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Category: Pronunciation and spelling
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Vowel length

The distinction between long and short vowels is important in Cayuga, and can make a difference in meaning:

<a> oyęˀgwaˀ tobacco 

<a:> oyęˀgwa:ˀ smoke 

 

Definition of long and short vowels

Long vowels are long in every word that they occur in (with one type of exception). The next three examples of [-nǫˀa:-] 'head' show that the third vowel, long [a:], is long all of the time; the exception is that long vowels are shortened when they are immediately followed by another vowel (as in the fourth example):

 

When these nouns are part of longer words, they retain their vowel length, resulting in various kinds of exceptions to accent and lengthening rules

In contrast, short vowels are short most of the time; for example, the second and third vowels in the next word are short.

agatǫdę́ˀǫh I have heard it before 

However, the same vowels can be lengthened, as shown in the next example, under conditions described below.

aga:tǫ́:deˀ I hear it (right now) 

 

Long vowels and counting syllables

For background information, read the page on Counting syllables. For  examples, see the page on Exceptions to accent placement and length.

Long vowels can affect the syllable count (as described below), but only when they are not word-final. 

 

 

Lengthening short vowels

Short vowels are lengthened under the following conditions, which are related to accent placement. For examples and further discussion, see the page about Non-final accent placement.

 

There are also some circumstances where short vowels cannot be lengthened, which are described next.

 

Conditions on lengthening

 Examples are provided on the page on Non-final accent placement.