This page is a summary of the consonants of Mi'gmaq and their pronunciations. For more information how the pronunciation differences between Mi'gmaq and English, please see Pronunciation Differences. If you are looking for information on the vowels, please see Vowels.
This section is meant to introduce the learner, language teacher, or researcher with the consonants of Mi'gmaq and their pronunciations. Although all known pronunciations are listed here, only the most notable will be discussed in any detail on this page. In addition, some of the more interesting of these topics have their own page, in which they are discussed in further detail.
Learners and language teachers may want to become familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA, before reading this page, since much of the terminology will be drawn from it. In order to help with this, most terms will be defined or will have a link to an article on the topic. Additionally, learners and teachers can get an idea of how the IPA is used to write Mi'gmaq by familiarizing themselves with the spelling systems in use for Mi'gmaq.
 Consonant Inventory
Below is the phoneme inventory for the consonants of the Mi'gmaq spoken in Listuguj: that is, a list of all the consonants that are capable of conveying a difference in meaning in the language. For example, we know that g (written here as /k/) and m (written /m/) are different phonemes because there is a difference in meaning between tegig (pronounced [tɛgikʰ])†, 'it (inanimate) is cold', and temig (pronounced [tɛmikʰ]), 'it (inanimate) is deep'.‡ Likewise, if we hear a difference in sound, but there is no difference in meaning (like in atnaqan (pronounced [an̩naχan]), 'checker' vs. atnaqan (pronounced [an̩naħan]), 'checker'), this means that these sounds may be considered to be a single phoneme. We may also note that they have the same spelling, which is also useful for determining if a sound is a phoneme in Mi'gmaq.
In addition, the phonemic status of some of the sounds listed below has been debated by researchers. These sounds link to a page where their status is discussed in further detail.
† All pronunciations on this page come from the Mi'gmaq Talking Dictionary
‡ A note on notation: /slash brackets/ are used when talking about phonemes. [Square brackets] are used when talking about pronunciations.
†Note: This symbol corresponds to the sound spelled with j in the Listuguj Orthography.
We may notice that not every phoneme above is ever pronounced the exact same way. For example, we may notice that the ts in the word apita't, 'he or she gets bloated', (written in phonemes as /apitaːt/) are not pronounced the same: one is pronounced more like a d and the other like a t. The p is also pronounced more like a b than a p. Therefore, the pronunciation of apita't is more like [abidaːt]. The b, d and t in this word are allophones, or different pronunciations, of the phonemes /p/ and /t/, since there is an audible difference between, say, [b] and [p], but this difference will not lead to a difference in meaning. That is, it doesn't matter if a [b] or [p] is pronounced in apita't: it will still mean 'he or she gets bloated' (although pronouncing this word as [apidaːtʰ] may sound a little strange to native speakers).
Below is a list of all of the different pronunciations of each consonant phoneme in Mi'gmaq. The most notable and important to keep in mind while learning the language are listed earlier than those that are not so noticeable, which are included so that researchers may have a complete picture of the allophones of Mi'gmaq.
 Table of Allophones
This table is a summary of the known allophones of each phoneme of Mi'gmaq, grouped by pronunciation type. Each pronunciation type, or process, is briefly described after this table, and is linked to a page on the topic.
|/k/||[k]||[q], [χ], [h], [ħ]||[kʷ], [gʷ], [kʷʰ]||[g]||[kʰ]|
|/q/||[q], [χ], [h], [ħ], [q͡χ]||[qʷ], [χʷ], [ħʷ], [hʷ], [ʕʷ]||[ʕ]†||[qʰ], [q᷂͡χ]|
|/qʷ/||[qʷ], [χʷ], [ħʷ], [hʷ]||[ʕʷ]†||[qʷʰ], [q͡χʷ]|
† Not all speakers display this allophone consistently; some do not voice their /q/'s or /qʷ/'s, and those that do do not to so all the time.
