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.
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.
ᐊᑎᒻᐦ ᒋᐐᒑᐙᐤ ᑳᐱᒧᐦᑖᑦ
atimh chiwiichaawaau kaapimuhtaat
[ ɪ – ˈtʊm … ] ‘she was walking with the dog.’
[ 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:
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.