Writing system

You need only 5 vowels and 18 consonants to read and write Numbami. The 5 vowels are low a, front e, i, and back o, u. The consonants need to distinguish 4 voiceless positions p, t, s, k; 4 oral-voiced positions b, d, z, g; 4 nasal-voiced positions -mb-, -nd-, -nz-, -ngg-; 3 nasal positions m, n, ng, 1 liquid l, and 2 glides w, y

  1. The liquid l usually sounds like a flapped r (as it does in Jabêm).
  2. The glide w sounds a bit like v before the front vowels i, e.
  3. The oral- and nasal-voiced consonants only need to be distinguished between vowels, not at the beginnings of words.
  4. Voiceless s is consistent, but voiced z often sounds like English j (not like Jabêm j).
  5. The nasal ng is just an easier (but bulkier) keyboard equivalent of ŋ, which most people in the Jabêm circuit already know as the n baliŋ (‘long n’).

Click on the Wikipedia link for more technical details.

Here is a list of words showing contrasts between sets of consonants (from Bradshaw 1978).

ababa ‘crosswise, across’
ambamba ‘handdrum’

papaka ‘chip, plank’
boboka ‘twins’

kipa ‘sore, wound’
kemba ‘skin discoloration’

kote ‘not’
kodeya ‘meat’
kandeya ‘small basket’

totoma ‘along with’
dodo ‘play’
dondomu ‘sea grass’

sasa ‘waterfall’
zaza ‘type of tree’
zanzami ‘driftwood’

aga ‘taboo’
angga ‘yolk’

yagomi ‘type of pandanus’
yanggo ‘maize’

-weke ‘to leave (something)’
-wenggene ‘to face toward (something)’

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