, in agreement with Raz's book. When the IPA symbol is different, it is indicated in brackets in the charts.
|Low||a, ā [aː]|
Gemination is significant in Tigre. That is, consonant length can distinguish words from one another. Although gemination plays a significant role in verb morphology, it is usually accompanied by other features, and there are few pairs of Tigrinya words that are distinguished only by gemination:
All consonants except the pharyngeal and glottal consonants can geminate.
- Raz, ...