 /k/ and /q/
Main page: Relating G with Q
Although /k/ and /q/ are separate phonemes (as listed in the table above), there are times when /k/ will become /q/ (what phonologists may refer to as backing). This usually happens after the vowels /a/ and /o/, as in words like apaqt (pronounced [abaqtʰ]), 'sea' and etloqteg (pronounced [ɛdəlɔq͡χtɛkʰ]), 'cooking'. It's most obvious when forming the plural of animates. The plural, normally /-k/, becomes /-q/ after the /a/ that sometimes shows up between an animate noun and the plural ending, as shown in the following example:
ga'ta + g → gata'q eel + PL → eel.PL
'eels (cf. singular ga't, 'eel')'
However, it will be noticed that this rule is not entirely general - there are quite a few words where it does not apply, as in jagej (pronounced [d͡ʒagɛt͡ʃ]), 'lobster', which has /k/ (spelled g) after /a/. In fact, this rule changing /k/ to /q/ applies most when the /k/ is followed by another consonant (as in alaqteget (pronounced [alategɛtʰ]), 'he or she sails about'), or is located at the end of a word (as in ala'q (pronounced [alɑːq͡χ]). /k/ will not become /q/ as often if it is located between vowels.
 /kʷ/ and /qʷ/
Main page: Relating G and Q with GW and QW
Similarly to the situation mentioned above, /k/ and /q/ also become the phonemes /kʷ/ and /qʷ/ (what phonologists refer to as being labialized) after certain vowels, usually /u/, but also sometimes after /o/ (where the labialized phoneme is /qʷ/). Most of the time, it will be written, as in alugwiaq (pronounced [alugʷijaq͡χ]), 'it becomes cloudy', and samuqwaniet (pronounced [samuħʷanijɛtʰ]), 'it (animate) becomes watery'. Sometimes, however, it will not be written - especially at the end of words, as in alug (pronounced [alukʷʰ]), 'cloud', and agase'wa'toq (pronounced [aħas̬eːwaːdɔqʷʰ]).
 Assimilation with /n/
Main page: Assimilation with N
When certain sounds come before the sound /n/, they also become /n/ (what phonologists may refer to as total anticipatory assimilation). The sounds that it affects are /t/ and /l/. When /t/ and /n/ are located next to one another in a word like apsiptnat, 'he or she has small hands', the /t/ instead becomes another /n/, leading it to be pronounced as [apsipn̩natʰ]. Likewise, when an /n/ is added after a word usually ending in /l/ (as in the example below), it is also pronounced as /n/:
etlatal + n → etlatann eat + 2 → eat.2
'you are eating (cf. etlatal, 'I am eating')'
For /l/, this also occurs in the opposite direction - when /l/ comes after /n/, it also becomes /n/. This is most obvious when forming the plural of inanimate nouns (the inanimate plural ending being /-l/):
wigatign + l → wigatignn book + PL → book.PL
Main page: Phonemic Status of J
Oftentimes, when a word is derived from another (that is, something is added to that word to make it mean something different), a sound that was once /t/ will become something more like /t͡ʃ/ if followed by an /i/. This is shown by the pair of words below:
nemi + a'tit+ l → nemiati'''t'''l see + 3PL + 4 → see.3PL.4
'They see him or her([[Obviation|OBV]])'
nemi + a'tit + i → nemiati'''j'''i see + 3PL + 4PL → see.3PL.4PL
'They see them(OBV)'
This only occurs when words or parts of words ending in /t/ come into contact with words or parts of words beginning with /i/; it does not occur elsewhere.
 Forming Glides
Main page: W and I
When reading written Mi'gmaq out loud, it may be noticed that sometimes the letter i is actually pronounced more like the English letter y (spelled in IPA as [j]). This usually happens when /i/ is located after the vowels /a/ and /e/, as in gesigwewei (pronounced [kɛsigɛwɛj]), 'associated with winter'. In this way, we can say that [j] is just an allophone of /i/.
