The native Saanich sound system exhibits thirty-five consonants and
four vowels. The consonants contrast five manners of articulation: plain and
glottalized voiceless stops, fricatives, and plain and glottalized resonants.
There are nine contrasting places of articulation: labial, dental, alveolar,
alveo-palatal, lateral, labio-velar, uvular, labio-uvular1,
and laryngeal. The
simpler vowel system contrasts two levels of height and two of backness.
The following list shows the relative frequency of occurrence (most to
least common) of Saanich segmental phonemes in a randomly
selected set of one thousand
different utterances: /ə, s, ʔ, n, t, e, ɬ, l, xʷ, kʷ, ŋ, č, i, a, q, l̕,
w̕, x̣, y, š, w, k̕ʷ, t̕θ, θ, m, n̕, q̕, qʷ, ƛ̕, t̕, m̕, p, y̕, č̕, ŋ̕,
x̣ʷ, q̕ʷ, h, p̕/.
Figure 1 shows a functional diagram of the consonant system. The gaps
in the labial and lateral series are typical of Salishan languages2.
Labials in Saanich are rare in general. Of the over eighty function morphemes
discussed in §2 none has a labial consonant. Only three lexical
suffixes, ∥=čəp∥, ∥=iiməʔ∥, and ∥=amət∥ show labials (see
Table 1: Consonants
The phonemes /θ/ and /t̕θ/ have arisen from
Proto-Straits /c/ and
/c̕/. Although these two sounds are not particularly rare in
appear in only two other Salish languages, Halkomelem and Comox3.
The symbol in parentheses, /k/, is found only in a few relatively
recent loans from English and French through Chinook Jargon. The
the only words seen to bear this phoneme: /kúk/ ‘cook’,
/káa/ ‘car’, /ləkwín/ ‘crucifix’, /kəpú/ ‘coat’, /kúl/ ‘gold’,
/kə́lənts/ ‘currant’, and /lisék/ ‘sack’.
Native speakers readily
recognize these as being of foreign origin.
The obstruents are usually lenis but never voiced. The glottalized
obstruents are ejective but weakly so.
It is often difficult, especially in the
anterior consonants, to perceive the contrast. Unlike the closely related
Klallam language, Saanich obstruents are only rarely and weakly aspirated.
18.104.22.168. The labial, /p/ plain voiceless
glottalized, are always bilabial.
pek̕ʷ ‘smoke (hides, fish, etc.)’, p̕əkʷ ‘rise
the surface’; špáqʷəs ‘drop-off’, sp̕aq̕ʷəŋ ‘foam’; paxʷ ‘blow’, p̕əɬ
‘emerge’; θə́pxʷəŋ ‘brittle’, sx̣ə́p̕šən ‘fishtail’; q̕pət ‘gather it’,
xʷq̕p̕ət ‘patch it’; ɬəp ‘blink’, ɬ;ap̕
‘eat with a spoon’; ʔápən ‘ten’,
22.214.171.124. The dentals, /t̕θ/ and /θ/, are only rarely
interdental. They are phonetically [t̕_s̪],
a glottalized dental affricate,
and [s̪], a grooved dental fricative, respectively.
/t̕θ/ is easy for the
non-native to recognize when it occurs because there is nothing else like it.
/θ/, on the other hand, is as difficult for
the non-native speaker to
distinguish from /s/ as /xʷ/ is from
/x̣ʷ/ (see §126.96.36.199). /θ/
is unlike the fricative in English ‘thin’ in two ways: it is not interdental
but articulated with the tip of the tongue behind and
against the incisors and
it is grooved rather than slit. Although /θ/
and /s/ are phonetically
similar, there are a number of contrasting pairs4:
θə́k̕ʷsət ‘stretching’, sák̕ʷət ‘bathe it’,
‘skunk cabbage’; θə́l̕qt ‘sharing it’, sə́l̕q̕əŋ
‘sagging’; θíɬəŋ ‘stand’,
sáɬ ‘door’, t̕θáɬəŋ ‘cold’;
θéx̣əŋ ‘sour’, síx̣ʷəŋ ‘wade’; √ʔaθ ‘face,
front’, √ʔis ‘paddle’, √ʔit̕θ ‘get dressed’;
méθəč ‘cormorant’, mə́sət ‘fold it’, mít̕θət ‘crush it’.
188.8.131.52. The alveolars, /t/ a voiceless
stop, /t̕/ its
glottalized counterpart, and /s/, are produced with the tip
of the tongue
above the teeth on the forward part of the alveolar ridge.
The distribution of
the sounds is rather uneven; /s/ and /t/
are two of the most frequently
occurring phonemes while /t̕/ is one of the rarest.
tíʔə ‘this’, t̕éʔət ‘try it’; téčəl
t̕ét̕θəŋ ‘go sour’; takʷ ‘flame’, t̕ak̕ʷ ‘go home’; téŋ̕əs ‘crave a
particular food’, t̕əŋ̕aʔəŋ̕ ‘swimming’, təŋáθən
‘earth, land’, t̕áŋən ‘wall’; təq ‘raid’, t̕aq ‘sharpen’; tə́qʷnəŋ ‘getting
tightened’, t̕íq̕ʷnəŋ ‘get hit (by something moving)’; təs ‘near’,
broken’; č̕ə́təŋ ‘be crawling’, č̕át̕əʔ ‘clam stick’.
See §184.108.40.206 for /s/ in contrast
to /θ/ and
§220.127.116.11 for /s/ vs. /š/.
18.104.22.168. The laterals /ƛ̕/, a voiceless
affricate, and /ɬ/, a voiceless fricative,
are bilateral and articulated with
the tip of the tongue against the forward part of the alveolar ridge. In
comparison to Klallam the Saanich /ƛ̕/ is quite lenis while
/ɬ/ is somewhat
noisier. The /ɬ/ is slightly affricated occasionally in initial position.
