Kriol Spelling Guide

Spelling Rules for Belize Kriol

n general it can be said that words in Kriol are spelled as they sound. However, someone literate in English may become confused with the similarities between Kriol words and English words, so it is important to study and learn these simple rules.

Rules for Spelling Kriol Consonants

  • English uses “silent” letters in some words; Kriol does not use any “silent” letters for consonants.

    English
    Silent Letter
    Kriol
    climb
    b
    klime
    sign
    g
    sine
    night
    gh
    nite
    white
    h
    wite
    knife
    k
    nife
    sick
    c
    sik
    walk
    l
    waak
  • The letter ‘c’, as something different from ‘ch’, is not used in Belize Kriol, except for proper nouns like people’s names and geographic names. If a word has the ‘s’ sound, then the word is written with the letter ‘s’; if the word has a ‘k’ sound, then it is written with the letter ‘k’.

    English
    Sound
    Kriol
    calabash
    k
    kalbash
    school
    k
    skool
    centipede
    s
    santapi
  • Some English words are written with a ‘d’ and/or ‘g’. The related Kriol words are pronounced with the ‘j’ sound, and are written with the letter ‘j’. For example: jrink (drink), kallij (college), brij (bridge).
  • Some English words are written with a ‘gh’ or ‘ph’. The words are pronounced with the ‘f’ sound, and are written with the letter ‘f’ in Belize Kriol. For example: rof (rough), dalfin (dolphin).
  • There are some English words that have a ‘y’ sound after the consonant, as in ‘cute’, However, it is more frequent in Belize Kriol words and it is written with the letter ‘y’ after the consonant.

    English Kriol
    beautiful byootiful
    educate edyukate
    confuse kanfyuze
    girl gyal
    humor hyooma
    cart kyaat
    mule myule
    news nyooz
    pupil pyoopl
    tune tyune
    view vyue
  • You will notice that the letter combinations ‘ch’, ‘sh’, and ‘zh’ are included in the list of Belize Kriol consonants. The Kriol writer should be careful to consider which sound is used in the Kriol word and how it differs from the English spelling.
    English Spelling
    English Sound
    Kriol Sound
    Kriol Spelling
    chaperone
    sh
    ch
    chaparong
    sugar
    sh
    sh
    shuga
    nation
    sh
    sh
    nayshan
    machine
    sh
    sh
    masheen
    special
    sh
    sh
    speshal
    ocean
    sh
    sh
    oashan
    measure
    zh
    zh or j
    mezha or meja
  • There are some words that have a ‘w’ sound after the consonant, as in ‘language’, However, it is more frequent in Belize Kriol words and it is written with the letter ‘w’ after the consonant. Notice also that the letter ‘q’ is not used in Belize Kriol. For example: langwij (language), bwai (boy), kwik (quick).


Rules for Spelling Kriol Vowels

The vowels used in Belize Kriol are somewhat different from the vowels used in English. Writing vowels in Belize Kriol is related to English, but it has been simplified. Kriol has four kind of vowels: long, short, glides, and nasalized.

    • Long vowels have the sound that is like the name of the letter; for example the vowel sound in ‘bleed’ is the same as the name of the letter ‘e’. Compare this to the vowel sound in ‘bed’; the vowel sound is not the same as the name of the letter ‘e’, it is a ‘short e’.

      Long vowel sounds are always spelled with two letters (with the exception of the letter ‘y’ for the long ‘i’ sound at the end of some words).

Each of the Kriol long vowels as two or three ways of writing. The choice of which way to use is always based on what will be most like the English spelling.