Similarly, what is spelled as w can also be said to come from /u/ in similar circumstances (except when following g and q, since gw and qw are the spellings of /kʷ/ and /qʷ/, respectively). In this case, [w] appears:
- Between vowels, as in giwasg (pronounced [kiwaskʰ]), 'heat lightning'
- At the beginnings of words before vowels, as in welp'teg (pronounced [wɛlpədɛkʰ]), 'it (inanimate) is nice and warm'
- At the ends of words after vowels, as in te'sipow (pronounced http://www.mikmaqonline.org/words-mp3/media/t/te%27sipow/recording1.mp3 [tɛːsibow]]), 'horse'
These allophones, [j] and [w], are known as glides or semivowels.
Main page: Obstruents
The obstruents of Mi'gmaq (/p/, /t/, /k/, /q/, /kʷ/, /qʷ/, /s/ and /t͡ʃ/) all have two alternate pronunciations when in contact with different sounds (or lack thereof). These pronunciations are derived by voicing and aspiration rules. Furthermore, the obstruents also sometimes cause devoicing in neighbouring sonorants (/m/, /n/, /l/, and [w] and [j]). These three will be briefly introduced below.
When an obstruent is located between two vowels, it will usually be voiced, or pronounced with vocal chord vibrations (the best way to observe this is to say a long s followed by a long z while keeping your hand on your throat - you'll notice nothing happens when you say the s, but that your throat buzzes when you say the z). So, for example, a word like apita't, 'he or she gets bloated' will not be pronounced *[apitaːtʰ]† but instead [abidaːtʰ].
Sometimes this also happens near sonorants: that is, obstruents will be voiced near sonorants. This is apparent in the word amjaqamu'g, 'it has mixed colours', where the j is pronounced [d͡ʒ] even though it is not between vowels (pronounced [amd͡ʒaħ̬amuːkʷʰ]).
† An asterisk (*) indicates that the pronunciation that follows is not correct or is ill-formed in Mi'gmaq.
As mentioned above, sometimes obstruents are voiced when located next to sonorants. The reverse is also true - sometimes sonorants are devoiced next to sonorants. That is, a sound that is normally pronounced with vocal chord vibrations is not pronounced with these vibrations. For example, this occurs in the word smtug, 'right away', which is pronounced [səm̥tukʰ].
Finally, when obstruents are at the end of the word, they become aspirated, or pronounced with an additional puff of air that sounds like an h. So, for example, the word gisigui'sgw would be pronounced [kis̬iguwiːskʷʰ].
 Variations in Pronunciation of /q/ and /qʷ/
Main page: Pronunciation of Q
It may be noticed in the discussions above that /q/ and /qʷ/ have a variety of different pronunciations, indicated by the different allophones used to describe them. Speakers vary in which allophones they will use. In addition, they also vary in whether /q/ and /qʷ/ display the regular phenomena of obstruents or not. A list of the most common is given below:
- [q], as in alaqteget (pronounced [alaqtegɛtʰ]), 'he or she sails'
- [χ], as in saqamaw (pronounced [saχamaw]), 'gentleman; man of high rank'
- [h], as in aloqomanaqs (pronounced [aloħomɐnɑħsi]), 'grape vine'
- [ħ], as in agenutmaqan (pronounced [agɛnudəmahan]), 'story'
- Bragg, Russel A. (1976). Some Aspects of the Phonology of Newfoundland Micmac. Masters' Thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland
- Fidelholz, James Lawrence (1963). Micmac Morphophonemics. PhD. Dissertation, Massechusetts Institute of Technology
- Gussenhoven, Carlos and Haike Jacobs (2005). Understanding Phonology. 2nd ed. London: Hodder Education
- Ladefoged, Peter. 2006. A Course in Phonetics. 5th ed. Boston: Thomson Higher Education.
- Quinn, Conor (2012), "Sound patterns of Mi'gmaq: g and q" Mi'gmaq: language and linguistics
- Quinn, Conor (2012), "Sound patterns of Mi'gmaq: gw and u" Mi'gmaq: language and linguistics
- Quinn, Conor (2012), "Sound patterns of Mi'gmaq: l and n" Mi'gmaq: language & linguistics
- Mi'gmaq Talking Dictionary