Northern East Cree has seven vowels, and Southern East Cree has eight. Each of the vowels can be pronounced in several slightly different ways. The various ways of pronouncing each vowel are listed in square brackets and IPA, and the letters that represent each vowel are shown afterwards. The vowels are grouped into two categories, TENSE (or long) and LAX (or short), for reasons to be explained later.
- Tense vowels are also called long vowels.
- Lax vowels are also called short vowels. See the vowel listening practice page for more examples.
|II or Î [ i, i: ]||ᒌᔥᐴ||chiishpuu||chiish – puu||[ ˈtʃiːʃ – pu̞ʔ ]|
|UU or Û [ u, u: ],||ᒨᔅ||muus||muus||[ ‘mu:s ]|
|AA or Â [ a, a:, æ, æ:, ɛ, ɛː]||ᑳᒄ||kaakw||kaakw||[ ‘kakʷ ]|
|WAA or WÂ [ɔ, ɔː, ɒ, ɒː ]||ᑯᑣᔥᒡ||kutwaashch||ku – twaashch||[ kʊ – ˈtɔʃtʃ ]|
|II or Î [ i, i: ]||ᓃᐲᔥ||niipiish||nii – piish||[ niː – ˈpiːʃ ]|
|E * [ e, e: ]||ᐯᔭᒄ||peyakw||pe – jakw||[ ˈpeʲkʷ ]|
|UU or Û [ u, u: ],||ᐊᔅᐱᑰᓐ||aspikuun||as – pi – kuun||[as – pɪ – ˈkʊn ]|
|AA or Â [ a, a:, æ, æ:, ɛ, ɛː]||ᐹᐦᑉ||paahp||paahp||[ ˈpahpʰ ]|
|WAA or WÂ [ɔ, ɔː, ɒ, ɒː ]||ᒥᐦᒀᐱᓐ||mihkwaapin||mih – kwaa – pin||[ mɪʰ – ˈkɔ – pɪn ]|
* Tense/long E is spelled E and not EE or Ê.
|I [ ɪ, ɨ, ə ]||ᓂᔅᒃ||nisk||nisk||[ˈnɪskʰ ]|
|U [ ʊ ]||ᐅᑎᐦᑉ||utihp||utihp||[ˈʊːtʰpʰ ]|
|A [ ɪ, ɛ, ɨ, ə, ʌ ]||ᐊᑎᒻ||atim||a – tim||[ˈɪ – təm ]|
|I [ ɪ, ɨ, ə ]||ᒥᓯᕪ||misith||mi – sith||[ mɪ – ˈsɪtʰ ]|
|U [ ʊ ]||ᑯᒋᔥᑕ||kuchishta||ku – chishta||[ kʊ – ˈtʃtɛʰ]|
|A [ ɪ, ɛ, ɨ, ə, ʌ ]||ᓴᒋᒣᐤ||sachimeu||sa – chi – meu||[ sə – tʃɪ – ˈmɛw ]|
Tense and lax
‘Tense’ and ‘lax’ are names for describing a difference in how vowels sound. They describe the difference between the tense [ i ] sound in ᒌᔥᐴchiishpuu and the lax [ ɪ ] sound in ᓂᔅᒃ nisk, for example.
The difference between tense and lax vowels is important in East Cree. For example tense vowels are more prone to be accented than lax vowels. Other reasons are that:
- Tense vowels are always pronounced.
- Lax vowels are sometimes pronounced and sometimes silent.
|Lax vowels are pronounced||Lax vowels are not pronounced|
|ᓂᔥᑎᒥᑎᓂᐤ||nishtimitiniu||[ nɪʃ – tʊm – ˈtɪ – nəw ]||[ nʃ – tʊm – ˈtɪ – nəw ]|
|ᐅᐦᐱᓂᒻ||uhpinim||[ ʊh – ˈpɪn – nʊm ]||[ ɦ – ˈpɪn – nəm]|
|ᐅᑎᓂᒻ||utinim||[ ʊ – ˈtɪn – nʊm]||[ ʊ -ˈtn̩ – nʊm ]|
This also occurs in Southern East Cree but we do not currently have examples.
Long and short
In East Cree, the tense vowels often sound twice as long as the lax vowels. However, this is not always the case: tense vowels can also sound about as short in duration as lax vowels. Examples are provided in the page on tense vowels.
Lax vowels do not usually sound as long as tense vowels. However, lax vowels can sound long. One example of this in Northern East Cree is ᐅᑎᐦᑉ utihp.
What am I hearing?
East Cree vowels can sound ‘in between’ to your ear. A good example in Northern East Cree is the vowel in ᓲᑉ suup: does it sound more like soup, more like soap, or in between?
For more information
East Cree vowel sounds are described in detail in the following pages:
- Tense vowels (II or Î, E, UU or Û, AA or Â)
- Lax vowels (I, U, A)
- How to pronounce letter combinations like WAA, UW, etc.
- Linguistic guide to hearing East Cree vowels
- Vowel listening practice
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