Contrasts are found between /ɬ/ and /ƛ̕/:
ɬət̕θél̕s ‘cut’, ƛ̕ət̕θéčən ‘belt’; ɬeč ‘dark’,
‘deep’; ɬík̕ʷən ‘gaff, fishhook’, ƛ̕ík̕ʷən ‘sweet peas’; ɬáp̕ən ‘spoon’,
ƛ̕ép̕ət ‘touch it’; ɬq̕éʔčəs ‘five’, ƛ̕qéqən ‘long feather’; xʷɬq̕ʷást
‘slap someone in the face’, ƛ̕k̕ʷə́təs ‘he turned it (a light) off’;
‘pry it off’, ƛ̕q̕ʷə́t ‘stick it on’; ɬáw̕ət ‘carry it out’, ƛ̕áwəŋ ‘howl
(as a dog)’; sɬéwən ‘wall-mat’, sƛ̕ə́wən ‘earrings’; sp̕áɬəɬ ‘sober’,
sp̕áƛ̕əŋ ‘smoke (from a fire)’; sx̣éɬəɬ ‘sick’, sx̣éƛ̕ ‘river trap’.
and between /ɬ/ and /l/ or /l̕/:
ɬət̕θél̕s ‘cut’, lət̕θə́t ‘fill it’; ɬə́lət ‘splash
it’, lálət ‘invite someone on a hunting trip’; √ɬiqʷ ‘meat’, √liqʷ ‘loosen’;
√x̣əɬ ‘feel bad’, x̣əl̕ ‘write, draw’;
θə́ɬqʷt ‘piercing it’, θə́l̕qt ‘sharing
it’; qʷə́ɬəs ‘smelts’, qʷə́l̕əs ‘boil’.
See §22.214.171.124 for contrasts between /ɬ;/ and /š/.
126.96.36.199. The alveopalatals /č/, a voiceless affricate,
/č̕/, its glottalized counterpart, and /š/, a grooved fricative, are
produced with the tip of the tongue just behind the alveolar ridge. /č/ and
/š/ are similar to the obstruents in English ‘church’ and ‘she’.
A number of forms of forms show contrast among /č/, /č̕/, and /tθ/.
čéʔət ‘vomit’, č̕ét̕θət ‘sew it’, t̕θéʔət ‘put it on
top’; st̕éčəŋ ‘tide’, t̕ét̕θəŋ ‘go sour’; ʔíčəɬ;
‘scoop up’, ʔéč̕ət ‘wipe
it’, ʔít̕θəŋ ‘get dressed’.
Contrasts are found between /s/ and /š/:
təs ‘near’, təš ‘comb’; šə́n̕šən̕ ‘alone’,
sə̀msəmáy̕əʔ ‘bee’; sen ‘who?’, šem ‘dry’; saúp̕ət ‘sniff it’, šapt
‘whistle’; šəq ‘finish a job’, səq ‘be outside’.
and between /ɬ/ and /š/:
ɬəl ‘splash’, šəl ‘climb’; ɬə́ptən ‘eyelash’, šapt
‘whistle’; ɬə́qəs ‘edible seaweed’, šə́qtəs ‘he finished it up (a job).’
188.8.131.52. The labio-velars /kʷ/, a voiceless stop,
/k̕ʷ/, its glottalized counterpart, and /xʷ/,
a voiceless fricative, may
also be called labialized pre-velars since they are
articulated with the dorsum
of the tongue placed far forward on the soft palate with concomitant rounding
of the lips. Contrasts found between /kʷ/ and /k̕ʷ/:
kʷə́t̕θət ‘loosen it’, sk̕ʷát̕θəɬ
‘fly’, k̕ʷə́ləw̕ ‘skin’; kʷə́mkʷəm ‘drum’, k̕ʷámk̕ʷəm ‘strong’; kʷə́nət
‘take it’, k̕ʷə́nət ‘look at it’; √kʷin ‘fight’,
√k̕ʷin ‘how many?’; kʷə́səs
‘deliver it’, k̕ʷə́səŋ ‘counting’; kʷey ‘announce’,
k̕ʷey̕ ‘hungry’; √makʷ
‘curl up’, √mək̕ʷ ‘all’; q̕ékʷəŋ ‘knee’, q̕ík̕ʷət
‘bite it’; θákʷət
‘squeal on someone’, θə́k̕ʷət ‘stretching it’.
The difficulty in distinguishing /kʷ/
/k̕ʷ/ vs. /q̕ʷ/, and /xʷ/ vs. /x̣ʷ/ are well known to anyone who has
studied a Salish language. Numerous forms show these contrasts:
kʷə́t̕θət ‘loosen it’, sqʷət̕θ ‘brown grouse’;
‘fly’, qʷəl ‘say’; qʷínəqən ‘beard’, kʷíntəl̕ ‘fight with someone’;
skʷə́n̕kʷən̕ ‘carbuncle’, sqʷínqʷən ‘necklace’;
kʷíx̣ʷtəl̕ ‘argue’, qʷíx̣ʷət
‘miss it (a shot)’; t̕θə́kʷəʔíw̕s ‘left side’, st̕θáqʷiʔ ‘spring salmon’;
čákʷəs ‘use it’, čáqʷəɬ ‘fire’; slíkʷəl ‘calm’, líqʷət ‘loosen it’.
k̕ʷát̕θəɬ ‘crooked’, q̕ʷə́t̕θəŋ ‘root’; k̕ʷey̕ ‘hungry’, q̕ʷəy̕
‘deceive’; ƛ̕k̕ʷət ‘extinguish’, ƛ̕q̕ʷət ‘stick something on’.
