Some Minimal Pairs from Solomon Ratt – With Audio

Cree spelling: kiyâm nâ? – It doesn’t matter? namôtha kiyâm! – It matters! 

This great collection of minimal pairs from Solomon Ratt brings together words in Cree that differ by only one sound, some of which are commonly confused – especially in non-standard spelling. It’s hard to believe it originally appeared in 2013. We’re re-releasing it to include some new th-dialect examples.

Minimal pairs allow us to confirm for ourselves which sounds can change the meaning of words. These distinctive sounds are called “phonemes”. Both SRO and the syllabic writing system are based on the phonemes of Cree: that is, only those language sounds that can make a difference to the meaning of a given word.

And if you think that marking vowel length doesn’t matter in Syllabics, you’d better have another look!

English is loaded with minimal pairs, like these:

  • pat – bat
  • fit – sit
  • fat – fit
  • pot – pit

In Cree, the most common minimal pairs (or sets) are those that appear in pronouns, or in verb sets. In these cases, the first sound in each set makes the difference between first, second and third person (niya, kiya, wiya):

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