H sounds

Introduction

East Cree H can be confusing because in some cases an H in the spelling cannot be heard, and in other cases an [h] sound can be heard where there is no H in the spelling. Below are some general rules for East Cree help explain the letter H and the [h] sound.

H is spelled but not heard

Sometimes you will see an H in the spelling, but will not hear it. This can happen when H comes before a consonant, or when it falls at the end of a word.

H before a consonant

When H occurs before a consonant, as in HP, HT, HK, HSH and HCH, it is not always pronounced. In some cases, a lax vowel followed by an H sounds like a tense vowel, as illustrated in some of the following sound clips.

UH sounds like lax U

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐅᐦᐱᔥᑰᐲᓯᒻ Click here to hear this word uhpishkuupiisim uhpish – kuu – pii – sim  [ upʃ – kuː – ˈpiː – sʊm ]
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐅᐦᑯᒥᓵᐦ Click here to hear this word uhkumisaah uh – kumisaah

UH sounds like tense UU

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐅᑯᐦᑎᔥᑯᐃ Click here to hear this word ukuhtishkui u – kuhtish – kui [ u – ˈkʊtʃ – kʊj ]
ᐅᑐᐦᑎᐦᑯᐦᓲᐦ Click here to hear this word utuhtihkuhsuuh u – tuh – tihkuh – suuh  [ u – tuː – tʊkʰ – ˈsuʰ ]
ᓂᐲᐅᐦᓂᒻ Click here to hear this word nipiiuhnim ni – pii – uh – nim  [ nɪ – pi – ˈuː – nʊm ]
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐅᐦᐱᓯᑲᓐ Click here to hear this word uhpisikan uhpi – si – kan  [ uːp – ˈsɪ – kɪn ]

MIH sounds like M; NIH sounds like N

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐅᓂᒥᐦᒌᐅᓂᐦᒡ Click here to hear this word unimihchiiunihch u – nimih – chii – unihch  [ u – nɪm – tʃi – ˈʊntʃ ]
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐄᔨᒥᓂᐦᒡ Click here to hear this word iiyiminihch ii – yi – minihch  [ i – jɪ – ˈmɪntʃ ]

IH sounds like tense II

Northern Syllables IPA
ᑯᐃᐦᑯᐦᐋᒑᐤ Click here to hear this word kuihkuhaachaau kuihku – haa – chaau [ kuikʰˈ – ha – tʃaw ]
Southern Syllables IPA
ᑳᐱᐦᑑᒥᓂᔔᑦ Click here to hear this word kaapihtuuminishuut kaa – pih – tuu – mini – shuut  [ ka – piːʰ – tuː – mɪn – ˈʃuːtʰ]

IH sounds like lax I

Northern Syllables IPA
ᓯᐦᑯᔅ Click here to hear this word sihkus sih – kus  [ ˈsɪkʷs ]
ᑎᐦᑯᐦᒡ Click here to hear this word tihkuhch * tihkuhch  [ ˈtɪːkʷtʃ ]

* The sound in this word is longer in duration than normal.

Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᔅᒋᒄ Click here to hear this word aschihkw as – chihkw [a̘s – ˈtʃɪkʷ]

There are fewer changes in vowel tenseness or laxness when a tense vowel is followed by a spelled H and a consonant. The vowel sounds tense, and the H is not often pronounced.

WAAH sounds like WAA

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐃᔥᒀᐦᑖᒻ Click here to hear this word ishkwaahtaam ish – kwaahtaam [ iʃ – ˈkɔʰ tam]
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᔓᐦᐄᒉᐙᐦᑎᒄ Click here to hear this word ashuhiichewaahtikw ashu – hii – che – waah – tikw [aʃʷ – hiː – tʃɛ̞ː – ˈwaːh – tʊkʰ]

AAH sounds like AA with a slight [ ʰ ] sound

Northern Syllables IPA
ᑖᐦᑎᐱᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word taahtipiwin taah – ti – piwin  [ taʰ – tɪ – ˈpuən ]
Southern Syllables IPA
ᒪᓯᓇᐦᐄᑲᓈᐦᑎᒄ Click here to hear this word masinahiikanaahtikw ma – sina – hii – ka – naah – tikw  [ mə – sɪn – hɪ – kə – ˈnaːʰ – tʊkʰ ]
ᐊᓵᐙᐦᒋᑲᓐᐦ Click here to hear this word asaawaahchikanh a – saa – waah – chi – kanh [a̘ – saː – waːʰ – tʃɪ – ˈkɪnʰ]

AAH sounds like AA

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐋᐦᑯᓯᐤ Click here to hear this word aahkusiu aahku – siu [ akʷ – suʰ ]*
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐋᐦᒋᔅᑖ Click here to hear this word aahchistaa aah – chistaa [ aː – ˈtʃtaʰ]

