Cecil Twance

Cecil Twance (Biigtigong Linguistics Advisor: Phonology)

In reconstructing Biigtigong’s dialect we were gravely challenged by what is called the glottal stop of this dialect. The glottal stop can be thought of as a letter in the Biigtigong alphabet. (The glottal stop is written as an “h” in this dialect.)

Every letter in Biigtigong’s writing system – except for the glottal stop – has, almost without exception, a single sound. So, typically speaking, in Biigtigong’s dialect, one letter has one sound associated with it.


The glottal stop, in Biigtigong’s dialect, has many, many sounds associated with it. This represented a huge challenge to the reconstruction team because, although John Paul Montano brings with him an understanding of the sounds and grammatical behaviour of Wdaawaa (a dialect of Nishnaabemwin very closely related to Biigtigong’s dialect of Nishnaabemwin), Wdaawaa does not, generally speaking, pronounce the glottal stop. This meant that the reconstruction team needed to find a reliable, trusted source – someone with a ‘sound memory’ like a steel trap! – who could accurately reproduce all of the dozens of sounds of the glottal stop in Biigtigong’s dialect.

Finding a speaker of any endangered language who can provide this type of detailed and critical Linguistics data can be extremely difficult. And, for some time, the efforts to authentically reconstruct Biigtigong’s dialect nearly came to a stand still.

And, then, Cecil Twance agreed to join the dialect reconstruction team! It was Cecil’s steel-trap sound memory and his ability to accurately and consistently reproduce these sounds of Biigtigong’s glottal stop that gave the project the hope and energy it needed to allow us to complete what we set out to do.

Phonology is the field of Linguistics which concerns itself with the smallest meaningful units of sound in a particular language; like, for example, the sound of the glottal stop in Biigtigong Nishnaabemwin. It is Cecil Twance’s role as Linguistics advisor, concerning Phonology in particular, that was a key factor in allowing Biigtigong’s dialect to be successfully reconstructed and brought back to life.