xʷítəŋ ‘jump’, x̣ʷát̕ət ‘prop up’, x̣ʷíqʷət ‘rub,
buff’; x̣ʷəy ‘die, be
lost’, xʷəy ‘wake up’; t̕θíxʷəŋ ‘pity’, t̕θə́x̣ʷən̕ ‘chokecherry’; √kʷəxʷ
‘knock’, √kʷix̣ʷ ‘argue’; ɬxʷéləʔ ‘three people’, ɬx̣ʷástəŋ ‘telling someone’
off’; sƛ̕əxʷ ‘he lost’, ƛ̕əx̣ʷ ‘hard’; məxʷísət ‘rock oneself’, mə́x̣ʷəyəʔ
184.108.40.206. The uvulars /q/, a voiceless stop, /q̕/, its
glottalized counterpart, and /x̣/, a voiceless fricative, are
They are articulated with the dorsum of the tongue on the
back part of the soft
palate. In Klallam the fortis articulation often gives these stops an
affricate quality, but in Saanich they are so weakly articulated
that they are
sometimes difficult to distinguish from /ʔ/. Nevertheless,
and /ʔ/ do contrast:
qə́čəʔ ‘catch’, q̕əč̕íʔ ‘moss’, ʔačə ‘request information’;
qə́kʷəŋ ‘bake (bread)’, q̕ə́kʷəʔ ‘cane, walking stick’, ʔəkʷáʔ ‘show how’;
qékʷəŋ ‘rest’, q̕ékʷəŋ ‘knee’; qəlíiməʔ ‘dirty, messy’, q̕əlísət ‘go
around a corner’; qəm̕ ‘beg, borrow’, q̕əm̕ ‘cut in two’,
ʔam ‘be fed up’;
sqə́nəxʷ ‘greedy’, ʔə́nəxʷ ‘shut off’; t̕θəqénəŋ ‘go up a hill’, t̕θə́q̕əŋ
‘dripping’; ɬqit ‘clothes’, ɬq̕ət ‘wide’.
The fricatives /x̣/ and /h/ contrast:
x̣áʔqən ‘marten’, haʔ ‘if, when’; √x̣éʔ ‘sacred’, heeʔ
‘yes’; x̣it̕θ ‘raw’, het̕θ ‘breathe’; x̣ək̕ʷ ‘gnaw’, hek̕ʷ ‘remember’.
220.127.116.11. The labio-uvulars /qʷ/, a voiceless stop,
/q̕ʷ/, its glottalized counterpart, and /x̣ʷ/ are labialized post-velars.
The articulation of these is the same as the
corresponding unlabialized uvulars
but with lip rounding. See §18.104.22.168 for contrasts with labio-velars.
Contrasts are found between /qʷ/ and /q̕ʷ/:
sqʷət̕θ ‘brown grouse’, q̕ʷə́t̕θəŋ ‘root’;
‘sore’, sq̕ʷáq̕ʷiʔ ‘dead’; t̕θáqʷiʔ ‘spring salmon’, t̕θáq̕+əŋ ‘rotten’;
čáqʷəɬ ‘fire’, čáq̕ʷəŋ ‘sweat’.
22.214.171.124. The laryngeals are /ʔ/, glottal stop, and
/h/, a voiceless fricative. The former is the second most common consonant
the latter is the second least common one. /ʔ/
finally, in consonant clusters, and intervocalically. /h/ occurs initially
and occasionally appears intervocalically. The glottal stop forms an
important grammatical morpheme in itself, the ‘actual’ aspect (see
§126.96.36.199). Contrasts are found between /ʔ/ and /h/:
ʔíʔt̕θəŋ ‘getting dressed’, héʔt̕θəŋ ‘breathing’;
ʔəléʔ ‘hear’, həlí ‘alive’; ʔis ‘paddle’, hiθ ‘long time’.
‘ancestral name’, sləhél ‘stick game’.
See §188.8.131.52 for contrasts between /ʔ/ and
/q, q̕/ and between /h/ and /x̣/.
The resonants are always voiced.
The glottalized resonants are usually
realized phonetically as voiced resonants with accompanying laryngeal
constriction, creaky voice. However, often in multisyllabic forms they are
realized as a sequence of glottal stop and resonant: ʔR when following
stress and Rʔ when preceding stress. The glottalized resonants never
in root initial position.
184.108.40.206. Since underlying glottalized resonants are not
their distribution in roots is limited, and they often appear as sequence of
glottal stop and resonant, there is a question as to whether they should be
considered unit phonemes at all.
220.127.116.11.1. Raffo (1972:12-15) argues against positing
underlying glottalized resonants in Songish. Most of the arguments presented
there are based on comparisons to other Coast Salish languages and
based on other synchronic analyses. The major synchronic arguments -- no
minimal pairs are found and glottalized resonants do not function as a
reduplicative patterns -- do not hold for Saanich. Though minimal pairs
kind are few and far between in a
language with such a large phonemic inventory
as Saanich, they are especially difficult to find for plain versus glottalized
resonants since the latter never occurs root initially. Nevertheless
a few such roots: √ʔam ‘fed up’, √ʔam̕ ‘wet’;
√ʔen ‘obey’, √ʔen̕ ‘very,
too’; √k̕ʷey ‘unable’, √k̕ʷey̕ ‘hungry’; √t̕m ‘guess’, √t̕m̕ ‘hit’.
For many examples of reduplicated glottalized resonants see §2.3.1,
§18.104.22.168, and §22.214.171.124.
126.96.36.199.2. Efrat (1978) argues for underlying glottalized
resonants in Sooke and Saanich by showing that certain forms of the ‘actual’
aspect are best accounted for in terms of a basic glottalized/non-glottalized
opposition in resonants. The analysis of the ‘actual’ presented here in
§2.3.5 differs substantially from that given by Efrat. But, given
the present analysis of the ‘actual’, much the same data provides somewhat
different evidence for underlying glottalized resonants. Before presenting
this evidence it will be useful to discuss some of the phonetic characteristics
of glottalized resonants.
188.8.131.52.3. What are assumed here to be glottalized
resonants are often perceived as a sequence, ʔR or Rʔ. As mentioned above,
this decomposition is predictable and depends on the position of the stress:
R̕ → ʔR / V́ _____ V and R̕ → Rʔ / V ______ V́.
both optional, however, so that often R̕ is perceived as R̕ in
environments as well as in others such as final position.
does not occur with the glottalized obstruents because of the fundamental
differences between obstruents and resonants. The perceived and distinguishing
effect of the ejectives is necessarily provided by the simultaneous release of
two otherwise independent articulations: oral and glottal. For the resonants,
on the other hand, release is irrelevant. Simultaniety of oral and glottal
articulations is an underlying target but not a surface necessity. Stress
necessarily involves increased physiological tension in the laryngeal area due
to increased pitch and pulmonic pressure. When a glottalized resonant follows
a stressed vowel the laryngeal part of the articulation already has, in a
manner of speaking, a head start. And when a glottalized resonant precedes a
stressed vowel the laryngeal tension is carried beyond the oral articulation.