IIH sounds like II

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐲᐦᒋᒑᒥᑭᓐ Click here to hear this word piihchichaamikin piih – chichaami – kin [ piː – ˈtsam – kɪn ]
ᐐᐦᒥᐦᒀᔑᐤ Click here to hear this word wiihmihkwaashiu wiihmih – kwaa – shiu  [ wiːmʰ – ˈkɔ – ʃuʔ ]
ᐐᐦᐱᒋᔥᑭᓈᔑᐤ Click here to hear this word wiihpichishkinaashiu wiih-pi – chishki – naa – shiu  [ wiː – pɪtʃ – kɪ – ˈna – ʃuʔ]
Southern Syllables IPA
ᒪᔥᑯᔒᐦᑲᓐ Click here to hear this word mashkushiihkan mash – ku – shiih – kan  [ məʃ – ˈkʷʃiː – kan]

IIH sounds like IIH

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐎᔨᐐᐦ Click here to hear this word wiyiwiih wiyi – wiih
ᐐᐦᐹᔅᒄ Click here to hear this word wiihpaaskw wiih – paaskw
Southern Syllables IPA
ᑲᒌᐦᒉᔮᐤ Click here to hear this word kachiihcheyaau ka – chiih – che – yaau   [ka – tʃiːh – tʃɛ – jaw]
ᑳᓰᐦᒀᓐ Click here to hear this word kaasiihkwaan kaa – siih – kwaan  [ka – ˈsiːh – kɔn ]


H endings

H is spelled when it is a grammatical ending. H can signify the plural form and also the obviative form.

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐊᓯᓃ Click here to hear this word asinii asi – nii   [ ˈʰsɪ – niːʔ]
ᐊᓯᓃᐦ Click here to hear this word asiniih asi – niih  [ ʰsɪ – ˈniːh]
Southern Syllables IPA
ᒉᒋᑯᓐ Click here to hear this word chechikun che – chi – kun  [ tʃe – tʃɪ – ˈkʊn]
ᒉᒋᑯᓐᐦ Click here to hear this word chechikunh che – chi – kunh  [ tʃe – tʃɪ – ˈkʊnh]

However, you cannot always hear the final H. For example, you cannot hear it in the Northern East Cree word, ATIMH in the following sentence, even though the H is required to indicate the obviative. It sounds exactly like the same word without the ending.

Northern
ᐊᑎᒻᐦ ᒋᐐᒑᐙᐤ ᑳᐱᒧᐦᑖᑦ Click here to hear this word atimh chiwiichaawaau kaapimuhtaat [ ɪ – ˈtʊm … ] ‘she was walking with the dog.’
ᐊᑎᒻ Click here to hear this word atim   [ ˈɪ – tʊm ]

Words with an H ending are always accented on the last vowel. In the example sentence above, ATIMH is accented on the last vowel; in contrast, when the word ATIM is by itself, the accent is on the first vowel. The combination of final accent and an -H ending in ATIMH signals a difference in meaning from the word ATIM. It is this combination that allows the pronunciation of the H to be optional; this also explains why the spelling contains the H. For more information, see the page on accent.

H is heard but not spelled

Often, you can hear an H in words which have no H in the spelling. This happens to words in isolation (that is, words that are pronounced by themselves), and to words in sentences. The H in such cases carries no meaning.

Words in isolation

When words are pronounced by themselves (i.e., not in a sentence), speakers often add an H sound to the end of the word. This type of H does not add any meaning to the word, and it does not co-occur with final accent. Because it carries no meaning, this type of H is not spelled. An H sound that is not spelled is particularly obvious with words ending with vowels; listen for the H sound at the end of the following words:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐃᔮᔫᐦᐊᐤ Click here to hear this word iyaayuuhau iyaa – yuu – hau  [ i – ja – ˈju – hawʰ]
ᑳᐦᑳᒋᐤ Click here to hear this word kaahkaachiu kaah – kaa – chiu  [ kah – ˈka – tsuʰ ]
Click here to hear this word tii * tii [ ti:ʔh ]

* Notice that a glottal stop (sounds like a catch in the throat) can be heard immediately before the final H sound.

Southern Syllables IPA
ᐋᐦᒋᔅᑖ Click here to hear this word aahchistaa aah – chistaa [ aː – ˈtʃtaʰ]

Words in sentences

In sentences, speakers will sometimes add an H sound between words. This often happens when a word ending with a vowel is followed by a word beginning with a vowel. This makes the pronunciation easier. The H does not add anything to the meaning. Because it has no meaning, this type of H is often not spelled.

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐋ ᐋᔨᒋᐦᐄᐙᓄᐎᒡ Click here to hear this word aa aayichihiiwaanuwich aa aa – yi – chihii – waa – nuwich  [ a ha – jɪ – tʃiː – wa – ˈnuətʃ]