What are silent vowels?
If you have ever pronounced suppose [ səˈpʰoʊz ] as spose [ ‘spoʊz ] or potato [ pʰəˈtʰeɪdoʊ ] as ptato [ pʰˈtʰeɪdoʊ ], then you already know something about silent vowels: English speakers tend to leave out [ ə ] sounds in faster speech, and to pronounce them in slower speech.
In East Cree, the lax vowels are sometimes deleted in one context, but pronounced in another. Here are some examples.
|Lax vowels are pronounced||Lax vowels are not pronounced|
For more example of lax vowel variation see the page on MI / NI
To know more about silent vowels, read this study by Sarah Knee (2012).
If the I is silent in aapihtuwin , why not spell the word as aaptuwin? Or why not spell atihkw as atkw? There are two main reasons:
If we spell silent vowels, it is easier for speakers of other varieties of Cree to read East Cree (and the other way around). For example, the Plains Cree word for ‘beaver’ is amiskw. If the East Cree word for ‘beaver’ is spelled the way it sounds, (‘amskw‘), then it is more difficult to tell that Plains Cree amiskw and East Cree amskw are really the same word.
For more details about spelling, see the page on spelling silent vowels.