Methodology

The data that forms the basis for this website include sound recordings of Northern and Southern East Cree speakers, as well as acoustic analyses. Some of the data used for this website come from the sound recordings that accompany the Cree Conversation manual. However, most of the data are from recordings of word lists read aloud by Cree speakers. The speakers were asked to repeat each word three times. Transcriptions were based on observations of at least one of the three repetitions of each word.

This methodology produces a type of speech known as ‘reading register’, which is the way someone pronounces words when reading. One common characteristic of the reading register is exaggerated, slower speech. This methodology also produces words in isolation (words pronounced all by themselves). When words are pronounced in isolation, they often sound different than when they are pronounced with other words in a sentence. For example, in East Cree, words in isolation often end with a glottal stop (a catch in the throat). The listener should be aware, then, that the words used as examples in this website might sound slightly different when they are pronounced in a sentence.

Acoustic analysis was used to identify phonetic details that were difficult to judge by ear. For example, in the pages where P, T, K, B, D, G are described, the categorization of these sounds as voiced or aspirated was based on acoustic measurements. The measurements were done with Praat software.

The vowel sounds in East Cree have a greater range of pronunciations than do English vowels. For example, A can sound like the I in PIT, like the A in ABOUT or like the U in HUM. Our transcriptions do not reflect the actual range of pronunciations — we use fewer letters than pronunciations. We invite the reader to listen attentively to the sound files, and note the actual range of pronunciations.

Similarly, the consonants of East Cree have a greater range of pronunciations than do English consonants. For example, P can sound like the P in PEN, or like the B in BEN. Without doing individual acoustic measurements, it is difficult to identify the exact pronunciation of such consonants. For this reason, we use a restricted range of letters to transcribe East Cree consonants. For example, we transcribe both the P and B sounds with the letter P.

This description is based on the consistent recording of a few speakers mostly from the communities of Chisasibi, Waskaganish and Mistissini. There is more variation in pronunciation that remains to be described.

Miscellaneous notes about transcription

  • The East Cree words were transcribed into IPA by a linguist with experience in transcription, but not a speaker of East Cree. Ten percent of the transcriptions were checked by an independent researcher, an East Cree speaker familiar with IPA conventions, and adjustments were made where systematic errors occurred.
  • We transcribe the letter Y as [ j ], following the IPA convention rather than the North American convention. In IPA, [y] stands for a vowel sound, not a glide.
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