There are several unusual and complex consonant clusters in Vulcan, but they occur in human languages and are not, contrary to some myths, unpronounceable by non-Vulcans. They are also not that common in the lexicon (the vocabulary), but in some cases they are important for distinctions in meaning. Here are a few examples of some of the more exotic, challenging words for speakers of FSE.
psthan [p͜sθan] n. quest. This is a single syllable, but all of the sounds are pronounced. Nothing is silent.
fnashtau [ˈfnaʃ.ta͡u] v. sweep. This is two syllables. The stress is on the first syllable and the fn combination is co-articulated. That means that they are both pronounced together as one consonant cluster. There is no break. This is a very important distinction in Vulcan. There are times that consonants are separated with a slight vocalic break (an epenthetic schwa ( ə )) as in T’Pol [tə.ˈpol]/[tə.ˈpo͡ʊl]. The apostrophe between the T and the P shows that there should be a brief break. If there is no apostrophe, do not add a break simply because it seems easier to pronounce that way. The apostrophe is also used to represent a glottal stop ((ʔ) a consonantal break before, after, or between vowels) in other contexts.
fna’ [fnaʔ] clitic preposition. through, via. This is one syllable that is clearly cut off at the end. In this context, the apostrophe sounds like the break between the two syllables in the FSE “uh’oh!”. This is a good example of a glottal stop rendered in the spelling (orthography) with an apostrophe ( ’ ).
There is another letter that has multiple jobs when Vulcan is written in the Roman alphabet. H needs special attention.
khlukau [ˈχlu.ka͡u] v. choke. In this word h forms a single articulation with k. KH forms the sound of the ch in the German word »ich« or the Scottish ch in “loch”. In this case the following l is pronounced as one with the kh in a consonant cluster. There is no break. This is a two-syllable word. The a and u run together as a diphthong following the k.
Here are some other roles of h:
thakau [ˈθa.ka͡u] v. focus. Like the th of “think” or “both” in FSE. It can combine with other consonants in clusters.
shai [sha͡i] n. self. Like the sh of “shore” or “wish” in FSE. Like th, it combines with other consonants.
drichelik [dri.ˈt͡ʃɛl.ik] adj. spooky, creepy. Like the ch of “cheat” or “beach” in FSE. This sound is much less common in Vulcan than in FSE, but it has a sibling sound that is more often encountered. TCH is one sound which can be a bit more forceful and breathier than a regular ch in some dialects. Try pronouncing the FSE “pitch hit” as ‘piTCHHit’. The muscles of the throat are a bit more tense and there is more air along with the ch. The Vulcan adjective for curly is tchan [t͡ʃhan]. Again, this is just ONE syllable — not t’chan, which would be two. If you pronounce both CH and TCH the same as the ch or “church” you will still be understood.
Finally, along with the other consonants represented with an extra h attached, there is zh.
zhit [ʒit] n. word. This is the sound in the middle of the FSE word pleasure or the j of the French word « je ». It is very common in Vulcan. The sound of the FSE letters j and dg in judge occurs very rarely, but when it does, it is typically rendered with dzh.
Dzharel [ˈd͡ʒa.rel] n. Vulcan horse-like species. This is sometimes spelled «jarel». The FSE name George would be spelled Dzhordzh using the equivalent Vulcan letters with the closest phonic approximation.
H also plays an important role in making vowel distinctions. Here is the full table of vowels.
|Spelling||IPA||FSE Example||Role of H|
|a||a||The full a of father.|
|ah||ɐ||Not quite the full a of father. A bit shorter and flatter and closer to a schwa (ə). Similar to the o in hot. Please note that there are some common archaic spellings where “ah” is used for the a sound. Example: Kolinar is often spelled “Kolinahr”. The correct pronunciation is ko.li.ˈnar.||Makes the vowel shorter and more clipped.|
|aa||aː||The full a of father but doubled in length.|
|e||ɛ||The e of bet or let or fell.|
|eh||ɛ̆, ɛ̆ʔ||Shorter version of e. At the end of syllables or words where there is a break, insert an extra glottal stop (ʔ). That is, cut the sound off sharply.||Makes the vowel shorter and more clipped.|
|ee||ɛː||The e of bet or let or fell but doubled in length.|
|i||i||The ee sound of keep or the ea sound of beach.|
|ih||ɪ, ɪʔ||The i sound of bit or sit.||Makes the vowel shorter and more clipped.|
|ii||iː||The ee sound of keep or the ea sound of beach but doubled in length.|
|o||o, o͡ʊ||The short o of vote or the o of Spanish no. Some speakers articulate it as the ow sound of row or the ou sound of dough. This is technically a diphthong.|
|oh||ɔ, ɔʔ||The short ou of bought or. It is clipped at the end of a syllable or word like Vulcan eh and ih are clipped.||Pushes the vowel more forward in the mouth. Should be clipped like eh and ih at the end of a syllable or word.|
|oo||oː||The o of vote or the o of Spanish no. Pure, but doubled in length.|
|u||u||Like the oo in fool with the lips well-rounded.|
|Like the oo of book or hook (ʊ). Flatter than u. The lips should not be rounded. Is also sometimes heard as the u of but (ʌ).||Makes the vowel more flat and less pure.|
|ai||a͡i||The y of fly.|
|au||a͡u||The ou of foul.|
|ei||e͡i||The ay of bay.|
|oi||o͡i||The oy of boy.|
|’||ə||A short, clipped schwa (ə) to separate two consonants that are not co-articulated.|
A full audio resource for hearing the IPA symbols pronounced can be found at Wikipedia.
Most sounds not specifically called out here are pronounced more or less as they would be in FSE. For more information on pronunciation, please visit this page at the VLI Reclamation Project.