about our sources)
How to pronounce our symbols:
The tough symbols (a longer explanation is below):
e' = the a in English cat
I = the i in English fit
c = ch
zh = the s in English leisure
All the letters in our Potawatomi alphabet:
a b c d e e' g h i I j k m n o p s sh t u w y z zh
We find that "writing" Potawatomi is the hardest part to
explain (which shows how limited print can be for signifying sounds). That's
why we intend to include more and more sound files, so these written explanations
become unnecessary. But for now, we're stuck with writing it out long hand
to help you know what we mean by our symbols.
- We chose to use a Roman alphabet because we felt most of our learners
would be first speakers of English. Our orthography is an adapted phonetic
alphabet, which has its advantages and disadvantages.
- Each of our symbols always stands for only one sound (unlike
many English letters, such as vowels).
- For the most part, our letters are the same as in English. Really only
four symbols are unusual enough to cause trouble: c, e', I, and zh
Our vowels take a little getting used to because we try to keep them
- c is simply ch (we didn't need c for s or k, so we used it here)
- e' is the a in English cat'; this is one of the most difficult Potawatomi
sounds to learn to speak, since it doesn't come at the end of any English
words (only exceptions: sound words, like a baby's "waa" or "dada"
and a sheep's "ba-a-a-a").
- I is the i in English fit (necessary because our i is always ee)
- zh you have used before; it is the s in English leisure
Sometimes y and w act as "semivowels," when they follow vowels.
The result is much like diphthongs in English. Here are some instances
(followed by a "sounds like in English" and a Potawatomi example):
- a is always ah
- e = eh
- i = ee
- o = oh
- u is the oo in English book (*not* the same as the oo sound) OR sometimes
uh--like English buck (okay, okay, so we aren't *always* consistent...)
- ey, as in English hey, Potawatomi: dIneym (my husband)
- ay, as in English die, Potawatomi: misho naynuk (our grandfathers)
- aw, as in English cow, Potawatomi: ahaw (okay)
- iw, as in beautiful or Kyoto, Potawatomi: iwgwien (thanks)
The y basically becomes ee; the w, oh or sometimes oo. This effect is
also seen in Potawatomi sometimes when w's or y's are functioning in their
normal capacity as consonants (example: jaye'k, where it's pretty difficult
to tell if the a sounds like ah, or the a and y together sound like ay.
Are we getting boringly technical here?).
A couple of other symbols we've experimented with (more and more we're
thinking these are unnecessary) are:
- : (lengthened vowel), example--e':he' (yes)
- ' (glottal stop, not to be confused with the mark on the e'), example--ego
i'i (don't do that)
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Information about the sources we used to compile this word list
All of these are Kansas Potawatomis unless otherwise indicated.
- Jim = Jim McKinney, BWAKA member (and misho/patriarch of the
- Martha = Martha Lewis, who kept notes and handouts from a series
of Potawatomi lessons taught in Topeka in the 1970s
- Lorenzo = Lorenzo Mattawaoshe, 1995 data contributor
- Maynard = Maynard Potts, 1995 data contributor
- Ike = Isaac Bennick, who made a language audiotape for his grandson,
Ken Lopez, who generously shared it with us
- Ruby = Ruby Shuckahosee (pronounced Sha-kaw-zee), who produced
a text we previously have called "ALLCAPS"
- Daniels = Billy and Mary Daniels, Forest Band Potawatomis