Long and Short Vowels

Long vowels take about twice as long to pronounce as short vowels. Vowel length is spelled with a pronunciation marker called a lengthener (colon).


In Cayuga the difference between long and short vowels is very important; in fact, sometimes length alone makes a difference in the meaning of a word, as shown below.

 Vowel length can make a difference in meaning

<a> oyęˀgwaˀ tobacco 

<a:> oyęˀgwa:ˀ smoke 


After long < ę: > and < ǫ: >, you can sometimes hear an [ n ]-like sound; it is especially obvious when the nasal vowels are before < t, d, k, g, ts, j >. For example, the word < nę́:dah > can sound a little bit like [ nę́:ndah ].

nę́:dah here, take it!  


Cayuga speakers also like to write a lengthener after vowel combinations, such as after < ae > in the following example. This makes sense, since vowel combinations are twice as long as a single vowel.

            satgǫhsóhae: wash your face! 


Finally, long vowels are often accented. (Of course, some of the words presented above are exceptions to this statement!) See [web page link] for a description of accent.