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My own notes
about stress in Ojibwe

I'm not a linguist and have no idea how those things must be written and studied. These are just my own notes about what I've seen and heard. ;)

 


Vowels in Ojibwe could be pronounced with:

  • main stress (á, é, í, ó)
  • secondary stress (á, é, í, ó)
  • no stress (a, e, i, o)

    It's usual for Ojibwe words, (especially for long words) to have several stresses. It's much more usual in Ojibwe than in English.

    Secondary stress depends on a metrical foot. All vowels in strong syllables take secondary stress. Vowels in weak syllables take no stress. So be sure you know which syllables are strong and which are weak.

    Native speakers use both secondary and main stress. Though main stress sometimes differs so slightly in strength from secondary one(s), that it's hard to distinguish.

    Some modern non-native speakers, trying to escape problems with main stress, sometimes don't distinguish between main and secondary stress. They put all strong syllables under the same stress. So when a word contains several strong syllables, it's impossible to distinguish from their speech, which one takes the main stress.

    E.g. the word jiimaan (boat) could be pronounced with the main stress on both syllables, and is pronounced neither jíímáán, nor jíímáán, but jíí-máán.
    Or one could say - gáá-wíín (no) with both syllables equally stressed. While native speakers say gáá-wíín, where /gaa/ takes the secondary stress and /wiin/ - the main one.

    So I find there is no problem saying ésibán (raccoon; correct stress) or ésibán, but if you say - esíban, it's a mispronunciation.


    If talking about main stress itself, the situation is much more complicated. Theory that the third strong syllable from the end of the word takes the main stress works only with words containing one root with no long vowels in it. Or when there is only one long vowel, and it is in the place, where the main stress supposed to be (which often occurs).

    But when there are several roots in a word, or there are long vowels in other syllables - things could go in quite a different way.


    1. Different roots could have their own stress each. And could be pronounced not as a single word, but with short pauses between roots, as they are several words (especially when there are three or more roots.)

    e.g., makadé-mashkíki-wááboo - coffee

     

    1.1. Several roots, especially those which are not used separately, often have their one constant stress, whatever root stands before or after them. These stresses remain and do not merge into one when such roots are combined into one word.

    e.g. some endings: -áábik, -áátig, -áádizi, -áágozi, -áágwad, -ógozi, -ógwad, -áánde, -áánzo, -igááde, -igáázo, -káázo, -kááde, -tigwéyaa, -wigámig, -winíni, -wáágan, -wayáán, babáá-, bimáá-, dibá'-, gabé-, gagwé-, mínó-, etc.

    And this sometimes does not change very much flexing a word:

    e.g. (n)indízhinikááz. (there are two main stresses, and both have the same strength.)
    ojibwémo - (n)indóójibwém

    Note. In mino- the stress floats depending on if the next syllable is strong or weak,

    e.g. mínó-gíízhigad (it's hard to say where is the main stress in /mínó-/),
    but - niminó-ayáá.

    It's problematic to pronounce two stressed syllables together without a pause between them. So those, who say minó-gíízhigad, have to make a short pause between roots, but those who prefer mínó-gíízhigad, say it without a pause.

     

    1.2. There are some endings which attract main stress,
    e.g. imperative suffix /-daa/.
    Main stress of a word (without /-daa/) becomes secondary, and /-daa/ takes the main stress,

    e.g., izháá - izháádáá.

     

    1.3. Some endings do not take stress themselves, but attract it to a syllable, standing right before them:

    e.g. -(')ige (ozhibíí'ige), -(')igan (waakáá'igan), -'idi- (niimí'idiwin).

    (Note. Maybe: -áádizi, -áágozi, -áágwad, -ógozi, -ógwad illustrate the same thing???)

     

    1.4. Some suffixes take secondary stress, e.g., plural or locative suffixes.

    Note. But if comparing with Potawatomi; in Potawatomi plural noun suffixes force stress to move to a syllable right before the suffix, while the suffix takes a secondary stress,

    e.g., bnóóji (child) - bnoojíyúk (children); bné'shi (bird) - bne'shíyúk (birds).

     

    1.5. Some endings do not attract stress, or attract it much weaker then other endings (at least it looks like that),

    e.g., -kaa, -izi, -ad, -zii, -win.


    2. All long vowels attract stress in any way, forming secondary stress in a word because of their natural length. But long vowels could also attract main stress, or possibly, create several main stresses.

     

    2.1. Especially /e/ sound. When there is /e/ in a word - be sure that a main stress could be not where it's supposed to be. /e/ could attract stress even when it is at the end of the word.

    e.g., bííndigén (it sounds like there are two main stresses, though e is a little bit stronger),
    mákadé (black).

    Note. Makade shows quite a strange thing. First syllable must be considered weak, but Odaawa and Potowatomi (where vowel syncope also takes place) show different syncope -
    Odaawa: mkade; but Potowatomi: mukte.
    Though both put main stress on the last /e/.

    /e/ could take a main stress at the end of the word, but only if there is no long vowel in a syllable rigth before it.

    e.g., anishináábé; atáá

    But even in these cases it takes either the secondary stress, or the second main one.

     

    2.2. If there is a long vowel in a word and all other vowels are short, it looks like the long vowel will take the main stress, wherever it stands.

     

    2.3. As I understand, ability of long vowels to attract stress depends on (1) what vowels they are, and (2) on number of syllables after them.

    e.g., gaawiin technically must have stress on the first syllable as the farthest strong syllable from the end.
    But main stress is the second syllable - gááwíín.
    The same is in zhííshííb.
    But in míínawáá the first syllable takes the main stress.


    3. Some words show a strange thing - the first short vowel is stressed, and the last syllable takes the main stress.

    E.g., gígizhéb, gánabáj, mígizí, ánimóósh

    Note. The stress in mígizí could have something to deal with the stress in mákadé.

    Because when there are three syllables in a word, and the last one takes the main stress, it's hard to pronounce a syllable before it with enough strength without a pause or a bit more lengthening of a vowel, to create some space for the following main stress. So to escape this problem, it may force secondary stress to move to the first syllable whatever it is - strong of weak.
    So there are two ways to pronounce such words with and without syncope:

    mgí-zí - mí-gizí
    ní-móósh - á-nimóósh
    mká-dé - má-kadé; or mú-kté
    to say makádé without syncope of the first /a/ is rather hard.

     

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