You will normally hear one accent per word in East Cree. In order to hear accent in East Cree, you should be listening for a combination of pitch and loudness, but not length.
- An example of pitch is the difference between [ do ] and [ re ] in the song “Doe, a deer, a female deer; Ray, a drop of golden sun…” or the difference between all the ‘words’ in the song [ do re mi fa so la ti do ].
- An example of loudness is the difference between pronouncing a vowel so quietly that only the person next to you can hear it, and pronouncing it so loudly that someone across the street can hear it.
When East Cree vowels are accented, they sound higher-pitched than any other vowel in the word. They can also sound louder, although they don’t have to. Listen carefully to the following words; the only reliable difference between each pair of words is which vowel has higher pitch:
|Non-final accent (singular)||Final accent (plural)||Translation|
|Non-final accent (singular)||Final accent (plural)||Translation||ᑲᐸᑦ||kapat||ᑲᐸᑦᐦ||kapath||cupboard, cupboards|
Accented vowels in English are different from accented vowels in East Cree in one major respect: English accented vowels are often longer in duration than unaccented ones. For example, the accented [ oʊ ] sound in below is longer than the unaccented [oʊ] sound in billow. The accented [ oʊ ] in below takes up about 6/10 of the duration of the entire word; in contrast, the unaccented [ oʊ ] sound in billow takes up only 4/10 of the duration of the entire word.
- below [ bəˈloʊ ]; word-length: 0.555 seconds; length of accented [oʊ ]: 0.338 seconds
- billow [ ˈbɪloʊ ]; word-length; 0.444 seconds; length of unaccented [oʊ ]: 0.187 seconds
In contrast, length is independent of accent (pitch/loudness) in East Cree. To illustrate, in the following examples, the accent (highest pitch) is on the first vowel, which is lax and short, not on the second vowel, which is tense and longer. For illustration, the pitch of each word has been reproduced in carrier ‘duh’ [ dʌ ] syllables .
|ᒥᑖᐦᑐ||mitaahtu||mi – taahtu||[ ˈmɪ – taːhtʰ ]|
|ᐱᔮᐤ||piyaau||pi – yaau||[ ˈpi – jaw ]|
|ᐱᔦᐤ||piyeu||pi – yeu|
|ᒥᑑᓐ||mituun||mi – tuun|
Similarly, in the next example, the accent (highest pitch) is on the last vowel, which is lax and short, not on the second-last vowel, which is tense and longer.
|ᒫᑎᐙᐎᓐᐦ||maatiwaawinh||(maa – ti – waa – winh)||[ ma – tə – wɒː – ˈwənʰ ]|
|ᑌᐦᑖᐴᐎᓐ||tehtaapuuwin||teh – taa – puu – win|
In summary, English speakers have a tendency to hear accent when vowels are longer, since vowel duration is a cue for accent in English. However, the length of East Cree vowels is independent of accent: we cannot say that accented vowels are necessarily longer than unaccented ones in East Cree.