Introduction to accent placement

Accent placement is about where accent (or 'stress') occurs in words.  This section describes some background concepts: how to hear accent, what syllables are, and how to count syllables. 

The pronunciation marker or diacritic for an accented vowel is the acute accent mark  < ´ >, also sometimes called a stress point.


How to hear accent

All Cayuga words have at least one accented vowel (that is, when the word is pronounced 'solo' or in isolation). Accented vowels have a higher pitch than other vowels in the word

An example of pitch is the notes on a musical scale; the difference between the notes is a difference in pitch. 


In spoken language, pitch is carried by vowels; it is subtle and somewhat hard to hear. The next two examples illustrate pitch differences: ohyáˀ has a higher pitch on the last vowel than on the first, and ó:yaˀ has a higher pitch on the first vowel than on the last - (actually, the pitch starts high and then falls on the first vowel of ó:yaˀ):

Accent on the last vowel (ohyáˀ berry, fruit)

Accent on the first vowel (ó:yaˀ other, another)


To hear accent, you do not have to pay attention to the absolute pitch of the vowel; (for example, you don't have to determine whether the vowel is a C or an E note on a musical scale). Instead, you need to pay attention to the pitch of each vowel in comparison to other vowels in the word: the accented vowel has a higher pitch than the other vowels in the word.


Here are some additional examples of words that have a non-final accent.

Accent (higher, falling pitch) on the second-last vowel

           hahá:wiˀ he is carrying it 

           hodá:węˀ he has swum 

           hahé:haˀ he sets it 


Accent (higher pitch) on the third-last vowel

           ohnéganohs water 

           dewáhǫhde:s deer 

          sayaˀdodrǫhgwáǫnihs you are always shivering 



The core ingredient in every syllable is a vowel. For practical purposes, the number of vowels in each word is equivalent to the number of syllables. A more complete definition of syllables and syllable types is included on the syllables page.


Counting syllables

The rules of accent placement in Cayuga make reference to two types of counting:

  • Counting and identifying odd-numbered and even-numbered syllables, from the beginning of the word
  • Counting from the end of the word; specifically, identifying
    • the final syllable
    • the second-last syllable
    • the third-last syllable (in some cases)
    • the fourth-last syllable (in some cases)

Further details are provided on the counting syllables page.


Vowel length

Accent placement (specifically, the syllable count) is affected by Vowel length.