Now that we know the sounds, here are some basic rules about how words are pronounced, in terms of rhythm.

The latter part of this chapter may be somewhat confusing at this stage, and will best be used as an explanatory guide to refer to when one needs help understanding accent markings, shifts in word stress and vowel deletions.

Accents on the words signify emphasis. Strong syllables are pronounced louder, weak syllables are softer. One lingers on the long vowels, compared to short vowels. The rhythm stops with vowels that are form a syllable ending in (h) and such syllables are naturally stressed but the pause to sets them apart from the corresponding long vowel, for example (ih) vs (ii).

Ultra short syllables exist where the vowel is either omitted or written as ă, ĕ, or ŭ. Some syllables with ultra short vowels form a cluster with another sound, for example (nu) + (t) => (nd) or (ku) + (t) => (kt).

Some syllables seem to disappear but influence the word even though they seem non-existent. For example (ku) + (k) => (k) but this ‘double k’ which is not pronounced or written, influences stress assignments under certain circumstances, explained below.

English has tonic accents and also puts rhythm into words and phrases. For example ‘Ta da’ would be written using the Delaware writing system as: (Tă dáh).

Some English words can take an accent in varying places such as the word minute (as in time) and minute (as in size), or I want to record a record. The change in accent changes the meaning.

This happens in Munsíiw as well.

lŭpákw vs lúpakw   
He cries vs I cry.   

Tonic accents can vary as they do in English. Factory may be said as ‘FACT-or-ee’ or as ‘FACT-ree’. Police, some say ‘PO-leess’ others say ‘po-LEESS’. Anchovy can be heard as either ANchovy or anCHOvy.
Diverse: is it di-VERSE or DI-verse? Both are acceptable.

For example, I found variations in accent markings in the dictionary:
óxkweew, oxkwéew a woman
a chipmunk poxkapíishush (dict.) vs
poxkpíishush (attested by a modern speaker)
Both variations are acceptable.




These are naturally strong and should be lingered upon: (aa) (ii) (oo) (ah) (eh) (ih) (oh)




These may be strong if the syllable is formed by a short vowel between two consonants.
(closed syllable)


A book.  

Short vowels are also strong when used for reduplication. (Reduplication will be discussed later).


The main accent of the word is marked as follows: á, é, í, ó, ú

Secondary accents are marked as: à, è, ì, ò, ù

Main accents do not necessarily mean you hammer that syllable louder than the others.
Take the word ‘information’ which accented differently than the two word combo ‘in formation’
and now lets add a prefix ‘dis-’ => disinformation. The first two syllables are stressed and one would struggle to determine which syllable, the first or the second carries the main stress.
So it is with Lunaapeew words. A good example is the word :

I am sorry. (sad about s.t.)  
/ZEE WÆ LIN dum/  

This word has three long syllables each equally stressed before the weak final syllable. The accented (ú) tells not to say that syllable as a weak or short syllable.

Ultra-short or weakened syllables
These may be written either without a vowel, or as ă or ŭ.

Kŭnéewul  or Knéewul  
/ku NAY uh wool/  
I see you  

/ku TUH/  
You are going.  



These do not require accent markings, but it is okay to write them anyway.


My mother.   


If the first syllable is strong it is accented. (Memorize this rule.)

pámbiil = book.  
áashtee = next 
níisha = two  
náalan = five  
níishaash = six 
lúnuw = man  

If the first syllable is weak, it is not accented. (Memorize this rule.)

asún = rock  
nxáh = three  
kpá = You came.  
apúw = He is there.  


The last syllable never gets the accent.
The last strong syllable nearest to the final syllable gets the main accent.
Usually this means the 2nd to last syllable gets the accent.

wtéehiim = strawberry  /wŭ-TÉE-hiim/  
wteehíimal = strawberries  /wŭ-tee-HÍIM-al/  

Long words that contain only short vowels and words with sequences of weak syllables alternate stress as :


He feels good.  

Strong-weak-strong-weak patterns may exist when a word starts with a strong syllable.


Show it to him.   
/LOW who MAW seal/  

Some words have all strong syllables (not counting the last syllable, always weak).

They ate it.   
/MEE CHEE NÆ-uh-wuh/  

Some words end with two weak syllables in a row.

