Key to Pronunciation: West African English

View our pronunciation model for West African English here.

The pronunciations given are those in use among educated urban speakers of standard English in West Africa. While avoiding strongly regionally or socially marked forms, they are intended to include the most common variants for each word.

Words associated with West Africa are given British and American pronunciations alongside the West African pronunciation(s). Where a word is associated with an additional part of the English-speaking world, further pronunciations in the appropriate global variety of English are also given.

To hear the pronunciation spoken aloud, click the blue play icon to the left of each transcription.

Vowels

West African EnglishAs in…
ifleece, kit, happy, rabbit
ɛdress
atrap, bath, palm, start, letter, ago
ɔlot, cloth, north, force, thouɡht
ʊcup,
ugoose, foot
iahere
ea, ɛ, iasquare
ɔ, acup
uə, ɔcure
eface
aipride
aumouth
ogoat
ɔichoice

The vowel in words such as nurse is affected by spelling and/or the variety of West African English. Such vowels can be /ɔ/, /ɛ/ or /a/. The vowels in words such as cup and square are also affected by the variety.

Consonants

As in…
bbig /biɡ/
ddig /diɡ/ , then /dɛn/
jet /dʒɛt/
ffig /fiɡ/
ɡget /ɡɛt/
ɡbIgbo /ˈiɡbo/
hhead /hɛd/
jyes /jɛs/
kkit /kit/
lleg /lɛɡ/
mmud /mɔd/
nnet /nɛt/, thing /tin/
ppit /pit/
rred /rɛd/
ssit /sit/
ʃship /ʃip/
ttip /tip/, thin /tin/
chip /tʃip/
vvet /vɛt/
wwin /win/
zzip /zip/
ʒvision /ˈvɪʒən/

/ʃ/, /dʒ/ or /z/ are sometimes heard where /ʒ/ may be expected (e.g. occasion).

/ŋ/ is a variant of /n/ which only ever occurs before /k/ or /ɡ/, as in monkey /ˈmɔŋki/. Not all such environments will have /ŋ/; some will retain /n/.

/ɡb/ is often treated as a single sound, a simultaneous ‘double articulation’ of the two stop sounds.

Word-final consonant clusters are often simplified, either by dropping a consonant or by adding a vowel.

Unlike many other varieties, consonants cannot take on the function of a vowel in word-final unstressed syllables (i.e. ‘syllabic consonants’ at the ends of words do not occur); they will always have a preceding vowel, e.g. able /ˈebul/.

After a vowel, West African English only has /r/ when it is also followed by a vowel, e.g. pour /pɔ/ but pouring /ˈpɔrin/.

Stress

The symbol ˈ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with primary stress. The symbol ˌ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with secondary stress. The symbol ˈˌ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable may be pronounced with either primary or secondary stress.