Diphthongs

Diphthongs are combinations of an East Cree vowel with a glide such as W or Y. In the orthography, the glide can come before or after the vowel.

On this page, we discuss what the vowel combinations sound like. However, this description starts off with the roman spelling system; that is, we describe how each particular spelling is pronounced. (In contrast, on the other vowel pages, the main focus was on the pronunciation, not on the spelling.)

East Cree diphthongs sometimes sound just the way they are spelled. However, there are some notable exceptions like IWI, UWI, WAA, and WAAU. To find out more about the pronunciation of each vowel combination, refer to the following list.

AI, AU, AY, IU, IW, IWI, IY, UI, UYIU, UW, UWI, UY, WAA, WAAU, WI, YI, YIU, YU

AI

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AAI sounds almost like the [ aj ] in hi. Notice that the letter I spelling stands for a [ j ] sound in this case.

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒎᓛᐃᐲᓯᒻ Click here to hear this word chuulaaipiisim chuu – laai – pii – sim  
ᐅᑖᐃᑯᒻᐦ Click here to hear this word utaaikumh u – taai – kumh  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᒌᔥᑳᐃᐙᐤ Click here to hear this word chiishkaaiwaau chiish – kaai – wau  
ᐲᓵᐃᐦᑯᓈᐤ Click here to hear this word piisaaihkunaau pii – saaih – ku – naau  
         

AU and AAU

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AU and AAU sound almost like the [ aw ] in how. Notice that the letter U spelling stands for a [ w ] sound in this case.

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒋᔅᐱᑳᐤ Click here to hear this word chispikaau chispi – kaau  
ᐃᔮᔫᐦᐊᐤ Click here to hear this word iyaayuuhau iyaa – yuu – hau  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᑯᑖᐤ Click here to hear this word akutaau a – ku – taau  
ᓀᐅᒌᔑᑳᐤ Click here to hear this word neuchiishikaau neu – chii – shi – kaau  
         

AY

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AAY sounds just like AAI [ aj ]. In contrast, AYI (at the beginning of the word) sounds like [ ɪjɪ ].

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐹᔨᒄ Click here to hear this word paayikw paayikw  
ᐃᔮᔫᐦᐊᐤ Click here to hear this word iyaayuuhau i – yaa – yuu – hau  
ᒋᓵᔮᔅᑯᓂᐱᓯᒻ Click here to hear this word chisaayaaskunipisim * chisaayaa – skuni – pi – sim  
ᐊᔨᒥᐙᑭᓐ Click here to hear this word ayimiwaakin ** ayimi – waa – kin  

* Here, AAYAA sounds closer to [ ɛːjɛː ] as in the English phrase ‘a yes’.
**AYI sounds like [ ɪjɪ ] at the beginning of the word. Short A normally sounds like [ ɪ ] at the beginning of the word, and YI normally sounds like [ jɪ ] or [ ji ].

Southern Syllables IPA
ᐃᔮᔨᐐᐤ Click here to hear this word iyaayiwiiu i – yaayi – wiiu  
ᓂᔮᔨᓐ Click here to hear this word niyaayin ni – yaayin  
ᑕᐦᑳᔮᐤ Click here to hear this word tahkaayaau tah – kaayaau  

IU

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In general, IU sounds like a long [ uː ] or [ u̞ː ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐋᐦᑯᓯᐤ Click here to hear this word aahkusiu aahku – siu  
ᒋᐦᒋᐐᐅᓈᓂᐤ Click here to hear this word chihchiwiiunaaniu chihchi – wiiu – naa -niu  
ᑳᐦᑳᒋᐤ Click here to hear this word kaahkaachiu kaah – kaa – chiu  
ᐃᔨᑭᔅᒋᓰᐤ Click here to hear this word iyikischisiiu * i – yikis – chisiiu  

* In this example, IIU sounds like a short U.

Southern Syllables IPA
ᐲᐦᒋᐸᔨᐅᔮᓐ Click here to hear this word piihchipayiuyaan piih – chi – pa – yiu – yaan  
         
         

However, in the next examples, IY-IU sounds like [ i – ju ]. (Also see IY and YI. )

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒋᐦᒋᐱᔨᐤ Click here to hear this word chihchipiyiu chihchi – pi – yiu  
ᐱᒥᐱᔨᐅᑭᒥᒄ Click here to hear this word pimipiyiukimikw pimi – piyiu – kimikw  
Southern Syllables IPA
    NO EXAMPLE    
     This dialect does not spell words -iyiu    
     It uses –iyuu.    