Your little book or your paper.  
/ku PUM BEEL um ush/  

This happens when a strong syllable is followed by two weak syllables one of which is the final syllable.


A weak syllable strengthens the  syllable that follows it.
A strong syllable weakens the syllable that follows it. 
Naturally strong syllables (because of a long vowel) do not weaken. 
Final syllables do not weaken or strengthen. 
The final syllable is never stressed in long words even if preceded by a weak syllable.

These rules account for the mysterious way a vowel will disappear in some forms of a word, only to reappear in others. When one adds a prefix to a word, a new syllable gets added to the beginning of the word. This can induce a shift in the stress accents that propagates itself all the way through the word at least until something stops it, like a naturally long vowel, or a final syllable which must stay weak.

He walks.

This word has all short vowels. Its syllables are stressed as weak-strong-(weak-final).
Now lets add the prefix (ku-) and adjust the endings to the 2nd person singular form.

(ku) + (pumusiim) => (kupumusiim) => kpúmsiim   

The prefix (ku-) strengthens the vowel of the next syllable (pum). This newly strong syllable, in turn weakens the vowel of the next syllable (us).

Another example:

Tumúsheew awéeniil.   
He cut someone.  (no prefix)    

When the prefix (nu) is added, the next syllable which was weak (tu) becomes strong. The strengthening of (tu) reworks the syllables of the word, weakening the vowel that follows it, the (u) of (ush) such that its short vowel (u) may then be dropped. The final syllable of course stays weak.

    (nu) + (tumush) + ending (a) => (nu-tu-mush-a) => nŭdúmsha  

    Ndúmsha aween.   
    I cut someone.      

Note how the syllables have changed as well as the stress assignments:
(tu) becomes the syllable (túm)
(ush)-(a) becomes (sha)

This concept is important to understand because the possessive forms of nouns and many conjugated verb forms use prefixes.



Prefixes interact with the beginnings of words in characteristic ways, and I refer to these as ‘beginning patterns’.


As we encounter them I illustrate them as:

(prefix) + (initial word syllable or letter) => (beginning pattern)  

(nu) + (tu) => (ndu)   
(ku) + (tu) => (ktu)  
(wu) + (tu) => (wtu)  

See Appendix B for a compilation of beginning patterns.



Most prefixes combine with a word stem such that an ultra short weak vowel gets added to the beginning of the word. The examples above illustrated the effect a weak new syllable has on a weak syllable that follows it. Now lets examine the case where the weak syllable of the prefix is followed by another syllable that contains a long or strong vowel.

(ku)-(neewaaw) => kŭnéewaaw.   
You saw him.  
/ku-NÆ UH-waa uh/  

The syllable after the prefix (ku) is already strong, so no accents shift here.

Invisible prefixes
Some prefixes blend invisibly into words. Words stems starting with (n) seemingly do not take the prefix (nu) because is not pronounced or written, but it is indeed there as an invisible prefix and it causes the same shift in the stress assignment of the word as if it was therevas a visible prefix. The same is true of words starting with (k) that take the prefix (ku).

Ngáleew vta leave s.o. behind  verb stem = (ngal)  
(nu) + (ngal-) + (-aaw) => Núkălaaw.  I left him behind.  (Núklaaw)  
Accent shift occurs as if the word was (nu-núk-laaw).  

Ngáleew pambíilak.  He left behind some books.   
On forms that do not use a prefix, the (ú) drops and the (ă) strengthens.  

Another example:

Kpáham vti he opens s.t.  
(ku) + (kpham) + (un) => Kùphámun.   
You closed it.   
(invisible (ku) prefix unweakens the u between k and p)  
(nu) + (kpham) + (un) => Ngùphámun.  
I closed it.   
Same shift in stress with the (nu) prefix, which stays visible.  

Kpáham kpáhoon.   
He closed a door.   
/ku PAH hum/ /ku PAH hone/  
This form has no prefix, so the second syllable (á) gets the stress.  

Other kinds of invisible prefixes do exist. An example is the verb (lpakw) which takes an invisible 1st person prefix (nu)
We has seen how adding a prefix with its weak syllable causes the following syllable to become stronger.

