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Word of the Week: WĀPĀKI

Written by: Arose N Daghetto for Literature Voodoo blog

Today’s word of the week comes from the Cree Indian tribe. Wāpāki means, tomorrow.

In the literal term, wāpāki means, when there is daylight. A flat, monotone sound accompanies the pronunciation of each word. That is, word for the Cree native, each syllable for the non native. Wā  pā ki.

The Cree Indian tribe are among the highest in population of people belonging to the First Nations of Canada. Most Cree Indians live in Canada. However, many Crees have migrated south into the North America. Although there are Cree Indians living in other regions of the country, a larger population of them reside in the midwestern region such as Minnesota and Montana.

The origins of the American Indians trace back to Northern Asia and Siberia. Siberia is a part of Russia. Russia is often considered a part of Europe, although the continent is sandwiched between Europe and Northern Asia. This is not to say that the Russians are Asians, but they are close neighbors nonetheless.

The tribal languages spoken by the American Indians are primarily of Asian influence. Asian languages are tonal languages. If you listen to someone speak in Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, etc., you will sort of hear a melody of tones and sounds in their speech. Each word is pronounced with either a high tone, neutral tone or low tone. Some words or sentences will take on different meanings depending on the tone you use. Therefore, it’s important for the foreign tongue learning an Asian language to keep this little factor in mind: What you say and how you say it to an Asian speaker is everything!

In some Asian languages, there are some words that don’t always have a strongly pronounced sound. For example, in Vietnamese, some words seem to have a sound that comes more from the throat or through clenched teeth or from the side of the mouth. This can be extremely challenging for the non native linguist or teacher to devise a phonetics table to guide students in these words! For some Asian languages, it seems like the best way for a casual learner is to focus more on the audio lessons. It’s a good way to get to know the surface of the language better by listening and emulating the sounds. Once you feel more acquainted with the language, you can then decide if you want to make a serious commitment by going deeper into really studying the language. 

Back to the Cree language. Notice the long bar over the vowel sound (a). This is an indication to the speaker or reader that this letter, or vowel sound is to be pronounced with a long “a” sound. Also, in Cree, the letter “k” is pronounced like the letter “g”, so it has a “guh” sound.

Let’s try to say it, shall we?

Wā —> Waah (normal pitch monotone; slightly prolonged, flat sound)

Pā —> Paah (normal pitch monotone; slightly prolonged, flat sound)

Ki —> GEE (slightly raised pitch monotone; short, stronger sound)

All together now!

Wāpāki

(Waah paah GEE)

Tomorrow  

(or the literal term, When there is daylight)

 

Wanna attempt it in a sentence? LOL… Come on, you’ll be fine…

Example:

Wāpāki nawāpamāw nitānis

Tomorrow I will see my daughter.

Wāpāki

Waah-paah-GEE

Nawāpawmāw

Nah-wow-PAH-mow**

Nitānis

nîh-TAAH-nîhs

**Note:

(-ow as in the English word “wow” or “now” when you sound out the word/syllable -mow and -wow)

Wāpāki nawāpamāw nitānis

Waah-paah-GEE… Nah-wow-PAH-mow**… nîh-TAH-nîhs 

Tomorrow I will see my daughter.

 

To learn more about the Cree Indian tribe and their language please visit the YouTube channel #CreeSimonSays. He is a wonderful teacher and is so kind to share some of the language of his people to the world.

See you next week with another Word of the Week! 🙋

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