In the middle of the word, IIU sounds like [ i ] followed by [ u ], or like [ i ] followed by [ ju ]. It can be difficult to hear the [ j ] sound.

Northern Syllables IPA
ᓂᐲᐅᐦᓂᒻ Click here to hear this word nipiiuhnim ni – piiuh – nim  
ᒋᐦᒋᐐᐅᓈᓂᐤ Click here to hear this word chihchiwiiunaaniu chihchi – wiiu – naa – niu  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐋᐦᑯᓰᐅᑲᒥᒄ Click here to hear this word aahkusiiukamikw aahku – siiu – ka-mikw  
ᓈᒌᐅᔥᑕᒻ Click here to hear this word naachiiushtam naa – chiiush – tam  
         

In the next example, U-YI-U sounds like [ u – i – juː ] (Also see IY and YI. )

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐊᔥᑐᔨᐅᑭᒥᒄ Click here to hear this word ashtuyiukimikw ash – tuyiu – kimikw  
Southern Syllables IPA
    NO EXAMPLE    
         
         

IW

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In general, IW sounds like [ ɪw ], [ ɨw ], or [ əw ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐊᔨᒥᐙᑭᓐ Click here to hear this word ayimiwaakin ayimiwaa – kin  
ᒫᑎᐙᐎᓐᐦ Click here to hear this word maatiwaawinh maa – tiwaa – winh  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐳᐃᐌᔥ Click here to hear this word puiwesh puiwesh  
ᐃᐙᐳᐌᐤ Click here to hear this word iwaapuweu iwaapu – weu  
         

IIW sounds like [ iːw ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒌᐙᑎᓐ Click here to hear this word chiiwaatin chiiwaa – tin  
ᒥᐦᒌᐙᓯᐤ Click here to hear this word mihchiiwaasiu mih – chii – waa – siu  
ᐅᔥᑎᒀᓂᐲᐐᐦ Click here to hear this word ushtikwaanipiiwiih * ush – ti – kwaani – pii – wiih  

* Note that IIWII sounds different from IIWI, as explained in the next example.

Southern Syllables IPA
ᒌᐌᑎᓐ Click here to hear this word chiiwetin chiiwe – tin  
ᔒᐌᔫ Click here to hear this word shiiweyuu shiiwe – yuu  
         

However, IIWI sounds like [ iu ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐲᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word piiwin * piiwin  

* Also see IWI.

Southern Syllables IPA
    NO EXAMPLE    
         
         

IWI

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In general, IWI sounds like [ uː ] or [ uʷən ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᓃᔓᑳᐱᐎᓈᓂᐤ Click here to hear this word niishukaapiwinaaniu niishu – kaa – piwi – naa – niu  
ᑖᐦᑎᐱᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word taahtipiwin taah – ti – piwin  
Southern Syllables IPA
    NO EXAMPLE    
         
         

IY

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In general, IY and IIY sound like [ ij ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐃᔮᔑᐦᑦ Click here to hear this word iyaashiht iyaashiht  
ᐄᔮᐦᑎᒄ Click here to hear this word iiyaahtikw ii – yaah – tikw  
ᐃᔮᔫᐦᐊᐤ Click here to hear this word iyaayuuhau iyaa – yuu – hau  
ᐱᔮᐤ Click here to hear this word piyaau piyaau  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐄᔮᐦᑎᒄ Click here to hear this word iiyaahtikw iiyaah – tikw  
ᐄᔨᒥᓐᐦ Click here to hear this word iiyiminh iiyi – minh  
ᐊᑯᔨᔦᐤ Click here to hear this word akuyiyeu a – kuyiyeu  

However, unaccented IY can sound about as short as a [ j ] sound:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᓂᔮᔪᔖᑉ Click here to hear this word niyaayushaap * niyaayu – shaap  

* NIY sounds closer to [ nj ].

