Today's Ute Word of the Day (1 February 2013), Neyanwahke [neˈjãw̃ḁkɛ] 'Handgame', presents a puzzle for a practical orthography of Ute. In Sapir's description of Southern Paiute, the stem naiyáŋwi- 'handgame' contains a labiovelar nasal (ŋw = /ŋʷ/). In Ute, the labiovelar nasal corresponds to (heavy) nasalization of the first vowel in a vowel cluster. So vowel nasalization is important in Ute and ought to be represented in a practical orthography. In the practical orthography for White Mesa Ute that I'm developing, my first solution for representing vowel nasalization was to follow the vowel with n (e.g., Nuuchiun [nuːtʃiũ] 'Ute people; Indian people', the Ute Word of the Day for 17 January). This parallels my treatment of voiceless vowels as a vowel followed by h. The trailing h for voiceless vowels works because /h/ is otherwise unattested as a consonant phoneme of Ute, so there's no ambiguity: Vh is always and only a voiceless vowel. However, /n/ is amply attested as a consonant phoneme in Ute, so ambiguity could arise in sequences of orthographic VnV: is it [ṼV] or [VnV]? However, in all of the words that I can find with vowel nasalization, the vowel is back and round (/u/ or /o/), or, as in the present case, it is followed by /w/--either nasalized [w̃] or plain [w]. So my current thinking is to use Vn(V) when the vowel is round and Vnw(V) elsewhere. Alternatively, I could use Vnw(V) in all cases (except word-finally; in those cases a trailing n seems sufficient).
Do my Numicist friends have any thoughts?