East Cree Vowels

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.
Northern Word Syllables IPA
II or Î [ i, i: ] ᒌᔥᐴ Click here to hear this word chiishpuu chiish – puu [ ˈtʃʃ - pu̞ʔ ]
UU or Û [ u, u: ], ᒨᔅ Click here to hear this word muus muus [ 'mu:s ]
AA or  [ a, a:, æ, æ:, ɛ, ɛː] ᑳᒄ Click here to hear this word kaakw kaakw [ 'kakʷ ]
WAA or [ɔ, ɔː, ɒ, ɒː ] ᑯᑣᔥᒡ Click here to hear this word kutwaashch ku – twaashch [ kʊ - ˈtɔʃtʃ ]
Southern Word Syllables IPA
II or Î [ i, i: ] ᓃᐲᔥ Click here to hear this word niipiish nii – piish  [ niː - ˈpiːʃ ]
E * [ e, e: ] ᐯᔭᒄ Click here to hear this word peyakw pe – jakw  [ ˈpeʲkʷ ]
UU or Û [ u, u: ], ᐊᔅᐱᑰᓐ Click here to hear this word aspikuun as – pi – kuun  [as - pɪ - ˈkʊn ]
AA or  [ a, a:, æ, æ:, ɛ, ɛː] ᐹᐦᑉ Click here to hear this word paahp paahp   [ ˈpahpʰ ]
WAA or [ɔ, ɔː, ɒ, ɒː ] ᒥᐦᒀᐱᓐ Click here to hear this word mihkwaapin mih – kwaa – pin  [ mɪʰ - ˈkɔ - pɪn ]

* Tense/long E is spelled E and not EE or Ê.

Northern Word Syllables IPA
I [ ɪ, ɨ, ə ] ᓂᔅᒃ Click here to hear this word nisk nisk [ˈnɪskʰ ]
U [ ʊ ] ᐅᑎᐦᑉ Click here to hear this word utihp utihp ʊːtʰpʰ ]
A [ ɪ, ɛ, ɨ, ə, ʌ ] ᐊᑎᒻ Click here to hear this word atim a – tim ɪ - təm ]
Southern Word Syllables IPA
I [ ɪ, ɨ, ə ] ᒥᓯᕪ Click here to hear this word misith mi – sith  [ mɪ - ˈsɪtʰ ]
U [ ʊ ] ᑯᒋᔥᑕ Click here to hear this word kuchishta ku – chishta  [ kʊ - ˈtʃtɛʰ]
A [ ɪ, ɛ, ɨ, ə, ʌ ] ᓴᒋᒣᐤ Click here to hear this word 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
Northern IPA IPA
ᓂᔥᑎᒥᑎᓂᐤ nishtimitiniu Click here to hear this word  [ nɪʃ - tʊm - ˈtɪ - nəw ] Click here to hear this word  [ nʃ - tʊm - ˈtɪ - nəw ]
ᐅᐦᐱᓂᒻ uhpinim Click here to hear this word  [ ʊh - ˈpɪn - nʊm ] Click here to hear this word  [ ɦ - ˈpɪn - nəm]
ᐅᑎᓂᒻ utinim Click here to hear this word  [ ʊ - ˈtɪn - nʊm] Click here to hear this word  [ 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 Click here to hear this word 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 Click here to hear this word 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:

Click here to go back to Glides/ Back to Glides Click here to go to the top/ Top Click here to go to Tense Vowels/ Next: Tense Vowels