  • One of the ways to spell each of the long vowels uses the ‘silent e’ rule. The ‘silent e’ rule uses a letter ‘e’ at the end of the word to tell you that the previous vowel is a long vowel, not a short vowel. For example, notice the difference between the words ‘win’ and ‘wine’. The letter ‘i’ in win’ is a short vowel, but we know that the ‘i’ in ‘wine’ is a long vowel because of the ‘silent e’ on the end. This also means that any ‘e’ at the end of a word is silent.
Long Vowel Name
Spelling Options
Used Where Sample Kriol Words
a
a + ‘silent e’
1 or 2 consonants between ‘a’ and ‘e’ lane, table
a
ay
end of word bay
a
ay
English uses ‘ai’ for same sound rayn (rain)
a
ay
cannot use ‘silent e’ rule paypa (paper)
e
ea
English uses ‘ea’ for the same sound read
e
ee
where the previous 2 rules don’t apply areenj (orange)
e
e + ‘silent e’
English uses ‘silent e’ for same sound, only 1 consonant between ‘e’ and ‘e’ kerosene
i
i + ‘silent e’
0, 1, or 2 consonants between ‘i’ and ‘e’ pie, five, pinte (point)
i
y
end of single syllable words when it is the only vowel fly
i
ai
where the previous 2 rules don’t apply ailan (island), taiga (tiger)
o
o + ‘silent e’
0 or 1 consonant between ‘o’ and ‘e’ toe, rope
o
oa
where English uses the ‘oa’ for the same sound, or when the previous rule cannot be used boat, oava (over)
u
u + ‘silent e’
0 or 1 consonant between ‘u’ and ‘e’ blue, inklude (include)
u
oo
where English uses the ‘oo’ for the same sound, or when the previous rule cannot be used moon, rooma (rumor)
  • Short vowels have a sound that is a little different than the name of the letter. Compare the short vowel sound in ‘bed’ to the long vowel sound in ‘bleed’.
  • Short vowels are always spelled with one letter, with a few exceptions:Spelling short vowels:
Short Vowel Sound Kriol Example English
a nak knock
aa (same sound as previous, only held longer) daata daughter
e ded dead
i fish fish
o choch church
u buk book

Exceptions:

Kriol Vowel Sound English
Ah short a I
-eh (at end of words) short e (as in ‘todeh’) today
ih short i he, she, it
noh short o didn’t, isn’t, doesn’t, etc.

Note that the short ‘i’ vowel at the end of a word may be written with the letter ‘i’ or ‘y’. If the related word in English is spelled with the letter ‘y’ then a ‘y’ is used in Kriol. For example in: happy, fifty, direkly (directly), doty (dirty), heby (heavy). The short ‘i’ vowel occurs at the end of many Kriol words that are not related to english words, these are spelled with the letter ‘i’, for example: hikiti (a kind of turtle), baami (a kind of bread), duki (a chart used by people who play a kind of lottery).

  • Vowel glides, sometimes called diphthongs, are two sounds that occur together. Kriol has two vowel glides, the sounds in ‘out’ and ‘beer’. Both glides have two ways of spelling them in Kriol words.

    The ‘ou’ glide, as in ‘out’ is spelled with either ‘ow’ or ‘ou’. If the related word in English is spelled with ‘ow’, and the Kriol word is pronounced the same, then the Kriol word is spelled with ‘ow’. For example: powda (powder), krowd (crowd), owl.

    In all other cases ‘ou’ is used. For example: hous (house), about, kloudz (clouds), kow (cow).

    The Kriol pronunciation of the following words, and other similar words, is quite irregular: beer, bare, clear, tear (meaning ‘to rip’, not ‘tear drops’). Two spellings have been proposed: ‘-yaa’ and ‘-ayr’. Therefore: byaa/bayr (beer/bare), klyaa/klayr (clear), tyaa/tayr (tear).

  • Nasalized vowels are vowels in which the sound comes more through the nose than the mouth. In Kriol these vowels are marked by writing ‘hn’ after the vowel. For example: waahn (want), frahn (from), kohn (come), kyaahn (can’t), sohnting (something). The letters ‘hn’ may be silent, but when followed by some words they can also be pronounced. For example: ‘pahn hihn’ (on him) the ‘hn’ would probably not be pronounced, but ‘pahn dis’ (on this) the ‘hn’ would be pronounced because the ‘n’ sound is made in the same place in the mouth as the ‘d’ sound.

For a more thorough description of the spelling rules, as well a listing of 4000 Kriol words, purchase the “Belize Kriol Glassary an Spellin Gide”. It is sold in bookstores in Belize.