W and I

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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.


[edit] /i/

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:

/i/ → [j]
a_† eltaqaiaq [ɛltaχʌjaχ] 'it (inanimate) extends toward…'
a'_ atla'i [adəla'j] 'shirt'
e_ alawei [alawɛj] 'pea'
e'_ tle'iawig [tl̩leːjawikʰ] 'it (inanimate) belongs there'

† A note on notation: the underscore (_) here indicates where the /i/ would be.

[edit] /u/

The phoneme /u/ becomes [w] (as in [awa] (Ladefoged 2005)) in the following environments:

  • After a vowel and another sound:
    • Before a vowel, as in maweglulg, 'it (inanimate) is very good', pronounced [mawegəlul̥kʰ]
    • Before a consonant, as in mawgitg, 'he or she includes it (inanimate) in a count', pronounced [maw̥kitkʰ]
  • At the beginnings of words before vowels, as in welp'teg, 'it (inanimate) is nice and warm', pronounced [lbədɛkʰ]
  • 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.

Environments where /u/ → [w]
Word-Initially Word-Medially Word-Finally
#wa(') a(')wa(') e(')wa(') i(')wa(') owa(') uwa a(')w#
#we(') a(')we(') e(')we(') iwe(') o(')we(') e(')w#
#wi(') a(')wi(') e(')wi(') iwi owi(') uwi' i(')w#
#wo(') awo(') e(')wo(') iwo owo(') ow#
awu e(')wu(')
awp ewp iwp
awt ewt iwt
awg ewg iwg owg
awgw ewgw iwgw owgw
awq ewq
aws ews iws
awj ewj iwj owj
ewm owm
awn ewn iwn
awl ewl

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.

[edit] Processes

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.

[edit] Devoicing

Main page: Devoicing

Like other sonorants, [w] and [j] are able to be devoiced when located before obstruents. Some examples are given below:

Devoiced Glides
j [aj̊a] seitun [setun] 'blabbermouth'
w [aw̥a] anawtig [anatikʰ] 'it is inexpensive'

[edit] Lengthening

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:

Lengthened Glides
j [ajːa] metlasaigl [mɛdəlasagl̩] 'ten dollars'
j̊ː [aj̊ːa] eig [ej̊ːkʰ] 'he or she is present'
w [awːa] elawlet [ɛlalɛtʰ] 'he or she lugs something toward on back'
w̥ː [aw̥ːa] mawgamit [maw̥ːkamitʰ] 'he or she is the fattest'

[edit] References

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