W and I
Mi'gmaq has two glides (or semivowels), much like English does. These glides are [j] (written i), pronounced like English y, and [w] (also written w), pronounced like English w. However, these two sounds (as indicated by the choice to write them in [square brackets]) are not considered individual sounds, or phonemes, by researchers, but are instead considered to be specific pronunciations, or allophones, of the vowels /i/ and /u/ (where /slash brackets/ indicate phonemic status).
Below are described the places or environments where the vowels become their respective glides. It will be noted that it is far more common for /u/ to become [w] than it is for /i/ to become [j].
Learners and language teachers should be aware that the sounds on this page are written in the International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA. Audio examples will usually be given when a relevant sound is introduced, but not all will be present. A basic introduction to the IPA sounds of Mi'gmaq can be found on the Spelling page.
The phoneme /i/ becomes [j] (as in [aja] (Ladefoged 2005)) after the vowels /a/ and /ɛ/, as well as their long counterparts /aː/ and /ɛː/. Relevant examples (spoken examples taken from the Mi'gmaq Talking Dictionary) are given in the table below:
|a_†||eltaqaiaq||[ɛltaχʌjaχ]||'it (inanimate) extends toward…'|
|e'_||tle'iawig||[tl̩leːjawikʰ]||'it (inanimate) belongs there'|
† A note on notation: the underscore (_) here indicates where the /i/ would be.
The phoneme /u/ becomes [w] (as in [awa] (Ladefoged 2005)) in the following environments:
- After a vowel and another sound:
- At the beginnings of words before vowels, as in welp'teg, 'it (inanimate) is nice and warm', pronounced [wɛlbədɛkʰ]
- At the ends of words after vowels, as in aptiw, 'always', pronounced [apd͡ʒiw]
An exhaustive list of the environments where /u/ becomes [w] (written in the Listuguj orthography) is found in the table below. Please note that the hashmark (#) stands in for both a word beginning and a word end. Please also note that the w 's after g and q are not counted, since gw and qw are considered to be separate letters or phonemes.
The following patterns can be noticed in the table above:
- /u/ never becomes [w] before a vowel word-medially: these are always uV(') sequences (where V stands for any vowel).
- Schwa is never present in any sequence.
- [w] is only allowed between a short vowel and a consonant, never between a long vowel and a consonant.
Although [j] and [w] are ultimately vowels, they behave like other sonorant consonants in Mi'gmaq. That is, they are subject to the same processes as the other sonorants, such as devoicing and lengthening, described below. They are, however, barred from being syllabic - their vowel counterparts are found in that position.
Main page: Devoicing
Like other sonorants, [w] and [j] are able to be devoiced when located before obstruents. Some examples are given below:
|w||w̥||[aw̥a]||anawtig||[anaw̥tikʰ]||'it is inexpensive'|
Main page: Sound Length
Sonorants (including glides) may also be optionally lengthened when located between a vowel and another consonant (usually described as being in a syllable coda). This lengthening is not the same as gemination - a second sonorant will not appear in the spelling of the word as it does in wigatignn, 'books'.
The lengthened sonorants may also be subject to devoicing, depending on whether the following consonant is a sonorant or an obstruent. Examples of the lengthened glides, both voiced and devoiced, are given in the table below:
|j̊ː||[aj̊ːa]||eig||[ej̊ːkʰ]||'he or she is present'|
|w||wː||[awːa]||elawlet||[ɛlawːlɛtʰ]||'he or she lugs something toward on back'|
|w̥ː||[aw̥ːa]||mawgamit||[maw̥ːkamitʰ]||'he or she is the fattest'|
- Ladefoged, Peter. 2006. A Course in Phonetics. 5th ed. Boston: Thomson Higher Education.
- Mi'gmaq Talking Dictionary