Cayuga vowel sounds and letters
a [ ɑ ] sounds like the < a > in father
aha:k he ate it
dasha: pass it here
e [ e ] sounds like the < e > in hey, or like the < ay > in way, say
ehswe:ˀ you all thought
i [ i ] sounds like the < i > in police, or like the < ea > in eat
i:ˀ I, myself
í:wi: I want
o [ o ] sounds like the < o > in so, or like the < oa > in boat
u [ u ] sounds like the < u > in blue, or like the < oo > in boot
The [ u ] sound is rare; you are likely to hear it in just two words:
niwú:ˀuh it is small
niwuˀdrugyé:ˀah it is narrow
However, there’s another case where you’ll hear a [ u ] sound: some people pronounce the following words with a [ u ] sound, while other people use an [ o ] sound instead. (Perhaps this is the Cayuga version of “You say ‘tomAYto’, I say ‘tomAHto’”)
swanóˀjˀageh, swanúˀjˀageh on your (p) teeth
swayoˀtsáˀgeh, swayuˀtsáˀgeh on your (p) chins
dago:s, dagu:s cat ('dagu:s' is the preferred way to say this word)
gonheˀ gunheˀ I am alive
Cayuga also has two nasal vowels. The nasal vowels can sound fairly different, depending on who is speaking.
ę [ ɛ̃ ] some speakers pronounce < ę > like the < e > in English encounter, men; or like the nasal vowel sound in French frein brake.
ę [ ʌ̃ ] other speakers pronounce < ę > more like the < o > in English money or like the < u > in English pun.
ǫ [ õ ] some speakers pronounce < ǫ> like the < o > in English known, or like the nasal vowel sound in French don gift.
ǫ [ ũ ] other speakers pronounce < ǫ> more like the < oo > in English noon.
ǫ́:dǫh she is saying
sǫ́:deˀ last night
ę:, ǫ: After long < ę:> and < ǫ: >, you might sometimes hear an [ n ]-like sound; the sound is especially obvious when the nasal vowels are before < t, d, k, g, ts, j >. For example, the word < nę:dah >here, take it! can sound a little bit like [ nę:ndah ] , and ęjéhęhs birthdays can sound a little bit like [ęnjéhęhs] .
In contrast, you don’t usually hear the same [ n ]-like sound when < ę > and < ǫ > are short.
a [ ɑ̃ ] There is one nasal vowel in Cayuga that doesn’t have a special spelling because it is only heard in a few words. You can hear this sound in the word hwaˀ (as in the phrase neˀ hwaˀ this one this time, this one next).