Southern Syllables IPA
ᓂᔮᓈᓀᐤ Click here to hear this word niyaanaaneu niyaa – naa – neu  
         
         

UI

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UI sounds like [ ʊj ], (similar to how some English speakers say the vowel sound in buoy):

Northern Syllables IPA
ᓂᔅᑳᐳᐃ Click here to hear this word niskaapui nis – kaa – pui  
ᐳᐃᐙᔑᔥ Click here to hear this word puiwaashish pui – waashish  
ᑯᐃᐦᑯᐦᐋᒑᐤ Click here to hear this word kuihkuhaachaau * kuih – kuhaa – chaau  
ᐊᒥᔅᒀᔪᐃ Click here to hear this word amiskwaayui ** amis – kwaa – yui  

* Here, UIH sounds more like [ ui ].) (Also see the description of IH.
** Here, UI sounds closer to the [ ɔj ] sound in English ‘boy’.

Southern Syllables IPA
ᑯᐃᔅᒄ Click here to hear this word kuiskw kuiskw  
ᐅᔥᑴᑐᐃ Click here to hear this word ushkwetui ush – kwe – tui  
         

UY

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UUY sounds like [ uːj ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᔔᔮᓂᑭᒥᒄ Click here to hear this word shuuyaanikimikw shuuyaani – kimikw  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᒥᑰᔫ Click here to hear this word  mikuuyuu  mi – kuuyuu  
ᐸᒎᔮᓐ Click here to hear this word  pachuuyaan  pa – chuuyaan  
         

UY sounds like UI [ ʊj ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐙᐳᔮᓐ Click here to hear this word waapuyaan waa – pu – yaan  
ᑳᐃᔮᐦᑯᔨᐦᑑᑯᑖᐦᒡᐦ ᓂᐹᐎᓐᐦ Click here to hear this word kaaiyaahkuyihtuukutaahchh nipaawinh kaai – yaah – kuyih – tuu – ku – taahchh ni – paa – winh  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᑯᔦᑲᐦᐄᑲᓐ Click here to hear this word  akuyekahiikan  a – kuyeka – hii – kan  
         
         

UYIU

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UYIU can sound like [ iu ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐅᑯᔨᐤ Click here to hear this word ukuyiu u – kuyiu  
Southern Syllables IPA
    NO EXAMPLE    
         
         

Otherwise, it sounds like UY followed by IU [ ʊiju ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐊᔥᑐᔨᐅᑭᒥᒄ Click here to hear this word ashtuyiukimikw ash – tuyiu – kimikw  
Southern Syllables IPA
    NO EXAMPLE    
         
         

UW

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UW sounds like a long [ uː ], a short [ u ], or even like a super-short [ w ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐆᐎᑳᐤ Click here to hear this word uuwikaau uuwi – kaau  
ᒫᒨᐙᑭᐦᐄᑭᓐ Click here to hear this word maamuuwaakihiikin * maamuuwaaki – hii – kin  

* Here, UUW sounds more like [ uw ] or even just [ w ].

Southern Syllables IPA
ᐋᐦᑐᐌᓀᐤ Click here to hear this word  ashtuweneu  ashtuwe – neu  
ᐆᐎᑦ Click here to hear this word  uuwit  uuwit  
         

UWI

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UWI sounds like long [ uː ] or [ uwɨ ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒋᒧᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word chimuwin chi – muwin  
ᑭᔥᑯᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word kishkuwin kish – kuwin  
ᔖᑯᐦᐄᑭᓄᐎᑦ Click here to hear this word shaakuhiikinuwit shaaku – hii – ki – nuwit  
ᐋᐱᐦᑐᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word aapihtuwin aa – pih – tuwin  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐙᐱᒥᓱᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word waapimisuwin waapi – mi – suwin  
ᐊᔨᒧᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word ayimuwin a – yim – uwin  
ᒥᔅᐳᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word mispuwin mis – puwin  

WAA

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After a consonant, WAA sounds like [ ɔ ] or [ ɒ ], and sometimes you can also hear a slight W right before the vowel sound.

  • The sounds [ ɔ ] and [ ɒ ] are similar to the O in a New Yorker’s pronunciation of coffee, or similar to the Received (Queen’s English) Pronunciation of words like raw and law. To make this sound, make an ‘aaaaah’ sound and simultaneously round your lips (as you would do in order to say an ‘oooh’ sound.)