184.108.40.206.4. When underlying sequences of glottal stop and
resonant do occur, the glottal stop sometimes tends to carry into the resonant
producing a surface glottalized resonant. For example, the surface form
/ʔəlén̕əxʷ/ ‘hear it’ is derived from two underlying morphemes:
∥√ʔəleʔ-naxʷ∥. Therefore, glottalized
resonants and sequences of
stop and resonant are superficially indistinguishable. The underlying contrast
does surface, however, in certain forms of the ‘actual’ aspect.
220.127.116.11.5. In §2.3.5 the rules for the placement
of the ‘actual’ infix /ʔ/ are described. When this infix is
inserted in the
environment V́ _______ ʔ, a schwa is automatically inserted between the
glottal stops. In contrast,the insertion of the infix in the environment
V́ ________ R̕ or V ________ R is never accompanied by the
of a schwa. These environments, then, show a surface effect of the underlying
distinction between R̕ and ʔR. The ‘actual’ infix before the
accompanied by a following /ə/, with the former it is not.
§2.3.5 for examples, especially 135.
18.104.22.168.6. Since 1) minimal pairs of roots are found
distinguishing R and R̕, 2) glottalized resonants do function as a unit in
reduplication, 3) contrast can be demonstrated between R̕
and ʔR, and 4)
the decomposition of R̕ is sporadic and phonetically justified, it is clear
that an underlying glottalized resonant series must be posited for Saanich.
22.214.171.124. The labial resonants /m/ and /m̕/ are
bilabial nasals. They contrast with /n/ and /n̕/:
smə́t̕θqən ‘brains’, nə́t̕θəʔ ‘one’; smə́čəʔ
a tree’, nə́čəŋ ‘laugh’; míɬə ‘dance’, níɬ ‘it is’; məq̕ ‘full
nə́qəŋ ‘dive’; məqʷ ‘thick’, nəqʷ ‘sleep’; ʔam
‘fed up’, ʔen̕ ‘very’;
ʔám̕ət ‘sleeping’, ʔín̕ət ‘say what’; st̕θam̕ ‘bone’,
xʷčəm̕sə́kʷəl ‘meet someone going in opposite direction’,
and with /ŋ/ and /ŋ̕/:
st̕θam̕ ‘bone’, čt̕θəŋ̕ ‘catch’;
(land)’, sɬə́məxʷ ‘rain’; smə́t̕θqən ‘brains’,
ŋə́t̕θəɬ ‘pus’; méʔkʷəɬ
‘wound’, ŋékʷəɬ ‘chew it’; sménəš ‘tobacco’,
sŋénət ‘stone’; məq̕ ‘full
stomach’, ŋə́q̕ət ‘swallow it’; məsə́t ‘fold it’,
ŋəséɬ; ‘four times’.
and with /w/ and /w̕/:
smákʷəɬ ‘curled up’, swákʷən ‘loon’; swə́ltən ‘net,
web’, smə́l̕əq ‘forget’; míɬə ‘dance’, wéɬət ‘chase someone away’; məsə́t
‘fold it’, wəsél̕s ‘barking’; sx̣ə́m̕x̣əm̕ ‘horsetail’, sx̣ə́w
səmə́y̕ ‘blanket’, səw̕éʔ ‘accompany’.
126.96.36.199. The alveolars /n/ and /n̕/ are articulated at
the same position as the alveolar obstruents (§188.8.131.52.). They
contrast with /l/ and /l̕/:
nə́t̕θəʔ ‘one’, lət̕θ ‘full’; nəhíimət ‘ancestral
name’, sləhél ‘stick game’; nə́qəŋ ‘dive’, ləq ‘sold’; čəné ‘goodness!’,
čəlél ‘soon’; sménəš ‘tobacco’, míləč ‘mix’.
and with /ŋ/ and /ŋ̕/:
nə́t̕θəʔ ‘one’, ŋə́t̕θəɬ ‘pus’; nə́qəŋ ‘dive’,
‘nose’; snas ‘fat, grease’, sŋass ‘fourth day’; ʔín̕ət
‘say what?’, ʔíŋəs
‘grandchild’; t̕θánəŋ ‘cold’, t̕θə́ŋ̕əɬ ‘chest’;
qén̕ət ‘rob someone’,
sqéŋ̕ət ‘south-east wind’.
See §184.108.40.206 for contrasts with /m/ and /m̕/.
220.127.116.11. The laterals /l/ and /l̕/ are always
apico-alveolar. They contrast with /y/ and /y̕/:
leʔ ‘repair’, √yeʔ ‘go’; ləláʔθən ‘plates’,
yəyásəŋ̕ ‘playing’; slə́wiʔ ‘cedar bark’, syə́wən ‘power song’; kʷə́l̕ət
‘pour it’, kʷəy̕əx̣t ‘stirring it’.
See §18.104.22.168 for contrasts with /ɬ;/ and
§22.214.171.124 for contrasts with /n/ and /n̕/.
126.96.36.199. The palatals /y/ and /y̕/ are glides, much
the same as the glides in English ‘yet’ and ‘toy’. See §188.8.131.52 for
contrasts with /l/ and /l̕/, §1.5.9 on y ; č,
and §1.5.7 on y ; i and y̕ ; iʔ.
184.108.40.206. The labio-velars /w/ and /w̕/ are glides much
the same as the glides in English ‘wet’ and ‘cow’. See §220.127.116.11 for
contrasts with /m/ and /m̕/ and §1.5.9 on w ; kʷ.
18.104.22.168. The uvulars /ŋ/ and /ŋ̕/ are post-velar,
usually produced farther toward the back of the soft palate than the velar
nasal in English ‘lung’. See §22.214.171.124 for contrasts with /m/ and
/m̕/ and §126.96.36.199 for contrasts with /n/ and /n̕/.
Figure 2 shows the Saanich vowel system. It is an unusual symmetrical
four vowel system in that there are no native rounded vowels5.
