‘He/she knew it’,

easy way to type it:    gwaa’niiyaada

Lolly Metcalf’s South Slough Milluk

Americanist Phonetic


A first time saying the word, then

[ gwa·ʔniya·da ]

A first time saying the word, then 

[ gwɑˑʔniyɑˑdɑ ]

A Heavy Pronunciation: The second time that Lolly says the one-word Milluk sentence that means ‘He/she knew it’, the word begins with a decidedly voiced stop consonant, the consonant that begins the English word ‘goo’.  That pronunciation, [ gwa·ʔniya·da ], begins with what we call a ‘heavy pronunciation’ of the ejective.  

An Old-Fashioned Pronunciation: We suspect that speakers of Coos Bay Milluk would also have pronounced this word as *[ kʼwa·ʔniya·da ], as an old-fashioned pronunciation of the word, but we do not get to hear Lolly say that pronunciation. 

A Voiceless Un-Aspirated Consonant: The first time that Lolly says the word in this interview segment the word begins with a voiceless un-aspirated stop consonant, the same consonant that we hear after the [ s ] in the English words ‘squat’ [ skwat ] and ‘squander’ [ skwándɹ ].  That pronunciation of the Milluk word here is so transitional that we do not even write it in the tables of transcription.  We call it “a first time saying the word”, but it is not a mispronunciation.  It is actually a key to understanding the sound correspondence that was going on in Coos Bay Milluk in the Nineteeth Century which produced both new and old-fashioned pronunciations of so many words in Coos Bay Milluk.   

Instant Phonetic Englishization:  gwah’_nee_yah_dah, for Lolly’s heavy pronunciation of the first consonant,

k!wah’_nee_yah_dah, for Annie’s ejective pronunciation of the first consonant. 

A Sound Change in Progress:  Because Annie Miner Peterson’s version of this word begins with an ejective, Lolly Metcalf’s Coos Bay Milluk version of the word inevitably reflects in some way the sound change that was very much in progress in Coos Bay Milluk whereby ejective consonants became voiced stop consonants.  Evidently, the Coos Bay Milluk speakers still knew the pronunciations of Milluk words with the ejective as an old-fashion pronunciations of those words, more in the case of some words than with others.  In the case of what we hear in this interview segment, there is no genuinely old-fashioned pronunciation, with an ejective, in evidence, but there is something transitional that we can hear which is more telling.   

How the Sound Change Proceeded: This interview segment is a valuable one to listen to for people (including some people in linguistics, such as us to begin with) who might wonder how there could even be a sound change whereby ejectives would become voiced stop consonants.  The voiceless unaspirated pronunciation is a natural phonetic transition, but it is inherently unstable in a language such as Milluk where there is a contrast between voiced stop consonants, [ b, d, g, ɢ ] where one can exaggerate the identity of the consonant by making it more voiced, where there are also voiceless aspirated stop consonants [ pʰ, tʰ, kʰ, qʰ ], where one can exaggerate the identity of the consonant by making it more aspirated, and ejective consonants [ pʼ, tʼ, kʼ, qʼ ] where one can exaggerate the identity of the consonant by making it more ejective.  There is nothing to exaggerate with voiceless un-aspirated stop consonants to make it more clear what they are phonetically. 

for AMP:  


Annie Miner Peterson’s Milluk

Exactly Jacobs’ transcription

Americanist Phonetic & IPA


[ kʼwa·ʔniya·da ]   


[ kʼwɑˑʔniyɑˑdɑ ]


More Voiceless Un-Aspirated Consonants:  This is not the only time in the interview where we hear, or at least think that we hear, this unstable voiceless un-aspirated pronunciation of a consonant which is otherwise an ejective.  Listen to the Interview segment “Hand 2” where we comment on it there and the interview segments “Morning 1” and “Morning 2”, where we comment on it there.  The interview segment “Moon” is like the interview segment “He Knew It” here in that there are contrasting pronunciations in a single interview segment, which is also the case in the interview segment “Morning 2”.  The issue also comes up with the interview segments “Child”, “Axe”, and “Marrow”.