Friday, February 1, 2013

Ute Word of the Day

In my previous post, I alluded to the "Ute Word of the Day." Every weekday I post a different Ute word from my files on Facebook and Google+. Most of them are words that I have collected and recorded during field work in White Mesa, Utah. Some of them are from a preliminary version of the White Mesa Ute Dictionary, prepared by Brian Stubbs working with elders from the White Mesa Ute community. This is a little something I do to motivate myself to keep working on the sound files containing these words. Documenting minority and endangered languages is important work, but it can also be tedious. Posting a Ute Word of the Day lets me try out and refine ideas for my practical orthography, and the posts usually generate comments concerning pronunciation and etymology; the conversation keeps me excited about doing the work.

In case you've missed them, past Words of the Day include:

11 January 2013: pahsagwov [pḁˈsaɣʷɔv̥] noun eye boogers

14 January 2013: sihkuchih [s̩ˈkutʃi̥] noun Abert’s squirrel (Sciurus aberti) 
15 January 2013: muhkwi’ya [m̥u̥ˈkʷiʔjæ] verb come to a sharp point (inanimate object)
16 January 2013: magwei’ih [maˈʁʷeiʔi̥] noun blanket
17 January 2013: Nuuchiun [ˈnuːtʃiũ] noun (pl) Ute people; Indian people
18 January 2013: komö’ni [qoˈmøʔni] verb turn around
21 January 2013: togwei [toˈʁʷei] verb be right, correct; be well
22 January 2013: kwïhchikuhchapïh [kʷɨ̥ˈtʃiku̥tʃapʰ] noun headband
23 January 2013: pagï [paˈɣɨ] noun fish
24 January 2013: aapachih [ˈaːpɐtʃi̥] noun boy
25 January 2013: sakïi [saˈkɨi] verb limp; be lame
28 January 2013: tïhkakunav [tɨ̥ˈkakunav̥] noun lunch sack
29 January 2013: chïhkwi’napïh [tʃɨ̥ˈkʷiʔnapɨ̥] noun key
30 January 2013: kanavïh [kaˈnav̥] noun willow; riverbank rush
31 January 2013: pö’öi [pøˈʔøi] verb write


  1. I'm interested in the alternation between [ɣʷ] and [ʁʷ]. Are they allophones of an underlying form like /gʷ/? I'd love to hear audio clips if possible.

    1. [ɣʷ] and [ʁʷ] are allophonically related: [ʁʷ] occurs adjacent to a non-high back vowel ([ɑ, o]); [ɣʷ] occurs elsewhere (roughly). The same distribution holds for [ɣ/ʁ]. Historically, voiced fricatives were intervocalic variants of voiceless stops (as they still are in Shoshone, a closely related language), but the difference has been mostly lexicalized; voiceless stops are frequently attested intervocalically (though voiced fricatives are still not found in word-initial position). Terms of the IRB approval document preclude me from making recordings public. Sorry. :-(

    2. Interesting. And it's too bad you can't post clips, but I'm enjoying the Words of the Day anyway.

  2. kwïhchikuhchapïh is a cool word. :)

    1. I agree. There was some question about the exact pronunciation: I listened to the recordings over and over and heard both [kʷɨ̥ˈtʃiku̥tʃapʰ] and [kʷɨ̥ˈtʃiʔw̥ɨ̥tʃapʰ]. I'm leaning towards the latter now. Morphologically it's a lot of fun as well:

      /kwɨ-/ 'along the length of'
      /tʃi(ː)/ 'beads'
      /witʃa/ 'wrap, bind'
      /-pɨ̥/ 'patient nominal'

      The initial instrumental prefix was historically just /wɨ-/, but initial /w/ often undergoes fortition in Ute, hence /kwɨ-/.