The /u/ in parentheses in figure 2, like the /k/ in figure 1, occurs only
in a few obvious loans. The following are the only roots recorded with this
phoneme: kúk ‘cook’, kúl ‘gold’, kəpú ‘coat’, skʷúl ‘school’, músməs
‘cow, beef’, mətúliə ‘Victoria’, pús ‘cat’, pút
‘boat’, púyəkʷ ‘gun’, and
šúkʷə ‘sugar’. These forms can undergo various morphological processes,
occur in various aspects, be pluralized, appear in compounds, etc.
Table 2: Vowels:
1.2.1. /i/ is a high front vowel usually a tense
cardinal [i]. It is often lax and somewhat lower and centralized preceding
any of the uvular or labio-uvular consonants and preceding /ʔ/.
1.2.2. /e/ is a mid-front vowel approximating a tense
cardinal [e]. It is often lax, lowered, and centralized in
of uvulars, labio-uvulars, and /ʔ/. It rarely appears as low as [ɛ],
never as [æ]. Contiguous to a lateral, a palatal obstruent,
or a velar
resonant it is often quite high and difficult to distinguish
1.2.3. /a/ is a low back vowel. It is
[a] but ranges from low lax central before palatal resonants
to back in the
environment of uvulars, labio-uvulars, and /ʔ/.
1.2.4. /ə/ shows the greatest variation
among the vowels. When stressed it
is usually a mid-central [ə]. Stressed or unstressed, it is
lower and back,
when contiguous to a uvular, labio-uvular, or laryngeal. This lowering is
particularly marked between two of these consonants. Otherwise, when
quality, though always lax and central, is largely determined by neighboring
sounds. It varies from [ɨ] following palatals and
/ŋ/ and /ŋ̕/ to [ʉ] before the labio-velar
and labio-uvular obstruents.
1.2.5. The following list shows the vowels in contrast:
ʔíčəɬ ‘scoop up’, ʔačə ‘request information’;
ʔíɬən ‘eat’, ʔéɬə ‘here, now’
, sʔáɬqəʔ ‘snake’; k̕ʷít̕θət
‘butcher it’, sk̕ʷát̕θəɬ ‘crooked’, kʷə́t̕θət ‘unwind it’; čə́q ‘big’,
číq ‘snow fell’; ɬíŋəstxʷ ‘put it (a pole) up’, ɬə́ŋət ‘weave
it’, ɬáŋ̕ət ‘halibut’; ɬə́ptən
‘eyelash’, ɬáp̕ən ‘spoon’;
ɬáw̕ət ‘removing the insides, hollowing it out’, ɬ;éw̕ ‘heal’;
√ƛ̕iʔ ‘like, want’, √ƛ̕eʔ ‘also’, √ƛ̕aʔ ‘pacify, comfort’;
mít̕θət ‘crush it’, smét̕θən̕ ‘proud’, smə́t̕θqən ‘brains’;
ŋás ‘four’, ŋə́sən̕ ‘louse’, ŋésən ‘scrotum’.
Contrast between /ə/ and /a/ and between /ə/
and /e/ forms an important aspectual distinction. See §188.8.131.52.
1.3. Canonical forms.
1.3.1. The following list contains some examples of the
most common root shapes:
CV - ∥√se∥ ‘bid to do, send (someone)’
CC - ∥√x̣č∥ ‘figure out, know’; ∥√čq∥ ‘be big’;
∥√t̕m̕∥ ‘be hit’
CVC - ∥√k̕ʷən∥ ‘see’;
∥√ʔit̕θ∥ ‘get undressed’;
∥√ʔəy̕∥ ‘be good’;
∥√t̕θeʔ∥ ‘on, upon, high’
CVCC - ∥√məlqʷ∥ ‘salmon heart’;
CCVC - ∥√t̕θɬək̕ʷ∥ ‘pinch’;
∥√tsas∥ ‘poor, low class’
CVCV - ∥√ʔən̕e∥ ‘come’;
The only sequences of two vowels recorded have been
geminate non-schwas. These are phonetically realized as
long vowels. They are
written here as two identical vowels since they
function as two separate vowels
with respect to the ‘actual’ infix, a /ʔ/ inserted
after the stressed
vowel.6 See §184.108.40.206 for details.
Following are a few examples of VV in
roots. See §2.2.10 for VV in suffixes.
ʔáaɬ ‘go aboard’, máay̕ ‘basket’, péeč̕ən ‘fishing
rod’, sčéenəxʷ ‘salmon, fish’, q̕ʷíiləš ‘dance’, níinč ‘human corpse’.
A few borrowed words also show VV:
máal ‘sledge hammer, maul’, káa ‘car’, wíič ‘wedge’.
A few roots have been recorded with more than three
consonants. Of these many are obvious borrowings:
ʔépəls ‘apple’, péstən ‘America’, kə́lənts ‘currant’,
səplíl ‘bread’, číkmən ‘iron’, ʔátx̣əs ‘shovel-nose canoe’7 etc.
Of those that are not obviously borrowed
most may actually involve as yet unidentified affixation8:
kʷəníŋət ‘run’, xʷənítəm ‘white person’, čənénxʷ
‘fishing on a big boat with a big net’, ɬníŋəɬ ‘we’, t̕θáʔkʷəs ‘seven’,
ʔéʔčəx̣ ‘crab’, ɬqéləč̕ ‘moon’, etc.
The predominant root shape is CVC; over sixty percent
all recorded roots have this form. Roots involving three consonants are also
very common and account for another twenty-five percent. Three consonant
roots with more than one non-schwa are very rare. In fact only one such root,
∥√ʔitat∥ ‘sleep’, has been recorded. This root is also exceptional in that
it is the only root with three obstruents to appear on the surface with two
vowels, schwa or non-schwa9:
/ʔítət/ or /ʔətát/, depending on the absence
or presence of a suffix (see §1.4.3). Aside from this root, all three
consonant roots appearing on the
surface with two vowels (i.e. CVCVC) involve
at least one resonant. Three consonant roots having no resonants are either
CVCC or CCVC.
1.3.2. When roots are extended by affixation,
reduplication, etc. it is much more difficult to typify the shapes. Words
with five or six affixes are not uncommon. The basic shapes of prefixes
and suffixes exceed those of roots in variety, and the shape of a word can be
drastically altered by one or more of the various radical morphological
processes (see §2.3). Nevertheless, there are some restrictions on
Tautosyllabic strings of contiguous consonants longer than two are not
common in Saanich10.
