The Arapaho Language (Heenetiit) is a polysynthetic language with long, complex verbs and fairly free word order.
Many linguists consider Gros Ventre an Arapaho dialect– though the two tribes maintain distinct identities, the languages are primarily mutually comprehensible.
Most Arapaho and Gros Ventre speakers are elderly, but the Arapaho tribe is working to revitalize the language by teaching it to younger Arapahos.
ARAPAHO ALPHABET LETTERS:
b c e h i k n o s 3 t u w x y ‘
SHORT VOWELS: are the basic building blocks of other vowels.
e is a short vowel sound like the “e” in the English word “bet.”
i is a short vowel that sounds like the “i” in the English term “bit.”
o is similar to the vowel sound in the English word “got.”
u is like the English short “u” sound in “put.”
LONG VOWELS: are the vowels listed above, but held longer.
Long vowels are indicated by the doubling or tripling of the same vowel sounds above or combinations (diphthongs) of different vowel sounds.
ee is close in sound to the English short “a” sound as in “bat.”
ii is similar to the long “e” in English, such as in “beet.”
oo is much like the long “ah” sound as in “caught” or “fought,”
uu is a long “u” sound as in the English word “dude.”
VOWEL COMBINATIONS (DIPTHONGS): are combinations of the short vowel sound put together.
ei is much the like the long “a” sound as in the English word “weight.”
ou is a long “o” sound in English, as in “boat.”
oe is similar to the long “i” sound in English, as in “bite.”
ie is rare in Arapaho, but is made by first saying the short “i” sound as in “bit” and then the short “e” sound as in “bet,” listed above.
TRIPLE VOWELS: are extra long vowels or diphthongs that are held even longer and usually have a stress at the beginning and end. For example the word “booo” is a long “oo” sound with an added and stressed “o” sound on the end. Usually the stress is on the first vowel and the last.
eee is an extra long “e” or three “e’s” put together.
iii is an extra long “i” or three “i’s” put together.
ooo is an extra long “o”, or three “o’s” put together
uuu is an extra long “u” or three “u’s” put together.
eii is an “ei” sound with an “i” sound added to the end.
oee is an “oe” sound held somewhat longer.
ouu is an “ou” sound with a “u” added to the end.
b is slightly less voiced (less sound) than the English “b” at the beginning and in the middle of words, but like a “p” (unvoiced, no sound) at the end.
c is between an English “j” and “ch.” It is more like a “j” at the beginning of words.
h is like the English “h,” but when at the end of a word or syllable it is breathed (air is forced out slightly)
k is a blend of “k” and “g,” but more like “g” at the beginning of words, and more like “k” at the end.
n is more or less the same as the English “n.”
s is like the English “s” as in “sea,” but is never like a “z” sound as in “trees.”
t sounds like an English “d,” as in “dot” at the beginning of words, but more like a “t” elsewhere
3 is similar to the unvoiced “th” sound in English, as in “thin,” but never like the voiced “th” sound as in “the” or “that.”
w is the same as “w” in water, but in Arapaho you must also make the “w” rounded lip shape when it is at the end, as in the Arapaho word woow, meaning “now”
x does not have a similar sound in English, but is like the “ch” sound in German, as in “ich” or “machen”
y is the same as the English “y,” but must be shaped with the mouth at the end of words, too.
‘ is a glottal stop. It is made by closing the opening at the back of the throat, as in the Arapaho word ho’ for “dirt.”