What is SRO?

Standard Roman Orthography (SRO) uses the letters of English alphabet (with a few modifications) to represent Cree language sounds. Each meaningful sound (or phoneme) is represented with one character. It is consistency of the sound-to-symbol correspondence that makes SRO effective.

SRO is also the spelling system that is most widely used for print publications in Cree, and has the greatest number of published books. As of 2011, SRO is taught and used in Cree language programs in schools, colleges and universities across the Western Canada.

Here is a table of sound correspondences adapted from Ken Paupanekis’s Introduction to Cree Language 1, Text and Student Handbook (FirstNationsUniversity, 2011).

Click on the highlighted links to hear audio of Solomon Ratt’s “Chants” to teach pronunciation of consonants and vowels.

SRO Vowels: sounds as in English: sounds as in Cree:


about maskwa      ‘bear’


cat âstam           ‘come here’


sit mikot           ‘nose’


machine nîna              ‘I, me’ (n-dialect)


foot mispon        ‘it is snowing’


food kôna             ‘snow’


café pimohtê      ‘walk’
SRO Consonants:    


pin or bin pêtâ               ‘bring it here’


  akohp            ‘blanket’


tin or din tânisi             ‘hello’


  mitâtaht       ‘ten’


chin kêkâc            ‘already’


  anohc            ‘now, today’


kin or grin kîmôc            ‘secretly’


  âhkosiw        ‘he/she is sick’


sin sêmâk            ‘right away’


me namôna         ‘not’ (n-dialect)


no nîna                ‘I, me’ (n-dialect)


will wiyâs             ‘meat’


yes âsay                ‘already’


leaf palacîs           ‘pants’  (l-dialect)


red arîkis             ‘frog’ (r-dialect)

About vowels: Cree uses seven distinct vowel sounds. Three are “short vowels” (a, i, o). Four are “long vowels” which get a special mark (â, ê, î, ô). Some people call it a “roof” or a “hat”. We use a circumflex accent here, but others use macrons or acute accents. It doesn’t matter which symbol we choose, as long as we mark long vowels every time, because the difference between long and short vowels can change the meaning of a word.

About consonants: The English sound pairs p/b, t/d and k/g each represent two distinct phonemes. Cree only uses one of each pair, so the Cree sound of p, t and k falls can fall anywhere between English p and b, t and d, and k and g.

3 Responses

  1. I can’t find that new book that just came out. I believe it is the biography of a Cree Woman. I remember there were pictures of her at a book signing. I haven’t been able to find it anywhere on this site. I would like to have the title so that I can search for it.

    1. Hi Kevin, I think the book you mean is by Cecilia Masuskapoe, from Ahtahkakoop. You can order a copy by phoning the Department of Linguistics at the University of Manitoba at (204) 474 9596.

  2. Yes, thank you very much. I have been collecting all of THE text collection and slowly learning to read Plains Cree. My primary language of interest and the one that I have opportunity to use as I live on the Rosebud Reservation, is Lakȟóta. But sometimes I take a break by dabbling in another language. Plains Cree is hard to dabble in because it is quite complex but very interesting. I wish that Lakȟóta had more modern texts but it has a sizeable collection due to Ella Cara Deloria, a fluent speaker who did some work for Franz Boas, an american linguist. She was a great linguist in her own right and had a wonderful command of her language. Thank you so much for the work you do to keep Nēhiyawēwin going strong.

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