Vowel Combinations


When vowels are combined, they can sound different from the way they sound when they are alone. For example, both < i > and < e > sound nearly the same in the < ai > and < ae > vowel combinations: they sound like [ ae ].

< ai > and < ae > sound nearly the same

 <ai> héhshai: fox 

<ae> daksáeˀdohs chicken 

(The <sh> in daksáeˀdohs stands for two sounds, [ s ] followed by [ h ].)

There is an < i > sound in the following vowel combinations, < ei> and < ęi >. (It might be hard to hear the but it’s there!)

Listen for the < i > sound

<ei> eiˀgó:wah cherry 

<ęi> a:yetsę́iˀ she might find it 

(The <ts> in a:yetsę́iˀ stands for two sounds, [ s ] followed by [ h ].)


Some speakers use an < aǫ> vowel combination, while others use an < ęǫ > combination instead; the <aǫ> combination is shown here:

< aǫ> or < ęǫ >

<aǫ, ęǫ> atę́naǫˀ, atę́nęǫˀ they (males) raced 


The <oę> combination also sounds more like [aǫ]: 

<oę> deyoęhdá:hstáˀ (ahdáhgwaˀ) running (shoe) 


Some speakers say < iǫ> where others would say < iaǫ>. Similarly, some speakers say < ię > while others would say < iaę>, as shown below.

Adding an < a > sound between two vowels

<iǫ, iaǫ> hadiaǫhyaˀge̲hǫ̨́:nǫˀ they (males) are the heavenly kind 

<ię, iáę> godiáęnaˀ their song (females or mixed group) 


The following word is spelled < teá:ǫt > in the Cayuga Thematic Dictionary (Henry and Henry 1984). However, it is also pronounced as tí:ˀaǫ:t. The tí:ˀaǫ:t pronunciation is shown here:

<í:ˀa> tíˀaǫ:t, teá:ǫt muskrat 



The remaining vowel combinations are relatively straightforward: they are pronounced as they are spelled. However, if the second < ę > or < i > is unaccented, it can sound a bit more like a [ y ] sound.

Other vowel combinations

<áo> gwáoh screech owl 

<áę> gáęnaˀ song 

<áǫ> gáǫdaˀ log 

<oí> hoíhoˀdeˀ he's working 

<ǫi> ęgǫihwę́dęˀ I will give you a significant message