Examples include:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐊᒥᔅᒀᐹᐙᐤ Click here to hear this word amiskwaapaawaau amis – kwaa – paa – waau  
ᐊᒥᔅᒀᔪᐃ Click here to hear this word amiskwaayui amis – kwaa – yui  
ᐊᑆᓂᔥ Click here to hear this word apwaanish a – pwaa – nish  
ᒸᒄ Click here to hear this word mwaakw mwaakw  
ᓃᔂᓱᒻᑎᓂᐤ Click here to hear this word niiswaasumtiniu nii – swaa – sum – ti – niu  
ᒋᔣᑖᓐ Click here to hear this word chishwaataan chishwaa – taan  
ᑳᒋᓍᒡ Click here to hear this word kaachinwaach kaa – chi – nwaach  
ᑯᑣᔥᒡ Click here to hear this word kutwaashch ku – twaashch  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᐦᑎᒀᐴ Click here to hear this word ahtikwaapuu ah – tik – waa – puu  
ᒸᒄ Click here to hear this word mwaakw mwaakw  
ᓴᑲᑆᓐ Click here to hear this word sakapwaan sa – kaa – pwaan  

In contrast, after a vowel, WAA sounds like [ waː ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐊᐙᓐ ᐋ ᑎᐱᔥᑭᐦᒃ Click here to hear this word awaan aa tipishkihk a – waan aa tipish – kihk  
ᒌᐙᑎᓐ Click here to hear this word chiiwaatin chii – waa – tin  
ᒋᔥᑖᐹᐐᐙᑭᓐ Click here to hear this word chishtaapaawiiwaakin chishtaa-paa-wii-waa-kin  
ᒫᑎᐙᐎᓐᐦ Click here to hear this word maatiwaawinh maa – ti – waa – winh  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᑲᓇᐙᐴ Click here to hear this word kanawaapuu ka – na – waa – puu  
ᒦᒋᐙᐦᑉ Click here to hear this word miichiwaahp mii – chi – waahp  
ᐅᔅᒋᓈᐯᐙᓐ Click here to hear this word uschinaapewaan us – chi – naa – pe – waan  

WAAU

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After a consonant (including Y), WAAU sounds like WAA followed by a W sound [ wɔːw ]. Note that the letter U stands for a [ w ] sound in the WAAU combination.

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒥᐦᒀᐤ Click here to hear this word mihkwaau mih – kwaau  
ᓂᔥᑣᐅᒥᑖᐦᑐᒥᑎᓂᐤ Click here to hear this word nishtwaaumitaahtumitiniu nish – twaaumi – taah – tumi – ti – niu  
ᐹᔂᐤ Click here to hear this word paaswaau paa – swaau  
ᓂᔮᔻᐅᒥᑖᐦᑐᒥᑎᓂᐤ Click here to hear this word niyaaywaaumitaahtumitiniu niyaa – ywaaumi – taah – tumi – ti – niu  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐹᐦᒀᐤ Click here to hear this word paahkwaau paah – kwaau  
ᐲᐦᑣᐅᐴ Click here to hear this word piihtwaaupuu piih – twaau – puu  
ᐅᐱᔻᐅᒥᓐᐦ Click here to hear this word upiywaauminh u – piy – waau – minh  

In contrast, after a vowel, WAAU sounds similar to English wow or woah [ wɔːw ]. Note that the letter U stands for a [ w ] sound in the WAAU combination.

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐊᒥᔅᒀᐹᐙᐤ Click here to hear this word amiskwaapaawaau amis – kwaa – paa – waau  
ᒥᒫᓃᐙᐤ Click here to hear this word mimaaniiwaau mi – maa – nii – waau  
ᓂᑐᐦᑎᐙᐤ Click here to hear this word nituhtiwaau ni – tuh – ti – waau  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐅᓵᐙᐤ Click here to hear this word usaawaau u – saa – waau  
ᒌᔥᑳᐃᐙ Click here to hear this word chiishkaaiwaau chiish – kaai – waau  
ᒥᔥᑯᐙᐤ Click here to hear this word mishkuwaau mishku – waau  

WI

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WII sounds like [ wiː ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐐᐐᑎᒫ Click here to hear this word wiiwiitimaa wiiwiiti – maa  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᐌᓐ ᐌᔨᐐᑦ Click here to hear this word awen weyiwiit a – wen weyi – wiit  
ᑳᐐᐸᓯᑦ Click here to hear this word kaa wiipasit kaa wiipasit  
         

