The Sound Inventory

In these pages is a discussion of properties of the sounds in the Dene sound inventory. Below is a general sound inventory for the Dene languages, though not intended to be particular to any language. áThe orthography is not a dependable representation of the phonetic values of the sounds or the sound contrasts.á

In the inventory, the stops and affricates are organized into a series of three contrasts, represented orthographically across the the languages in the Dene family as we see below. áIt has been observed that the Dene languages have a much high than usual percentage of obstruents vs sonorants, these are obstruent heavy languages with rich sets of affricates.á

The Dene languages have at least four sets of fricatives, at leastáthree alveolar including a lateral fricative ł l, and at least one velar set. áThe velars in general tend to lenite to approximants. Some of the Dene languages have an interdental fricative pair,áth dh. áSome Dene langauges have a uvular or pharyngeal fricatives (Tsihlqut’in). The Dene languages have affricates at the same places of articulation as their fricatives: it has been suggested that, in effect, the affricates are a combination of stops and fricatives. This is an astute observation which has implications for the phonology. á

For the larger part, many of the sounds in the inventory occur only in the onset of stems; they have a limited distribution. In fact it is often the case that the sounds that occur in the non-stems are only the simple segments, the d type sounds (voiced or voiceless), some fricatives (s ásh h), and the sonorants or approximants (nasals, r’s and l’s and glides). Not found among consonants of the non-stems are ejectives, affricates and the ‘aspirated’ stops t and k, which have the profile and sound of affricates.

Despite the way this inventory is organized orthographically, it is not always an accurate representation of the sound contrasts. á

There are differences among the Dene languages in the features of the contrastive sounds not well represented in the orthographies. á1) There are differences in the voicing of the d type sounds among the languages, and 2) in the realization of the so-called ‘aspirated' t and k sounds. 3) The velars and uvulars are often represented by several different symbols. 4) The ejectives also have characteristic properties particular to the Dene languages that make them different from other ejectives. 5) There are differences between the contrasts of the stop series and among the affricates

In this section of the Dene Speech Atlas is a discussion of some of these issues, with links to both examples in the Altas and discussion in the literature.

á áę Joyce McDonough 2012