Vowels Spaces and Reduction in Plains Cree
AbstractThe present study is a phonetic description of Plains Cree, an indigenous language spoken in Alberta. This study investigates the acoustic characteristics of the vowel space and instances of reduction in Maskwacîs Plains Cree. Three female native speakers of Plains Cree translated words from English into Plains Cree, which contained vowels in word medial stressed and unstressed positions. The data collected indicates that the Maskwacîs dialect vowel space differs from the structure attested in previous work on Plains Cree by Muehlbauer (2012). While the present data are similar in that phonologically “long” and “short” vowels differed in both quality and duration, we do not find a qualitative difference for the long and short /o/ vowels. Expanding upon this data, we investigated instances of reduction using the standard written form of the word as an indication of the expected pronunciation. Focusing on reduction of glide-onset syllables participants were asked to translate a series of words producing a maximal set of glide-onset syllables in word initial, medial, and final positions. A comparison was made between items using the accepted orthographic representation and a phonetic representation. Results of this investigation identify four noteworthy types of reduction in Maskwacîs Plains Cree: fusion of /j/ near high front vowels, assimilation of /i/ to [u] when preceding a /w/, fusion of /w/ when near high back vowels, and reduction in the form of halplology. While more research is necessary to truly begin understanding the amount of phonetic variation in Plains Cree, we hope that this contributes to our general understanding of the sound system of Plains Cree.
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