Phonetic space of Michif back vowels Richelle Staehr & Nicole Rosen This poster investigates the phonetic space of non-low back vowels in Michif, a French-Cree mixed language spoken by a few hundred Métis people in the Canadian and American prairies. This paper deals specifically with Manitoban speakers. Rosen (2007) reports variation of the high back vowels, where /u/ may surface as [o] or [u], but where /o/ never surfaces as [u]. Consider the following examples. (1) /li + pu/ [li pu] ~ [li po] PL+louse ‘lice’ (2) /li + po/ [lipo] ~ * [li+pu] PL+hide ‘hides’ The phonetic space of these vowels is interesting from a historical perspective given that this constitutes a conflict site between the inventories of the mother languages of Michif, French and Plains Cree. The Plains Cree vowel inventory has only one high back vowel, described as ‘lower high’ and phonemicized as /o:/ by Wolfart (1997), and French has both /u/ and /o/. It might be expected that Cree /o:/ would vary more than French /u/ or /o/, given that the single back vowel would occupy more phonetic space in the overall vowel system than in a language with two back vowels. This variation does appear to exist impressionistically, but note that what is more interesting is that the words which have a historically French /u/ also vary phonetically in Michif, as shown in the examples in (1)-(2). It is posited that in the creation of Michif, vocabulary items with French /u/ have been mapped onto Cree /o:/, which would explain the variation exhibited in Michif. Results from formant analysis will be presented for Michif tokens with Cree-source /o:/ and French source /o/ and /u/ to inform these impressionistic descriptions of the language.
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