Consonants

Most consonants in Lahu should not present a problem for English speakers. There are a few differences that should be noted.

The consonants in the Lahu language are listed in table below:

Lahu English Equivalent
b same
ch same
c as in ‘jaw’ (the unaspirated version of ‘ch’)
d same
f same
g same
g’ a coarse ‘g’ or a throaty ‘r’ like in French, a fricative
h same
j same, often between a ‘y’ and ‘j’
k as in ‘goat’ (like ‘ก’ in Thai)
hk as in ‘cat’
k’ as in ‘coat’, at the back of the throat
hk’ as in ‘caught’ but further back in throat
l same
m same
n same
ny as it reads
ng same
p as in ‘bat’, unaspirated p or b (like the Thai ‘บ’)
hp as in ‘people’, aspirated
pf same
s same
sh same, often sounds like just ’s’
t cross between ’d’ and ’t’ (like the Thai ‘ต’)
ht as in ‘talk’
v same
y cross between a ‘y’ and ‘j’
Lahu consonants and their English equivalents

Aspirated & Unaspirated

As with many other languages in the area of South East Asia, there is a difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds. To appreciate the difference between them some have tried saying the sounds with their hand in front of their mouth. With an aspirated sound you should feel a puff of air against you hand. Unaspirated sounds should have no puff.

For example, the sounds made by the letters ‘p’, ‘t’ and ‘c’ in the words spar, star and scar are unaspirated and have no puff of air. In contrast, the sounds made by the letters ‘c’, ‘t’ and ‘p’ in the words car, tar and par are aspirated by the puff of air. It is essential that this difference in appreciated by the speaker and heard by the listener as it may change the meaning of many words.

Fricatives

These are sounds that are made by using the throat or the rear of the palate and are primarily made using friction rather than contact. Some letters require more fiction and some require more contact. These guttural sounds are often difficult for native English speakers to master and use fluently.

Another (perhaps more technical) way of representing the various consonants and their articulation is shown in table Lahu articulation.

Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Alveopalatal Velar Postvelar
Unaspirated p t c k k’
Aspirated hp ht ch hk hk’
Voiced b v d j g g’
Nasal m n ng
Voiceless f sh h
Lateral l
Lahu articulation