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Mesquakie-Sauk Pronunciation and Spelling Guide (Sac and Fox)

Welcome to our Meskwaki-Sauk alphabet page! The following charts show the pronunciation for the Meskwaki-Sauk orthography we have used on our site, as well as some alternate spellings that you may find in other books and websites. You may also like to visit our Algonquian languages homepage to see how Mesquakie-Sauk relates to other languages from the Algonquian family.

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Mesquakie-Sauk Vowels

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Mesquakie-Sauk pronunciation:
a    a ~ Like the a in father or the a in what.
â  a:, a·, ā  a Like the a in father, only held longer.
e    e ~ ε Like the a in gate or the e in get.
ê  e:, e·, ä, ae  e ~ æ Like the a in gate or the a in rat, only held longer.
i    i ~ I Like the ee in peek or the i in pick.
î  i:, i·, ī  i Like the ee in peek, only held longer.
o  u o ~ Like the o in note or the oo in soot.
ô  o:, o·, ō o Like the o in note, only held longer.

Mesquakie-Sauk Consonants

Character
We Use:
Sometimes
Also Used:
IPA symbol: Mesquakie-Sauk pronunciation:
ch  č, tc  t Like ch in chair.
h  ‘  h ~ x Like h in English hay. Sometimes it is raspier, like the j in Spanish jalapeño.
k  g  k Like the soft k in skate.
m    m Like m in English moon.
n    n Like n in English night.
p  b  p Like the soft p in spill.
s    s Like s in see. This sound is only used in Meskwaki pronunciation.
sh  š, c   Like sh in shy.
t  d  t Like the soft t in star.
th  θ  θ Like th in thin. This sound is only used in Sauk pronunciation.
w   w Like w in English way.
y    j Like y in English yes.

Mesquakie-Sauk Dialect Variation

Sauk and Fox (Mesquakie) are very close dialects with the same grammar, most of the same vocabulary words, and similar pronunciation. The most noticeable difference is that Fox speakers use the sound s while Sauk speakers use the sound th. Also, Fox speakers tend to pronounce all their vowels, both long and short, as tense vowels, much like the vowels used in Spanish. (The exception is that Fox speakers frequently pronounce o as .) Sauk speakers, on the other hand, tend to pronounce short vowels and also the long vowel ê as lax vowels, like the ones in the American English words pat, pet, pit and putt.

So the Fox word for 'three,' neswi, is pronounced [neswi], while the Sauk word for 'three,' nethwi, is usually pronounced [nεθwI]. The word têpi is usually pronounced [te:pi] in Fox but [tæ:pI] in Sauk.

These are relatively minor differences in accent, and Fox and Sauk speakers have always been able to understand each other easily.

Mesquakie-Sauk Stress

Meskwaki-Sauk has less pronounced word stress than English does. In English, unstressed vowels are often reduced to schwas, which makes the stress sound very strong. (An example of this is the word "rebel." When "rebel" is a noun, the stress is on the first syllable and the word is pronounced REH-bəl. When "rebel" is a verb, the stress is on the second syllable and the word is pronounced rə-BELL.)

But in Sauk-Fox pronunciation, most vowels are pronounced normally regardless of stress. The only vowel that sometimes becomes reduced to a schwa or dropped when it is unstressed is short a, and that only happens when it is the first or last letter in a word. If you reduce any other unstressed vowel to a schwa the way you would in English, you could sound like you are saying a completely different word, so be careful not to do this!

Although stress is less pronounced than it is in English, it is still present. Generally speaking, the stress is on the third-from-last syllable of a Meskwaki-Sauk word.

Sauk and Fox Pronunciation and Vocabulary Resources

   Sauk words
   Sauk animals
   Fox body parts
   Fox color words
   Meskwaki numbers
   Sauk-Fox alphabet
   Algonquians
   Woodlands Native Americans
   Michigan Indians
   Fox legends

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