He cried.   
No prefix, accent on (á)  

(ku) + (lpakw) => klúpakw   
You cried.  
Prefix (ku) shifts accent to the ultra short (u) between (lp) => (lúp)  

(nu) + (lpakw) => Lúpakw.   
I cried.   
Invisible prefix (nu) causes the same shift as the (ku) prefix.  

Another case of the invisible prefix is the case of the 3rd person prefix (wu-) which drops before words starting with (p).

A gun  

(nu) + (payaxkhíikan) => Mbáyaxkhíikan.  
My gun.  

(wu) + (payaxkhíikan) => Pàyaxkhíikan. * 
His gun.  
(the invisible prefix (wu) confers stress)  

(*Reference: The Historical Phonology of Munsee Author(s): Ives Goddard; International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 48, No. 1, (Jan., 1982), pp. 16-48


Long Vowel Prefixes

As reviewed above, prefixes can influence stress assignments on words by way of adding a short and weak initial syllable. However, some prefixes combine with certain word stems such that an initial long vowel is added:


He feels good. (form without a prefix)  

(nu) + (wulamusi)  => Nòolamálsi.   
I feel good.   

The prefix (nu) combines with (wu-) to form (NOO-), a strong syllable.
The next syllable (la) weakens.
The next syllable after that strengthens = (MAL)
(u) drops from (us) and blends with final syllable (uw) to form (suw), the weak final.

Beginning pattern for stems starting with (wu-) :

        (nu) + (wu) => (noo-)  
        (ku) + (wu) => (koo-)  
        (wu) + (wu) => (oo-)  

Suffix induced metrical changes

Suffixes may also offer opportunities for unaccented syllables to acquire accents and/or weaken vowels:

asún rock
asúnal rocks
ashúnush little rock
ashúnŭshal little rocks
ndàshŭnúshum my little rock
ndàshŭnúshŭmal my little rocks (vowel drop and accent shift)

Weak vowels weaken or disappear between strong syllables, depending on whether a suffix is present.

Wíisakiim. A grape. (WÍI-sa-kiim)   
(kiim) here is a final vowel, always weak in long words.
wiiskíimal  = grapes (wii-SKÍIM-al)   
the (a) drops because its between two strong vowels.   
(kiim) is able to be strong because of the plural suffix (-al)  

Another way to say this is that weak vowels can only disappear when able to do so.
Here’s another example:

Míhtukw.  Tree  

Míhtkwak. Trees.   

The 2nd syllable above is unable to weaken since the vowel (u) is needed to form the final syllable. Adding the plural suffix (-ak) allows the weak vowel to drop:

Same logic applies here:

Oxkwéesus.  A girl     
Oxkwées'sak. Girls.  

And here:

Pooshíishush. Little cat or kitten.   
Pooshíish'shak. Little cats.  

Exceptions to the idea that the second to last syllable gets the stress:

A word may end with 2 consecutive weak syllables if the preceding vowel is naturally strong:

We saw him.  


If you hide him.  
(káaleew hide s.o.)  

Long vowels at the end of a word (-aa), (-ee) and (-ii) shorten to (-a), (-e) and (-i)
This possibly occurs as a natural consequence of not being stressed.

Mah kŭneewulóowi.  (final (ii) shortens to (i))  

Ápih láapii mbaam. I'll be back.  
Ápih láapii mba. I'll be back.  

The (m) on the word (mbaam) is optional. If omitted the word (mbaa) shortens to (mba).

The (ii) on (láapii) does not shorten because the (ii) are not orphaned vowels just sitting there as a result of inflection. The (ii) is permanent part of the word.


These are formed by adding particles such as the future particle [uch] or adding prenouns to a noun or a preverb to a verb. Adjacent words may also affect one one metrically, at the speaker’s discretion.


Nal uch => Nal-uch ‘It shall come to pass’
/NUH-litch/ pronounced as if one word that sounds like the word ‘knowledge’
It gets a stress assignment as if it was one word. (náluch)

Néeka uch => Néeka-ch ‘He will’

Káta ha wŭlút? ‘Is it going to be good?’
Máhtá-kătá-wulùtóowu. ‘No it is not going to be good’
/MAH TA kuh TUH wuh LET OH wa/

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