Mapudungun alphabet

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Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche of modern south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina, did not have a writing system when the Spanish arrived. There have been a number of proposals for orthographies or Mapudungun alphabets, all of them using Latin script, but to this day, no consensus has been achieved between authorities, linguists and Mapuche communities on which should be used.

The main systems are the following:

  • Alfabeto Mapuche Unificado ("Unified Alphabet"), used by Chilean linguists and other people in many publications in/on the language. It has the support of the Chilean Catholic church.
  • Grafemario Ragileo, made by Anselmo Ranguileo Lincopil (1922–1992) and defended by the indigenous Mapuche organization Consejo de Todas las Tierras. The only alphabet made by a Mapuche.
  • Azumchefi (also called Azümchefe), proposed by the Corporación Nacional de Desarrollo Indígena (CONADI) as a summary of about six earlier proposals, and recognized by the Chilean Ministry of Education, but not widely used.
  • The 'Nhewenh writing system, an online proposal [1] by Heinrich Puschmann, based on the ascii character set in order facilitate the usage of the language on the internet.


Mapudungun has the following consonant system.

Phoneme Unified Alphabet Ragileo Nhewenh Azumchefi NICE place of articulation type of articulation
/p/ p p p p p bilabial plosive
/t̟/ * td * t' interdental plosive
/t/ t t t t t alveolar plosive
/k/ k k k k k velar plosive
/tʃ/ ch c ch ch ch postalveolar affricate
/tʂ/ tr x tr tx tr retroflex affricate
/f/ f f f f f labiodental or bilabial fricative
/θ/ d z sd z d interdental fricative
/s/ s s * s s alveolar fricative
/ʃ/ sh * sh sh sh postalveolar fricative
/m/ m m m m m bilabial nasal
/n̟/ h nd nh n' interdental nasal
/n/ n n n n n alveolar nasal
/ɲ/ ñ ñ nh, ñ ñ ñ palatal nasal
/ŋ/ ng g g g ng velar nasal
/w/ w w w w w labiovelar approximant
/j/ y y j y y palatal approximant
/ɣ/ or /ɰ/ (**) g q q q g velar approximant
/ɻ/ r r r r r retroflex approximant
/l̟/ b ld lh l' interdental lateral
/l/ l l l l l alveolar lateral
/ʎ/ ll j lh ll ll palatal lateral

(*) Raguileo doesn't distinguish between /s/ and /ʃ/, and between /t̪/ and /t/. Also, Raguileo aims to use only one grapheme for each phoneme (no digraphs), so he uses some letters from the alphabet in a non-standard way.
(**) Corresponds to /ɨ/ in the same way that /j/ corresponds to /i/ and /w/ corresponds to /u/.



Mapudungun has six vowels. The three high vowels also have corresponding approximant consonants.

Phoneme Unified Alphabet Ragileo Nhewenh Azumchefi [front] [back] [round] [high] [low]
/a/ a a a a + - - - +
/e/ e e e e + - - - -
/i/ i, y i i i, y + - - + -
/o/ o o o o - + + - -
/u/ u, w u u u, w - + + + -
/ɨ/* ü v v, y ü - - - + -

(*) When unstressed, it becomes a schwa (ə).

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