No strings of consonants occurring initially or finally have been found longer
than three and those always include at least one fricative. Initially these
clusters always include at least one prefix: sk̕ʷtaʔ ‘raven’, saʔsxʷ ‘dew’.
Strings of up to four consonants have been found word internally but these
morpheme and syllable boundaries: ɬq̕əčsɬ;šéʔ ‘fifty’
∥√ɬq̕-ə=čəs=ɬšeʔ∥, xʷƛ̕ə́qtnəč ‘cougar’ ∥xʷ√ƛ̕əq-t=nəč∥.11
Stress in Saanich is phonetically much like English stress: vocalic
prominence based on a combination of increased loudness and higher pitch.
Three levels with respect to stress can be recognized: primary (V́),
secondary (V ‘), and unstressed (V). There is one primary stressed vowel per
full word (see §2 for definition). Any non-schwa vowel and some
schwas that do not carry primary stress carry secondary
stress. Words with
more than one non-schwa are not common. /i/ is the most frequently occurring
non-schwa appearing without primary stress, usually representing the
vocalization of /y/ or /y̕/ (see §1.5.7).
Stress placement in Saanich is a complicated matter. The system
described in this section accounts for only the most common stem shapes.
1.4.1. Primary stress can fall on either the root or a
suffix; prefixes are always unstressed. Three types of roots with respect to
underlying stress properties can be recognized: strong, weak, and vowelless.
Similarly there are four types of suffixes: strong, ambivalent, weak, and
Strong roots tend to attract stress, losing it only to strong
suffixes. For example, ∥√x̣əɬ∥
‘feel bad’ is a strong root and ∥=iwəs∥
‘body, skin’ is a strong suffix. So /x̣əɬíkʷəs/ ‘suffer’ is
assignment. The ‘habitual’ suffix ∥-nəq∥ has weak valence, so /x̣ə́ɬnəq∥
‘habitually hurt (people’s feelings)’ is the stress assignment.
‘head’, an ambivalent suffix the stress is on the strong root:
Weak roots lose stress to both strong and ambivalent suffixes.
For example, ∥√ɬik̕ʷ∥ ‘get hooked, snagged’ is a weak root. With the
ambivalent suffix ∥=iqʷ∥ ‘head’, mentioned above, stress is on the suffix:
With the weak suffix ∥=sən∥ ‘foot’, however, stress is on the root:
/ɬík̕ʷsən/ ‘trip, get hooked on the foot’.
Weak suffixes are stressed only when following vowelless roots. See
examples in §220.127.116.11, §2.5.2, and §2.5.4 for weak grammatical
The fourth type of suffix is never stressed. Included in this group
are ∥-əɬ∥ ‘durative’ and ∥-tən∥ ‘instrument’.12
1.4.2. Several factors complicate this system: 1) some
suffixes have two vowels, and in some of these the vowels differ in valence.
The ‘structured activity’ suffix /-əláʔ/, for instance, is
a strong suffix
stressed on the second vowel, the first is never stressed (see
§18.104.22.168 for examples). The lexical suffix ∥=aθin∥ ‘mouth’, on
the other hand, is an ambivalent suffix that can be stressed on either vowel
depending upon which is penultimate (see §22.214.171.124.50 for examples).
2) There is a tendency to penultimate stress.
Given a suffix with two vowels
or two contiguous suffixes of equal valence, stress will
be on the penultimate,
even if the root is of greater
valence than either of the two suffixes. The
‘mouth’ suffix mentioned above is an example of such a suffix
with two vowels.
The strong root ∥√x̣əɬ∥
‘feel bad’ was mentioned in §1.4.1 above
and was shown to take stress from either a weak or an ambivalent suffix. But
when followed by two weak suffixes such
as ∥-ət∥ ‘control transitive’ and
∥-əs∥ ‘third person subject’ stress moves on
to the penultimate suffix:
/x̣ɬə́təs/ ‘he hurt him.’ See also §1.4.3. 3) Vowelless roots
with a resonant in C2 position13
are strengthened before stress assignment to the status of weak roots. The
root ∥√t̕m̕∥ ‘hit’, for example, is vowelless but a
rule that inserts /ə/ between an initial obstruent and a following resonant
precedes stress assignment (see §126.96.36.199 for more on this rule). The
root then acts as a weak root taking stress over a
weak suffix: /xʷt̕ə́m̕əs/
‘get hit in the face’ has the weak
suffix ∥=as∥ ‘face’ (see other examples
This strengthening happens, however, only with vowel initial suffixes.
Weak consonant initial suffixes remain stressed: /t̕əm̕náxʷ/
‘hit it (accidentally)’ contains the ‘non-control
transitive’ ∥-naxʷ∥ which is
stressed only following vowelless roots.
Because of these complicating factors and the number of different
valences it is often difficult to determine the exact stress valence of a
morpheme. In order to determine the valence of a root it must be observed with
a variety of suffixes. And the stress properties of these suffixes need to
have been seen in a number of different stems. Since stress valence of most
roots has not yet been determined,
underlying forms will not be prejudiced as
to stress valence throughout this sketch. See §1.5.4 on reduction of
1.4.3. Given a form with a number of suffixes of equal
valence, stress will fall on the penultimate vowel. Given any CVC root with
two one-syllable suffixes, stress will fall on the first suffix unless it is
weak and the second suffix is strong.
Penultimate stress placement is in some cases accompanied by metathesis
of the root vowel and following obstruent. This metathesis occurs when the
vowel of a strong root is a non-schwa and penultimate stress placement would
otherwise cause stress to fall on a following /ə/-initial suffix. The
following examples show a) a CVC root followed by one suffix and b) the same
root followed by two suffixes:
1a. qʷíx̣ʷət ‘miss it (a shot)’
b. qʷx̣ʷítəs ‘he missed it’
2a. máčət ‘aim it’
b. məčátəŋ ‘it was aimed’
3a. ƛ̕ép̕ət ‘feel it’
b. ƛ̕p̕étəŋ ‘it was felt’
4a. k̕ʷésət ‘scald it’
b. k̕ʷsétəs ‘he scalded it’
When the penultimate syllable is a non-schwa the metathesis
does not occur. Compare 5 to 4 above:
5. k̕ʷəsínəs ‘burn one’s chest (drinking something
In example 5 stress is placed on the penultimate vowel of
∥=inəs∥ ‘chest’ while the vowel of the
root is reduced to /ə/.
