Some pronunciations of Maine town and place names are not obvious from the spelling. The Encyclopedia has chosen a simple guide to assist users.
This Guide was designed by the Voice of America radio and television service for its ease of use. It does not use diacritical marks or symbols. While it is far simpler to use than the International Phonetic Alphabet system, it is not as sophisticated in the number and types of sounds it describes. Since there are fewer rules to follow, a large dose of common sense is necessary when using it.
But there are a few rules …
- The syllable(s) to be stressed is in CAPITAL LETTERS and bold type. For example, “skow-HEE-gihn” for Skowhegan.
- The letter “h” is used after vowels to indicate the short vowel sound.
- ah …as in “arm”
- eh …as in “get”
- ih …as in “it”
- uh …as in “up”
The short “o” sound does not follow this rule. Its sound is often spelled out, such as the “muh” sound in “mother
- Long vowel sounds may be indicated by two or more of the vowel letters. “Decent” for example, would be “DEE-seh-nt.”
- The double “o”, however, takes the sound of “tooth.”
- Diphthongs are often indicated by the addition of a “y” following the vowel. The souns of a diphthong are, for example, “ou” in “out,” and “oy” in “boy.”
- Long “o” sounds are usually incorporated within a short, easily recognized word. Since it often includes an innate diphthong, the long “o” in Mohammed, for example, would be shown as “mow-HAH-mehd”; “mow” as in “mow the lawn.”
- “K” is often substituted for “C” when the hard sound is needed.
- “ss” or “sss” means to use a hissing sound, rather than the “z” sound many Americans use on the end of words.
- Where there is still the possibility of confusion, a brief note will follow the pronunciation.