The spelling and sound system of Kankanaey

The following letters are used to represent the distinctive sounds of Kankanaey: a, b, d, e, g, i, k, l, m, n, ng, o, p, s, t, w, and y. In addition to these letters, the dictionary makes use of the acute accent and hyphen. The acute accent is used to mark the stressed vowel of words having more than one syllable. Vowels so marked should be pronounced with a slight increase in volume, and when they occur in open syllables, they should also be lengthened. Many minimal pairs occur in which stress is the only distinguishing factor, e.g., ótot, ‘rat’, otót ‘flatulence’; dáan ‘old’, daán ‘not yet’. Stress is not marked in the practical orthography.

Glottal stop is represented in two ways in the dictionary and in the orthography, following the pattern of Tagalog and many other Philippine languages. At the beginning of a word and between vowels, it is not symbolized at all. Following a consonant, it is represented by a hyphen. For example, ab-abíik ‘person’s spirit’ is pronounced with an initial glottal, a glottal preceding the second ‘a’, and a glottal between the two final vowels. When a glottal-initial root is prefixed with man, the glottal then follows a consonant and is symbolized by a hyphen, e.g., man-anák.

Hyphen is also used to distinguish a sequence of n and g from the velar nasal represented by the digraph ng. Thus, in the word mangán, the n and g are pronounced as a single sound (as the ng in English ‘ring’), whereas in the words man-gapó and in-gális, the n and g belong to separate syllables and are pronounced as separate sounds.

The Kankanaey consonants are pronounced as they would be in English, with two exceptions: 1) The voiceless stops p, t, and k are never aspirated (pronounced with a puff of air); 2) When k occurs in the same syllable as the vowel i, it is pronounced as it would be in English. With other vowels, it is pronounced farther back in the mouth.

The vowel a is pronounced like the a in ‘father’ when it occurs in stressed open syllables, and like the u in ‘cup’ elsewhere. Thus, in the word mandánag, the second a is pronounced as in ‘father’; the first a and both vowels in bagáng are pronounced as in ‘cup’.

The vowel i has two variants. When it occurs in closed syllables, word-finally, or preceding ng, it is pronounced like a vowel halfway between the vowels in ‘beat’ and ‘bit’. Elsewhere it is pronounced like the vowel in ‘beat’. For example, the letter i is pronounced halfway between ‘beat’ and ‘bit’ in the words sóbil, labí, and gínga. In the word silíbam, both instances of i are pronounced as in ‘beat’.

The vowel e is a high central unrounded vowel symbolized by i in the phonetic alphabet. It has no close equivalent in English. To produce it, stop halfway between the soundsee (see) and oo (hoot), but keep the lips unrounded.

The vowel o is pronounced like the vowel in ‘book’ when it occurs in unstressed closed nonfinal syllables except when next to glottal or k, and also in final syllables ending in y and beginning with any consonant other than glottal. Thus, in the words motyók and dontóg, the first syllable vowels are pronounced as the vowel in ‘book’, the final vowels as in ‘boat’. In other final syllables and next to glottal or following k, it is pronounced like the vowel in ‘boat’, but without the glide to u and the extra lip rounding that occurs in the English pronunciation of that word. Thus, in the words doóy and láboy, the final vowels are pronounced as the vowels in ‘boat’ and ‘book’, respectively.  Elsewhere, o may be pronounced as the vowel in either ‘boat’ or ‘suit’: in the words ogáli and póseg, the o’s may be pronounced either way.[1]

Phonological rules that occur with affixation and reduplication

In addition to the above rules of pronunciation, Kankanaey has a system of phonological rules governing the changes that occur when roots connect to affixes.[2] A summary of the more frequently encountered phonological processes is given below. The rules are presented in the order according to which they should be applied.

Stress Shift. Stress shifts one syllable to the right upon suffixation of roots with syllable patterns other than ĆV́ (C) and CVC.CV́. With roots having the pattern CVC.CV́C, stress shift occurs only when the final vowel of the root is e. Stress shifts one syllable to the left upon prefixation of one-syllable stative roots with ma-, na-, or ka-. If this prefixation occurs in combination with suffixation, stress remains on the root. The first three examples below illustrate the syllable patterns in which stress shift does not occur.

ék + -en = éken

pok-í + -an = pok-ían

kibtót + -en = kibtóten

The remaining examples show some of the patterns in which stress shift does occur.

ék + ma- = máek

láko + -an = lakóan

pelá + -en = pellaén

ngalát + -en = ngallatén

sílpo + -an = silpóan

padsék + -an = padsekán

kaloskós + -en = kaloskosén

Nasal assimilation and initial consonant deletion. When a prefix ending in a velar nasal (ng) is affixed to a root that begins with a non-glottal stop or s, the velar nasal assimilates in place of articulation to the initial consonant of the root, which is subsequently deleted.

bidkíng + mang- = mamidkíng

táyaw + mang- = manáyaw

kán + mang- = mangán

sádong + mang- = manádong

When the initial root consonant is a sonorant (l, m, n, ng, w or y), the prefix nasal (ng) becomes an n, but the initial root consonant does not delete.

lípot + mang- = manlípot

mekmék + mang- = manmekmék

nemném + mang- = mannemném

wanés + mang- = manwanés

When the initial consonant of the root is glottal, no assimilation occurs, but the glottal is deleted.

ámag + mang- = mangámag

óbad + mang- = mangóbad

Initial vowel deletion. When a CV.CV́(C ) root takes an infix or CV- prefixation, the initial vowel of the root deletes as follows: a high central vowel (e) deletes before any vowel, and high non-central vowels (i, o) delete before non-central vowels.

kedéng + ma- = makdéng

topíg + i- = itpíg

pisít + -in- = pinsít

Infix reduction. The infix -inom- is reduced to -inm- preceding an initial root vowel.

tétek + -inom- = tinmétek

bála + -inom- = binmála

Prefix reduction. The prefix ini- is reduced to in- preceding a CV sequence.

páyag + ini- = inpáyag

denét + ini- = inidnét

Vowel harmony. a) The vowel o harmonizes with a following e when the two vowels are separated by a nasal and a morpheme boundary b) o optionally harmonizes with a following e when the two vowels are separated by a nasal, morpheme boundary and consonant.

béla + -om- = beméla

selák + -om- = somlák

degés + -om- = demgés-domgés

Notice that the previous three rules apply only to forms where initial vowel deletion has not occurred (except for part b of the vowel harmony rule, where application is optional in the event deletion has occurred).

Final vowel deletion. When a CV.CV́(C ) root takes a suffix, the final vowel of the root deletes as follows: e deletes following any initial vowel, i deletes following i , and o deletes following o[ja1] .

kedéng + -en = kedngén

pisít + -en = pistén

ponó + -en = pon-én

lingéb + -an = lingbán

talék + -en = talkén

Gemination. Upon affixation or reduplication of a root, the initial consonant of the pre-stress syllable geminates (doubles) if the stressed syllable is preceded by at least two open syllables.

getád + -en = gettadén

tapí + i- = ittapí

tadém + -om- = tommadém

asikáso + -en = asikkasóen

síyek + CV- = -an = sissiyékan

Glottal metathesis or assimilation. The glottal stop metathesizes (changes places) with the following consonant if the consonant following the next vowel is non-glottal. It assimilates to the following consonant if the consonant following the next vowel is glottal. Notice that this rule will always apply to glottal-initial roots that have undergone the initial vowel deletion rule.

edép + ma- = mad-ép

emés + i- = im-és

óm + ka- + CVC- = kakkáom