1.5. Other processes.
This section describes a few of the most common and generally
conditioned alternations that are not described elsewhere. Phonological
alternations that are specific to
particular morphemes are treated under the respective morphemes in
§2. C indicates any consonant; V is any vowel; R is any resonant;
- indicates a morpheme boundary; # is a word boundary;
%indicates a ‘mirror image’ environment,
i. e. if the environment specified is X
________, the process also occurs in ________ X.
1.5.1. l → l̕ / ________ C̕
/l/ becomes glottalized preceding a glottalized cons
typically occurs in certain ‘plural’ formations. See §188.8.131.52.
/t̕éləw̕/ ‘arm’ with ‘plural’ reduplication
(§184.108.40.206): /t̕əl̕t̕éləw̕/; /st̕éləŋəxʷ/ ‘medicine’ with
‘plural’ reduplication: /st̕əl̕t̕éləŋəxʷ/; /p̕əɬ;/
‘emerge, hatch’ with
‘actual’ (§220.127.116.11) and ‘plural’ (§18.104.22.168): /p̕ə́l̕p̕əɬ/
‘hatch a bunch of eggs’.
1.5.2. h → ø /C ________ , where C is an
obstruent but not /ʔ/.
This loss of /h/ includes in its environment the
final obstruent of a
preceding proclitic or enclitic. It is not limited to the word.
This is an
/hay̕/ ‘finish’ or /hiθ/ ‘long time’ preceded by /kʷɬ/
‘realized’ (§22.214.171.124): /kʷɬ ay̕/, /kʷɬ iθ/;
person pluralizer’ (§126.96.36.199.5) following /sxʷ/ ‘second person
subject’ (§2.4.4): /sxʷ elə/; but /hay̕/ ‘finish’ following
/ʔəw̕/ ‘contemporaneous’ (§188.8.131.52): /ʔəw̕ hay̕/; and
/həy̕əw̕/ ‘sitting in the bow’ following /ʔiʔ/ ‘accompanying’
(§184.108.40.206): /ʔiʔ hə́y̕əw̕/.
1.5.3. ø → h / ə ________ V
A əV sequence is separated by /h/. See §1.5.11 for Və
with /=ew̕txʷ/ ‘house’: /miɬəhéw̕txʷ/
‘dancehouse’; /télə/ ‘money’ followed by /=eləʔ/ ‘container’:
1.5.4. V (unstressed) → ə
An unstressed vowel is reduced to schwa. See §1.4 on stress
assignment for examples. There is only one vowel with primary stress in a word
and usually all other vowels are reduced to /ə/. There are
of non-schwas occurring without primary stress. /i/ is
the most common
example of this. Almost all of these represent vocalizations of /y/ or
/y̕/. See §1.5.7.
Some suffixes, notably ∥-si∥ ‘indirective’
and ∥-i∥ ‘persistent, resist reduction even
when a following suffix carries
stress: /k̕ʷənitál̕xʷ/ ‘watch us; /x̣ətsitáŋəs/
‘fix it for me’. There is
a small group of suffixes that take stress from the root but leave the root
vowel intact. /=éw̕txʷ/ ‘house’ is one of these suffixes. When following
/√telə/ ‘money’: /tèləhéw̕txʷ/ ‘bank’. With other suffixes such as
/=éləʔ/ ‘container’ the vowel of the root reduces: /tələhéləʔ/
Other suffixes that do not cause reduction of the
root vowel are /=iɬč/
‘plant’, /-naŋət/ ‘non-control middle’ and /=sis/ ‘hand’.
The /i/ of one form of the reduplicated ‘plural’ (§220.127.116.11)
never reduces. For example, /smə́yəθ/ ‘deer’
with /=aɬ/ ‘offspring’:
/sməyəθáɬ/ ‘fawn’ and in the ‘
plural’ /sməmìyəθáɬ/ ‘some fawns’.
There are a few loan words that appear with a non-schwa that does not
carry primary stress. These include: /lisék/ ‘sack’,
and /stíqiw/ ‘horse’.
There are a few words that do not obviously fall into one of these
categories of exceptions. These include: /siʔém̕/ ‘rich, high class’,
/piʔátəɬ/ ‘duck hunt’, /siʔétən/ ‘hair (on head)’, and /sx̣ʷiʔém̕/
‘fairy tale’. The unstressed non-schwa in each of these may represent a
vocalization of /y/ or /y̕/ but there is
at present no other evidence for
such an analysis.
1.5.5. ə → V % V́ʔ ________
Unstressed /ə/ assimilates to a stressed vowel opposite /ʔ/.
Schwas affected by this rule often remain lax and unstressed and therefore
surface contrast with non-schwas. This process is optional.
/yeʔ/ ‘go’ with ‘first person subordinate subject’ /-ən/
(§2.4.4): yéʔen; /t̕eʔ/ ‘taste, try’ with /-ət/ ‘control
transitive’ (§18.104.22.168): t̕éʔet; /ƛ̕iʔ/ ‘want, like’ followed
by /ə/ ‘yes/no question marker’ (§22.214.171.124.1): ƛ̕íʔ i;
/t̕θəkʷəʔ/ ‘left’ with /=iw̕s/ ‘body’: t̕θəkʷiʔíw̕s; /st̕éqəʔ/
‘bruise’ with /=aləs/ ‘eye’: št̕əqaʔáləs ‘black eye’; /ƛ̕aʔ/ ‘comfort
(someone)’ followed by /-ət/ ‘control transitive’: ƛ̕áʔ
1.5.6. ə (unstressed) → ø / ________ y or y̕
See §1.5.7 below for examples.
