Consonants: Strong and Weak

The previous page discusses two distinct parameters by which consonants are classified, their place of articulation (labial, dental/alveolar, palatal, velar and glottal), and their manner of articulation (stops, fricatives, affricates, nasals, and glides). One parameter remains, that of relative strength. Notice that, based on these two parameters, many consonants appear to come in pairs, as outlined here:

are both labial, both stops
are both dental/alveolar, both stops
are both palatal, both affricates
are both velar, both stops
are both dental/alveolar, both fricatives
are both palatal, both fricatives

Voiceless versus Voiced. The difference between each of these groups of two concerns several articulatory distinctions. For one, all of the consonants in the second column are produced without any vocal cord vibration, while the sounds in the first column all share that they commonly have vocal cord vibration in their production in Anishinaabemowin. Vibration of the vocal cords in the production of a sound is said to make the sound voiced, while the absence of voicing is said to make a sound voiceless (also unvoiced).

Geminate versus Simple. A second distinction between the two columns of sounds in Anishinaabemowin is that each member of the second column tends to be pronounced longer than its correspondent in the first column. In essence, the second column items are almost like doubled (geminate) members of the first. So the /p/ in the second column is something like the two p's together in 'stop playing..,' as opposed to the one in 'stop laying...'

Fortis versus Lenis. The consonants in the second column are also typically said with greater muscular force, and are said to be fortis (strong), as opposed to their partners, which are said to be lenis (weak).

These three distinctions of voiceless and voiced, geminate and simple, and fortis versus lenis, are somewhat variable in their centrality to the speech of various speakers of Anishinaabemowin. For many speakers, the voicing distinction is very prominent; for others, the length distinction is also prominent. In talking about these sounds, it is common to refer to the group in the second column as being strong, and that in the first as weak. And you may notice that the stops, fricatives, and affricates of Anishinaabemowin come in pairs, with a strong member and a weak member.