Comments on Cheyenne vowel marks

On the main page we mentioned that the 3 Cheyenne vowels (a, e, o) can have high pitch (, , ) or be voiceless (whispered), as in , , . Cheyenne is famous for having very many voiceless vowels. The last vowel of any utterance, even if it is a single word, is always voiceless (whispered). Because this devoicing is automatic, it is not marked with the ^ symbol. However, many other vowels inside of words also are whispered. These are marked with the ^ symbol.

The normal mark, which has been used for 100 years, to indicate whispering of a vowel is a dot or small circle over a vowel. Since most viewers of this page will not have the proper symbol in their fonts (a downloadable font is now available, 23 Feb 1998) to show this normal symbol, we have substituted the upside-down "v" (the symbol ^, called a caret) for the normal symbol, as in mhpeva meaning 'in the water.'

Even though there are a few words differentiated only by pitch, Cheyennes have shown that they do not need the pitch (accent) marks for reading their language. In fact, pitch marks can makes things look overly complicated, making the reading task for native speakers more difficult. However, pitch marks are needed by non-Cheyenne speakers so that we will give the right pitches to each vowel. Sometimes a mistake on a pitch can be rather embarrassing, giving a completely different word from the one intended.


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