|eshku||still, again||napeshk||male Canada goose|
|pushku||half||pashkushk||Canada goose which has lost its feathers|
In Innu, there are two types of k consonants at the end of a word: k and ku.
|Identifying a labialized kTo produce a labialized k, ku, round the lips. This does not involve two sounds (k+u) but is a single phoneme., ku (phonetically [kw]) is not difficult, because it usually corresponds to a pronunciation that is very different from non-labialized k [k]. [kw] does not exist as a phoneme (or distinctive unit) in English so writing it in Innu requires a particular symbol, k followed by a raised u: ku.NOTE: Sometimes young speakers pronounce both consonants the same way. It’s important to make sure they are aware of the difference between k and ku.|
Description of the Two k Consonants
In all dialects of Innu, there are two kinds of k consonants that occur at the end of a word:
- ordinary k, like English k: mak and, utshek fisher, inashk inevitably;
- labialized k, specific to Innu: eka maku! don’t cry!, mashku bear.
Also, ku has an influence on the vowel of the preceding syllable if it contains a short vowel. This explains why these vowels are often pronounced [u], even though the historic vowel is short i, as if the [u] sound contained in the labialized consonant were rubbing off on the preceding short vowel: atshiku [at∫ukw] seal, ussishiku [ussi:∫ukw] his/her eye. This phenomenon LINGUISTICS: This is a phenomenon called vowel harmonization (or vowel assimilation): “change affecting a phoneme in contact with a neighbouring phoneme”. Dubois et al. 2012. Le dictionnaire de linguistique et des sciences du langage. Larousse, p. 55. is very common with labialized consonants.
In some cases, the two consonants (k and ku) distinguish words that would otherwise be identicalWe call words that are distinguished by a single sound (vowel or consonant) minimal pairs. Innu has minimal pairs that are only distinguished by k and ku; for this reason, k and ku are considered different phonemes and not simply different sounds of the same consonant. The number of possible phonemes varies from one language to another: a sound can even be a phoneme in one language and not in another; for example, p and b are phonemes in English, but in Innu, only p is a phoneme, while [b], when it’s used, is just a variant of p.:
|napeshku||male bear||napeshk||male Canada goose|
|ishkueshku||female bear||ishkueshk||female Canada goose|
|piku||powder||pik||spade (playing cards)|
|apu uapamaku||we don’t see him/her||apu uapamak||I don’t see him/her|
The decision was made to write labialized consonants in Innu with an exponent (or raised) u: kuDIALECTOLOGY: Other Algonquian languages use the kw spelling instead. It was decided not to use this spelling in Innu because the letter w is not used.. This decision was made very early in the development of Innu spelling, at least for the labialized kThe solution was harder to adopt for the other labialized consonants, but the case of the labialized k has certainly helped to find solutions for the others..
The number of words or inflections ending in ku is very important. Here are some examples:
|kaku||porcupine||apu atusseiaku||you (pl) do not work|
|muaku||loon||apu uapatamaku||we don’t see it|
|eku||and so||eku!||don’t tell me|
|sheku||underneath||apu aimieku||you (pl) do not speak|
|assiku||pail, saucepan||tshuitshiku||s/he helps you (sg)|
|uatiku||terrier||tshitapamiku!||look at me!|
|ańuku||thrush||natutuku!||listen to me!|
|papeshuku||by mistake||apu shuku||not so much, not really|
|tapashku||in the woods||apuiashku||propeller|
|unatsheshku||bark||mauat eshku||not yet|
|uapishku||rocky mountain top always snow covered||amumishku||watchful and crafty beaver|
|pemapushku||thirty (added to one o’clock, etc.)||katshishushku||partly-dried goose|
The online dictionary is a useful tool for finding words ending in ku since it is possible to search the endings of words. The printed dictionary is useful for verifying the spelling of specific words.
How to Check Whether a Word is Written with k or ku
When in doubt, it is often possible to check whether a consonant is labialized in certain words, particularly nouns and verbs. To check this, add a suffix or a morpheme to a word ending in k. If you can hear a u (phonetically [w]) between the k and the suffix, the consonant is labialized, and is therefore written ku. This technique is illustrated in the following examples where a comparison is made with words ending in a non-labialized k.
|mishtiku||+||it||=||mishtikut||in the tree|
|nepissik||+||it||=||nepissikit||on the bicycle|
|apu uapamitaku||+||t||=||apu uapamitakut||they do not see us|
|apatak||+||i||=||apataki||if (some things) are useful|
|uapatameku||+||i||=||uapatamekui||when you will see it|
|uapatak||+||i||=||uapataki||when s/he will see it|
|uapamieku||+||i||=||uapamiekui||when you (pl) will see me|
|uapamak||+||i||=||uapamaki||when I will see him/her|
When a suffix is added to a labialized consonant, the consonant is no longer at the end of the word, so we hear the sound [u] or [w] after it. The u is therefore written on the line. The sound [u] or [w] which appears with the addition of the suffix reflects the presence of the labialization (e.g., mishtikut in the tree, umashkuma his/her bear), in contrast to what happens when a suffix is added to a word ending in a simple consonant (e.g., nishkiss small goose, unatshekim his/her cheque).
ku in Compound Nouns
Words ending in ku can be used to create compound nouns. As with the addition of a suffix, described above, by adding a word at the end, the sound [u] or [w] reflects the labialization:
|sea, ocean||animal||marina animal|
|sea, ocean||fish||saltwater fish|
|groundhog, woodchuck||month||month of March (lit. groundhog month)|
|pail, saucepan||bag||bag used to carry cooking pots, pans|
|SHORT VOWELS: a AND i PRONOUNCED AS u||LABIALIZED CONSONANTS||LABIALIZED CONSONANTS: mu|