Cayuga vowel sounds and letters


a  [ ɑ ] sounds like the < a > in father

            sga:t one 

            aha:k he ate it

            dasha: pass it here 

e  [ e ]  sounds like the < e > in hey, or like the < ay > in way, say

            é:ˀ again 

            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

            ó: oh 

            ó:nęh now 

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.

            ę:hę́ˀ yes 

            gę́:s generally 

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).