WI sounds like [ wɪ ] or [ wə ] at the beginning of the word:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐎᒋᐦᐄᐙᐤ Click here to hear this word wichihiiwaau wichi – hii – waau  
ᐎᒋᔥᒄ Click here to hear this word wichishkw wichishkw  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᓵᒋᐦᐄᐌᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word saachihiiwewin saa – chihii – we – win  
ᐎᔥᐱᒥᐦᑖᑲᐦᒡ Click here to hear this word wishpimihtaakahch wish – pimih – taakahch  
         

Otherwise, WI has various pronunciations:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᒫᑎᐙᐎᓐᐦ Click here to hear this word maatiwaawinh [ wɪ ] maa – ti – waa – winh  
ᐲᐎᓐ Click here to hear this word piiwin * piiwin  
ᐆᐎᑳᐤ Click here to hear this word uuwikaau ** uuwi – kaau  

* IIWI sounds like [ iu ]; also see IWI.
** WI sounds like a very short [ w ] sound. Also see UW.

Southern Syllables IPA
ᒋᒨᐎ Click here to hear this word chimuuwin chi – muuwin  
         
         

YI

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In general YI sounds like [ i ] or [ ji ]. (The [ j ] sound can be hard to hear.)

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐹᔨᒄ Click here to hear this word paayikw paayikw  
ᐋᔮᔨᐦᑎᑳᒡ Click here to hear this word aayaayihtikaach aa – yaayih – ti – kaach  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᔨᒨ Click here to hear this word ayimuu a – yi – muu  
ᒥᑐᐦᑯᔨᓐ Click here to hear this word nituhkuyin ni – tuhku – yin  
ᐄᔨᒥᓐᐦ Click here to hear this word iiyiminh ii – yi – minh    

YIY can sound like a long [ jj ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐅᑖᔨᔩ Click here to hear this word utaayiyii u – taa – yiyii  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᑯᔨᔦᐤ Click here to hear this word akuyiyeu aku – yi – yeu  
ᓂᑑᐸᔨᔫ Click here to hear this word nituupayiyuu ni – tuu – payi – yuu  
         

YIU

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YIU sounds like [ juː ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐊᔥᑐᔨᐅᑭᒥᒄ Click here to hear this word ashtuyiukimikw * ash – tu – yiu – kimikw  
ᒋᐦᒋᐱᔨᐤ Click here to hear this word chihchipiyiu ** chihchi – pi – yiu  

* See UYIU.
** See IY and IU.

Southern Syllables IPA
ᐲᐦᒋᐸᔨᐅᔮᓐ Click here to hear this word piihchipayiuyaan piih – chi – pa – yiu – yaan  
         
         

YU

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YUU and YU both sound like [ juː ] or [ ju ]:

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐃᔮᔫᐦᐊᐤ Click here to hear this word iyaayuuhau i – yaa – yuu – hau  
ᓰᐹᒋᐱᔫᑯᐦᑉ Click here to hear this word siipaachipiyuukuhp sii – paa – chi – pi – yuu – kuhp  
ᔫᑎᓐ Click here to hear this word yuutin yuu – tin  
ᒥᔪᔑᒥᐤ Click here to hear this word miyushimiu mi – yu – shi – miu  
ᓂᔮᔪᔖᑉ Click here to hear this word niyaayushaap niyaayu – shaap  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐊᔫᒥᓂᒡ Click here to hear this word ayuuminich a – yuu – minich  
ᔪᔅᑲᐤ Click here to hear this word yuskau yus – kau  
ᒥᔪᑲᒨ Click here to hear this word miyuskamuu miyus – ka – muu  

However, when YU is at the end of the word, the U is silent. (Also see silent vowels.)

Northern Syllables IPA
ᓂᔮᔪ Click here to hear this word niyaayu ni – yaayu  
Southern Syllables IPA
    NO EXAMPLE    
         
         

Finally, YUI sounds like Y followed by UI [ jʊi ]

Northern Syllables IPA
ᐊᒥᔅᒀᔪᐃ Click here to hear this word amiskwaayui amis – kwaa – yui  
Southern Syllables IPA
ᐃᔨᔪᐄᐦᑑ Click here to hear this word iyiyuiihtuu iyiyuiih – tuu  
         
         
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