Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024
The Anishinaabemowin pronunciation and writing systems.

Today’s post comes from DJ Fife, a park ranger at Petroglyphs Provincial Park. DJ takes every opportunity available to promote Anishinaabemowin preservation during programs at the park and in everyday life. DJ has taught Anishnaabemowin for several semesters at Georgian College in Barrie and during various other cultural events.

To read the language, it is necessary to know the writing systems used for Anishinaabemowin.

Various popular scripts have been and continue to be used, but the most widely used writing system is the “Fiero” double vowel system, which is intended to be coherent and phonetic.

Below is an approximate breakdown of the system.

Please note that all 26 letters of the Roman alphabet are not used, as some sounds are absent in traditional Ojibwe (not F, L, R, V, X).

The vowels are represented like this:

to – sounds like “u” in “dud”, this sound can also occur as schwa like the short “a” in “about” and “allow”, or think of the “e” in petunia which could almost be written p’ tunia.

AA – sounds like the “a” in “father”

Yo – sounds like the “i” in “pit”

ii – sounds like the “ee”’ in “feet”

oh – sounds like a short “o” as in “obey” and “book”

and – can fall somewhere between “soap” and “soup,” but generally looks more like the “oa” in “soap”

my – sounds like the “e” in “pet”, but this can also occur with some variation in different dialects, even sounding a bit like the “a” in “sat”

The consonants are represented below:

b – as in “big”

p – as in “potato”

ch – as in the “tch” in “stitch”

j – as in “jump”

d – as in “do”

t – as in “well”

gram – as in “goose”, and after an “n” it sounds the same as “song”

k – like “ck” in “sick”

h – is not a common sound, but is the same as the “h” in “hello,” some Anishinaabemowin writers also use it for a glottal stop, as in the stop of “uh-” and “oh-” in “uh oh ”

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meter – as in “man”

north – as in “name”

yes – as in “miss”

z – as in “zipper”

sh – as in “shrub”

Z h – as in the “s” of “compass” or the “j” of “bonjour”

w – as in “way”

and – as in “yellow”

Some of the consonants are related (this also occurs in English) and may share a level of interchangeability. Consider how it is a mere change in voice to distinguish between many sounds: “b”/”p”, “ch”/”j”, “t”/”d”, “g”/”k”, “s”/ ”z”, “sh”/”zh.”

There are also some nasal sounds produced that don’t actually occur in English, but it’s difficult to make a comparison. Furthermore, people who are not used to the double vowel system may find pronunciations surprising and contrary to their expectations. An example of this is that “day,” pronounced using the double vowel system, rhymes with the English word “mice” instead of rhyming as expected with the English word “fray.”

As a final note for those who have encountered written Anishinaabemowin, there may be some variations in how things appear in writing as a reflection of the dialect.

Split words into syllables

Anishinaabemowin is generally spoken in “metrical feet” or a rhythmic alternation of stresses, from syllable to syllable. When looking at a given Anishinaabemowin word, one can observe the regular pairing of consonants and vowels. If you look at the word “Anishinaabemowin” itself, you can break it down into vowel and consonant clusters: a-ni-she-naa-be-mo-wi-n.

Japanese is similar in this structure. Consider familiar names of Japanese companies: To-yo-ta, Mi-tsu-bi-shi, To-shi-ba. The alternating voltages would be realized as a-NI-shi-NAA-be. For most southern areas of Anishinaabemowin use, the less stressed vowels are essentially omitted in most pronunciations. This results in the “nishnaabemwin” spelling and pronunciation used in many southern areas and especially on Manitoulin Island.

Basically, the bottom line here is that “Anishinaabe” and “nishnaabe” are the same thing, just a difference in regional pronunciation.

Animated and inanimate nouns.

Aside from the script currently used, there are some interesting features about Anishinaabemowin that differ from English. Comparable to the French masculine/feminine dichotomy, Anishinaabemowin is divided between animate and inanimate.

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It’s usually pretty intuitive to determine whether a noun will be animate or inanimate, but there are some unexpected animate objects and there may not always be a known explanation for why they are animate, it’s just a cultural detail that needs to be learned. through the exhibition.

cow moose in the lake

Obviously, a dog, a tree, an insect, or a spirit are animated, but so are a pot, a snowshoe, ice, and snow. Water, fire, table, book, arm or leg are inanimate nouns, as are conceptual nouns such as food, language or song.

fourth person

Another interesting feature of Anishinaabemowin is the Obviate or 4th person. Many English speakers would be familiar with the terms and concepts of first, second and third person. I (1st) am talking to you (2nd) about him/her (3rd person). In Algonkian languages ​​a distinction is also made for the fourth person (and, historically and still in some Cree, the fifth, sixth, and seventh person).

Below is an example of how marking the fourth person works:

“John (3rd) met Tom (4th) and then ran away”

In English, we need to clarify which man ran away: “John (3rd) met Tom (4th), then Tom ran away.”

In Anishinaabemowin, there is no need to reiterate the person. To add the fourth-person Ojibwe marker “-an” (remember, this is pronounced like “-un”), we have a couple of options for saying: “John met Tom and then ran away.”

Option 1: “John met with Tom-athen he ran-a Get out,” that is, Tom ran away.

option 2: “John spoke to Tom-athen he ran away,” that is, John ran away.

And for those interested, the Anishinaabemowin versions of those prayers (written in Southern style, missing a couple of vowels):

Option 1: “John is Tom, the miracle worker”

option 2: “John gii-nkweshkwaan Tom-an, mii-sh gii-ni-magic”

Another interesting benefit of fourth-person punctuation is that the word order can be a little more relaxed.

You can say “John Tom-an met, then ran away” or “Tom-an John met,” and both are grammatically acceptable, although some commands are used more typically.

Want to learn more?

There are many resources available to read online and in print. You can also check out my other two posts on language: