Musa Lesson 0: Stops

Over the course of the next few lessons, we're going to introduce you to all the Musa you'll need to write English. If you'd like a "cheat sheet" to refer back to, print this.

We're going to start with the twelve letters you met on the Quick Look page, plus one more. Here they are for review:

m n ng b d g p t k ɾ

Nasal Sounds

All three nasal letters share the triangular top that looks like your nose. When the bottom bounces up toward the left (the "front" of a letter), that indicates that the sound is made with your lips, like m:

The next nasal sound is the n. It has a triangular top and a sharp bottom, like your teeth:

The final nasal sound in English is one that we only use at the end of syllables: the ng sound. The bottom is a horizontal line going backwards (to the right), so the vertical stem has to slant to connect it to the top:

(Some fonts will leave out the part that crosses through the center of the triangle, while others will show the diagonal stem connecting all the way to the peak, and likewise for similar letters.)

Voiced Plosives

The next three letters are b d g. They share a simple horizontal top.

Unvoice (Tenuis) Plosives

The next three letters are p t k. They share a top that reflects back and down to the right:

Aspirated Plosives

I'm sure you noticed that none of my examples of unvoiced plosives actually start with the letter. That's because, in English, when an unvoiced plosive starts a word or a stressed syllable within a word, we aspirate it: we pronounce it with a little puff of air. You can feel this puff of air by putting your hand in front of your mouth and pronouncing spire pyre prior expire. You'll feel the puff for the last three, but not the first. In Musa, we write these aspirated plosives with different letters, whose top is a wedge:

Flap T and D

In many English dialects, when a t comes between a stressed and a reduced vowel, it often "sounds like a d", but it's actually being pronounced as an flap, which we spell . For example, the word writing is pronounced like riding, petal like pedal, and water as if it were wodder. This pronunciation often extends to d's, across word boundaries, or when the t is preceded by r l m or n. You can spell each word as you pronounce it, or spell to a standard; in these pages, we'll only flap t and d within a word.


Let's try matching these letters to the sounds at the beginning of the following words. Remember that, in English, we pronounce p t k with a small puff of air (aspiration) at the beginning of words and at the beginning of stressed syllables within words, so you'll have to use the aspirated letters (pʰ tʰ kʰ) in those cases.

   

To check the answers, highlight the black bar at the bottom left corner of each quiz.

Now try matching the last sounds in the same words:

   

Now match the letter with the middle sound you hear in the recording:

   

Did you remember that a t between a stressed vowel and a reduced vowel is actually pronounced as a flap?

Once you've mastered these letters, move on to the next lesson.

< A Quick Look Lesson 1 >

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