1.5.7. y → i / C ________ C or #
y̕ → iʔ / C ________
This process is also usually accompanied by loss of ∥ə∥ (see
/ʔəy̕/ ‘good’ followed by a suffix that will take stress such
as /=enkʷəs/ ‘stomach’ loses the /ə/: /ʔiʔénkʷəs/ ‘brave’; with
/=iiməʔ/ ‘appearance’: /ʔiʔíiməʔ/
‘neat, tidy’; /čey/ ‘work’ with
‘characteristic’ reduplicative pattern (§2.3.1): /čéyči/
‘diligent’; /kʷə́y̕əx̣/ ‘move back and forth’ followed by the
‘hand’: /kʷiʔx̣sísəŋ/ ‘knit’; /k̕ʷey/ ‘be hungry’ in the ‘actual’ (čV́+
with glottalization of the resonant): /k̕ʷek̕ʷiʔ/.
1.5.8. ø → ə / #C ________ C#
This environment applies only to vowelless roots occurring without
See §126.96.36.199. for discussion.
1.5.9. y → č and w → kʷ
The environments for these processes have
not been, and perhaps cannot
be, determined. These two alternations are not fully automatic;
there are many
cases of /y/ and /w/ in various environments that never alternate with
obstruents, and there are many cases of /č/ and /kʷ/ that never alternate
with resonants. Nevertheless, a few general
observations can be made regarding
those resonants that do alternate.
First, in the ‘actual’ aspect the resonant is always preserved by
glottalization since all non-initial resonants in a word become glottalized in
this aspect (see §2.3.5): /kʷíntəl/ ‘fight with someone’,
/kʷíw̕ən̕təl̕/ ‘fighting’ (this latter form
shows C1V́+ reduplication and
indicates that the underlying form of the
root is ∥√win∥); /čə́kʷəsət/
‘show off’, /čéw̕sət/ ‘showing off’ (∥√čəw∥, the change of underlying
root /ə/ to
/e/ regularly accompanies the ‘actual’); /həqékʷəɬ/ ‘launch a canoe’,
/həqéw̕əɬ/ ‘launching a canoe’; /nə́čəŋ/ ‘laugh’, /nə́y̕əŋ̕/ ‘laughing’;
/čéčəs/ ‘pursue’, /čéʔis/ ‘pursuing’ (the latter shows subsequent
decomposition and vocalization of /y̕/); /xʷə́čət/ ‘wake him’, /xʷə́y̕t/
While cases of ‘non-actual’ intervocalic /y/ and /w/ are rare,
there are a number of cases of /č/ and /kʷ/ preceding the /ʔ/ infix of
the ‘actual’: /ʔíčəɬ/ ‘scoop’, /ʔíʔčəɬ/ ‘scooping’; /θákʷət/ ‘squeal
on someone’, /θáʔkʷət/ ‘squealing on someone’. These must, therefore,
represent underlying /č/ and /kʷ/, while
those that alternate represent
underlying /y/ and /w/14.
Second, in cases where /y/ (or /i/ from /y/) appears in other
than root initial position and stress precedes it in the word, it remains a
resonant. But when subsequent suffixation causes stress to shift so that it
follows the resonant, it shifts to /č/. For example, in /čey/ ‘work’ and
/čéyči/ ‘diligent’ stress precedes the resonant, but when /-él̕ŋən/
‘desiderative’ takes stress from the root: /čəčél̕ŋən/ ‘want
to work’; the
underlying form of the root in /sɬéniʔ/ ‘woman’ must be
/y/ surfaces as /č/ when stress follows:
/sɬənəčáʔaɬ/ ‘girl’. No clear
cases of this have been observed for /w/ ; /kʷ/.
One case of apparent free variation has been recorded for each of these
alternations: /qə́wəŋ/ ; /qə́kʷəŋ/ ‘bake’ and /θə́yəŋ/;
In each of these two pairs native speakers feel no particular preference for
either one; one is just as good as the other.
1.5.10. ø → ə / √C ________ CC
There are no occurrences of root initial strings of three consonants.
For example, ∥t̕s∥ ‘break’ with /-ət/ ‘control transitive’: /t̕sə́t/
‘break it’; but with /-naxʷ/ ‘non-control transitive’: /t̕əsnáxʷ/. The
/ə/ breaks up the consonant cluster. Prefixes do not provide environment for
the application of this process: /st̕sə́ts/ ‘his breaking it’.
1.5.11. ə → ø / V ________
Whereas a əV sequence is separated by an epenthetic /h/, a Və
sequence is resolved by deletion of the /ə/. Many examples
of this can be
seen where the /-si/ ‘indirective’ or /-i/ ‘persistent’ precedes /-ət/
‘control transitive’. See §2.2.1 and §188.8.131.52. Also,
‘bid to do, send’ followed by /-ət/ ‘control transitive’: /set/
‘send him’; ∥√həlí∥ ‘be alive’ with /-ət/: /həlítəŋ/ ‘he was
Notes to §1.
1. Although labio-uvular is not, strictly
speaking, a place of articulation
different from uvular, it is, within Salish linguistics the traditional way
of presenting the data.
2. Typical too of many languages of the Northwest.
See Thompson (1979a).
3. /θ/ (but not /tθ/)
also appears in Pentlatch (Kinkade, p.c.). See Thompson, Thompson,
and Efrat (1974) for details on the phonological developments in
the various Straits Salish dialects.
4. In my early transcriptions forms sometimes
show /s/ and other times /θ/. This may reflect a
certain amount of free variation, but
I suspect that the variation is entirely in
my non-Saanich ear. Informants coming to
understand that I was interested in phonetic accuracy later insisted on one or the other phoneme.
In my later transcriptions the variation is minimal.
5. One other Salish language, Tillamook, has such
a system (Thompson and Thompson, 1966), but that language lacks labials entirely.
Klallam cognates show /u/ for Saanich /a/
and /a/ for Saanich /e/. The Klallam vowels apparently
reflect those of the Proto-Straits system.
See Thompson, Thompson, and Efrat (1974) for details.
6. Historically, these geminate vowels have arisen from the loss of an
intervening consonant. For example, Kl sčénənəxʷ :
Ld sčədádxʷ (Hess, p.c.) : Sa sčéenəxʷ ‘salmon’;
Kl muhúy̕ : Sg məháy̕ (Hess, p.c.) : Sa máay̕ ‘basket’.
7. This last is borrowed from Southern Wakashan (Hess, p.c.)
from Chinook Jargon and English.