When I set out to look for learning materials on the web, I was initially excited to find so many search results for the language. This excitement quickly faded with the number of 404 - Not Found messages I kept getting on each click of a link. So I've created this space as a repository of resources for learning Anishinaabemowin, or more specifically, Ojibwemowin. With time, I hope it can be of use not just to me, but to others.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A word about stress in Anishinaabemowin speech

Before I get started with my explanation of stress, I want to point out that this is what I have discovered outside of the Pimsleur course I'm going through. Since I have no audio, I've had to do a bit of research to come up with these rules. These rules may be simplified, or explained in less than exacting terminology, but they are, to the best of my knowledge, an easy method to discern where stress lands on Anishinaabmowin words.

Anishinaabemowin has something described by linguists as "metrical feet" to describe stress patterns in speech.

The rules are fairly predictable. The most basic rule is to count syllables from the beginning of the word in twos. Every two syllables constitute a "foot". Under normal circumstances, the first syllable is weak and the second is strong. Let's use a word we've already learned in an example. "Gaawiin", meaning "No". In this simple example, stress is placed on "wiin", because the two syllables form one metrical foot.

Now let's define the rules a bit further. Because each of these syllables, "gaa" and "wiin" have double vowels, they are each considered a separate "metrical foot" in their own right, meaning at least secondary stress is placed on syllables with strong (double) vowels. But because they form a single word, the second strong syllable gets the main stress.

Now that we know that double vowels are considered a metrical foot on their own, let's take a look at a longer word, using both double and single vowel combinations. Let's use "Zhaaganaashiwa(g)", meaning "White person(s)/non-native(s)" as an example. Broken down into metrical feet, we have "zhaa","ga", "naash" and "iwa(g)". The stress naturally falls on the double vowels zhaaganaashiwa(g). Notice the last syllable - a single vowel, forms the second foot in a metrical foot, so that gets the stress.

We're not quite done with the basic rules yet. We have one more to add to the previous two rules. In a nutshell, if we have a string of three or more single-vowel syllables making up the end of a word (that is, counting from the end of the word back at least three syllables), the third from the final syllable will be stressed. Let's take a look at the following phrase - "Aaniindi niimi'idiwag?", meaning "Where are they dancing?" We already know what to do with the first word "aaniindi", since there are two double-vowels (two separate metrical feet), but let's look at the last word "niimi'idiwag". The first syllable is a double-vowel, so we know that gets at least secondary stress. Now look at everything that follows that double-vowel syllable. They are all single-vowel syllables. So we go to the end of the word and count back three syllables. The stress then lands on 'i niimi'idiwag.

There are more subtle rules, certainly, and different dialects go even further with something called "vowel syncope", but the above three rules are enough to get through pretty much any basic pronunciation. For vowel syncope, there's a good Wikipedia article describing it here.

Does all this sound complicated? Yes, it probably does. But with time and practice, it really does become second nature.

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