Consonant Clusters

(Note: Northern East Cree examples are used on this page.)

CONSONANT CLUSTERS consist of more than one consonant in a row. When talking about consonant clusters, we need to distinguish between consonant sounds and consonant letters.

  • Sometimes an audible consonant cluster is also spelled like a cluster. For example, the cluster [ sk ] is spelled with two consonant letters, SK, as in ᒋᓵᔮᔅᑯᓂbᐃᓯᒻ Click here to hear this word chisaayaaskunibisim.
  • Sometimes an audible consonant cluster is not spelled like a cluster. For example, in the word ᑎᐦᑳᐤ Click here to hear this word tihkaau, the cluster [ tʰk ] is spelled as TIHK.
  • Sometimes a single consonant sound is spelled with two consonant letters. For example, [ ʃ ] is spelled with two letters, SH, even though it is one sound, as in ᔒᔒᑉ Click here to hear this word shiishiip.

All three cases are described below.

Consonant clusters that are audible, and also spelled as clusters

Consonant clusters that you can both hear and see in the spelling include:

Consonant clusters that are audible, but not spelled as clusters

Some consonant clusters are not spelled like clusters, even though you can hear a cluster.

  • For example, although there are no consonant clusters in the spelling of the word ᒫᒫᐱᓱᓐ Click here to hear this word maamaapisun, the word is pronounced as [ ma – ‘map – sʊn ]; the [ ps ] cluster is spelled as PIS.

Such clusters happen when vowels are silent, or when the letters I, U, or A are silent. See the page on clusters resulting from silent vowels for details.

Single consonants which are spelled with two consonant letters

Finally, sometimes you will see clusters in the spelling of a word, but you will not hear a consonant cluster.

  • For example, although there is a spelled consonant cluster, PW, at the beginning of the word ᑆᓂᔥ Click here to hear this word pwaanish, you can only hear a single [ p ], not a [ pw ] cluster. The letter W is silent in many clusters spelled with W, including KW, TW, SHW, etc.
  • Similarly SH is spelled like a consonant cluster, but it stands for a single [ ʃ ] sound, as in ᔒᔒᑉ Click here to hear this word shiishiip.
  • Finally, CH is spelled like a consonant cluster, but it most often stands for a single sound, either [ tʃ ] or [ dʒ ], as in ᒑᑭᑦ Click here to hear this word chaakit.

Actual (audible) clusters are described on the next few pages. The relevant pages are: