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The Distinction Between
Long and Short Vowels
in Orizaba Nawatl
Pico de Orizaba from Atlehuaya

Orizaba Nawatl has in common with other varieties of Nahuatl a distinction between long and short vowels. However the distinction is quite difficult to hear consistently, even for native speakers, and it carries a rather low functional load. For these reasons it is not represented in the practical orthography.


There are times, however, when the distinction produces contrast, and especially where there are minimal pairs it will often be a little easier to hear.


The transitive verb stems toka follow, chase and tōka plant, bury (Long vowels are written with macrons (ā, ē, ī, ō). give rise to a whole series of minimal pairs. Here are recordings of two of them. In one case the contrasting vowel is stressed, which generally makes the difference easier to discern; in the other case the contrasting vowels are in the antepenultimate syllable and are therefore unaccented (and so the contrast would normally be more difficult to hear). Both examples are given in a quite deliberate speech style; in faster speech the distinction is, again, more difficult to hear.


The minimal pairs are 31 KB oniktokak I chased it / 35 KB oniktōkak I planted it, and 39 KB okitokakeh they chased it / 42 KB okitōkakeh they planted it.


The words as recorded were extracted from the following sentences.


127 KB Yalla
Yesterday
oniktokak
I chased it
n
the
itoroh
his bull
n
the
novesinoh.
my neighbor
  Yesterday I chased my neighbor's bull/cow off.

87 KB Yalla
Yesterday
oniktōkak
I planted it
kakamohtli.
flower bulb(s)
  Yesterday I planted flower bulbs.

121 KB Yalla
Yesterday
okitokakeh
they chased it
n
the
itoroh
his bull
n
the
novesinoh.
my neighbor
  Yesterday they chased my neighbor's bull/cow off.

91 KB Yalla
Yesterday
okitōkakeh
they planted it
kakamohtli.
flower bulb(s)
  Yesterday they planted flower bulbs.


--David Tuggy


The voice you hear is that of Victor Hernández de Jesús.

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