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)

To illustrate, let's count the syllables in ęsadejęhęné:dahk 'you will prepare your fire'. This word has 7 vowels, and so, 7 syllables.

  ę sa de né: dahk  
1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
→  odd even odd even odd even odd  
         4th-last 3rd-last 2nd-last last


When the second-last vowel is even-numbered, it is accented: this is an example of a rule of accent placement that refers to both the odd/even count, and to the 'end' count. 


At this point, the above is all you need to know before you go on to explore the page about Non-final accent placement. The next few sections are about complications caused by long vowels, and you'll have an opportunity to refer back to this section later on.


Long vowels count as '2'

Some vowels are always long; that is, they are long in every word they occur in. The next three examples of words containing [-nǫˀa:-] 'head' illustrate this point. (See the page on Vowel length for more details.) 

  • onǫ́ˀa:ˀ a head
  • sanǫˀá:ˀgeh on your head
  • honǫˀá:dę:s he's thick-headed


Vowels that are always (or almost always) long can affect the syllable count, as described below, but only if they are not word-final. 

  • Long vowels that count as '2'
    • The prefix [a:-] 'would, could, should, might' is always long, and counts as '2' for the accent placement rules
    • Some vowels are always (or normally) long, and count as '2' for the accent placement rules.
  • Long vowels that don't count as '2': long vowels is at the end of the word never count as '2'


In the next example, the long [a:] counts as two vowels for the purpose of accent placement; (otherwise, the 4th vowel would have been accented, as in the hypothetical but wrong form *aknǫˀa:nǫ́hwa:s - see the page on Non-final accent placement for details). 

aknǫˀá:nǫ̲hwa:s I have a headache


For the above example, the odd/even count works as follows:

ak a a nǫ̲h wa:s
1 2 3 4 5 6
odd even odd even odd even
      3rd-last 2nd-last last


  • The above examples illustrate that
    • some vowels are always, or usually, long; and
    • if they are second-last, they are accented (regardless of whether they are even- or odd-numbered);
    • if they precede the second-last vowel, they count as 'two' for the odd/even count.


The prefix meaning 'could, would, should, might' [a:], also counts as twofor the odd/even count, as illustrated next. (The [a:-] prefix is bolded; it does not sound very long.)

a:yetsę́i:ˀ she might find it

For the above example, the odd/even count works as follows. The first vowel counts as '2' for the odd/even count, and so the second-last vowel is even numbered and accented. (If the first vowel had only counted as '1', the 3rd vowel would have been lengthened, as in the hypothetical but non-attested *a:yę:tsę́i:ˀ - see the rules of Non-final accent placement for details.)

a a yęt sę́ i:ˀ
1 2 3 4 5
odd even odd even odd
      2nd-last last