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Chipewyan language


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Chipewyan /ɪpəˈwən/, ethnonym Dënesųłiné IPA: [tènɛ̀sũ̀ɬìnɛ́], is the language spoken by the Chipewyan people of northwestern Canada. It is categorized as part of the Northern Athabaskan language family. Dënesųłiné has nearly 12,000 speakers in Canada, mostly in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. It has official status only in the Northwest Territories, alongside 8 other aboriginal languages: Cree, Dogrib, Gwich’in, Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey and South Slavey.

Most Chipewyan people now use Dené and Dënesųłiné to refer to themselves as a people and to their language, respectively. The Saskatchewan communities of Fond-du-Lac, Black Lake, Wollaston Lake and La Loche are among these.

Chipewyan
Denesuline
ᑌᓀᓱᒼᕄᓀ Dënesųłiné
Signs La Loche Airport.jpg

Dënesųłiné sign at La Loche Airport
Native to Canada
Region Northern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba; southern Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Ethnicity 30,910 Chipewyan people (2016 census)
Native speakers
11,325, 41% of ethnic population (2016 census)
Language family
Dené–Yeniseian?

  • Na-Dené
    • Athabaskan
      • Northern Athabaskan
        • Chipewyan
Writing system
NAPA
Dene Syllabics
Official status
Official language in
Canada (Northwest Territories)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 chp
ISO 639-3 chp
Glottolog chip1261
Chipewyan map.svg

Phonology

Consonants

The 39 consonants of Dënesųłiné:

Bilabial Inter-
dental
Dental Post-
alveolar
Dorsal Glottal
central lateral plain labial
Nasal ⟨m⟩ m ⟨n⟩ n
Plosive plain ⟨b⟩ p ⟨d⟩ t ⟨g⟩ k ⟨gw⟩
aspirated ⟨t⟩ ⟨k⟩ ⟨kw⟩ kʷʰ ⟨ɂ⟩ ʔ
ejective ⟨tʼ⟩ ⟨kʼ⟩ ⟨kwʼ⟩ kʷʼ
Affricate plain ⟨ddh⟩ ⟨dz⟩ ts ⟨dl⟩ ⟨j⟩
aspirated ⟨tth⟩ tθʰ ⟨ts⟩ tsʰ ⟨tł⟩ tɬʰ ⟨ch⟩ tʃʰ
ejective ⟨tthʼ⟩ tθʼ ⟨tsʼ⟩ tsʼ ⟨tłʼ⟩ tɬʼ ⟨chʼ⟩ tʃʼ
Fricative voiceless ⟨th⟩ θ ⟨s⟩ s ⟨ł⟩ ɬ ⟨sh⟩ ʃ ⟨hh⟩ χ ⟨hhw⟩ χʷ ⟨h⟩ h
voiced ⟨dh⟩ ð ⟨z⟩ z ⟨l⟩ ɮ ⟨zh⟩ ʒ ⟨gh⟩ ʁ ⟨ghw⟩ ʁʷ
Trill ⟨r⟩ r

Vowels

Denesuline vowel diagram

Dënesųłiné vowel diagram

Dënesųłiné has vowels of 6 differing qualities.

Front Central Back
Close ⟨ı⟩ i ⟨u⟩ u
Close-mid ⟨ë/e⟩ e ⟨o⟩ o
Open-mid ⟨e⟩ ɛ
Open ⟨a⟩ a

Most vowels can be either

  • oral or nasal. Nasals are marked with ogoneks in the orthography: ⟨ą ę ę̈ ı̨ ǫ ų⟩.
  • short or long

As a result, Dënesųłiné has 18 phonemic vowels:

Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close oral i u
nasal ĩ ĩː ũ ũː
Close-mid e o
Open-mid oral ɛ ɛː
nasal ɛ̃ ɛ̃ː
Open oral a
nasal ã ãː

Dënesųłiné also has 9 oral and nasal diphthongs of the form vowel + /j/.

Front Central Back
oral nasal oral nasal oral nasal
Close uj ũj
Mid ej ẽj əj oj õj
Open aj ãj

Tone

Dënesųłiné has two tones:

  • high (marked with acute accents in the orthography: ⟨á é ë́ ı́ ó ú⟩)
  • low

Demographics

Chipewyan language is located in Canada

Villages in Canada with a Dënesųłiné speaking population

Chipewyan language is located in Saskatchewan

15 communities in Canada with Dënesųłiné populations. Flashing dots are villages with over 1,000 speakers.

Welcome signs by the La Loche Airport

Welcome signs by the La Loche Airport

Close-up of Denesuline and English sign

Close-up of Dënesųłiné and English sign

In the 2011 Canada Census 11,860 people chose Dene as their mother tongue. 70.6% were located in Saskatchewan and 15.2% were located in Alberta.

  • 7,955 were in Saskatchewan
  • 1,680 were in Alberta (the Dene Tha’ First Nation a Dene/South Slavey group (approximately 1000 people) are included in this total)
  • 1,005 were in Manitoba
  • 450 were in the Northwest Territories
  • 70 were in British Columbia
  • 45 were in the Yukon
  • 20 were in Ontario

Not all were from the historical Chipewyan regions south and east of Great Slave Lake. Approximately 11,000 of those who chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011 are Dene/Chipewyan with 7,955 (72%) in Saskatchewan, 1,005 (9%) in Manitoba, 510 plus urban dwellers in Alberta and 260 plus urban dwellers in the Northwest Territories. The communities within the Dene/Chipewyan traditional areas are shown below:

Saskatchewan

The Dene (Dënesųłiné) speaking communities of Saskatchewan are located in the northern half of the province. The area from the upper Churchill River west of Pinehouse Lake all the way north to Lake Athabasca and from Lake Athabasca east to the north end of Reindeer Lake is home to 7410 people who chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.

Prince Albert had 265 residents who chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011, Saskatoon had 165, the La Ronge Population Centre had 55 and Meadow Lake had 30.

3,050 were in the Lake Athabasca-Fond du Lac River area including Black Lake and Wollaston Lake in the communities of:

  • Fond-du-Lac 705 out of 874 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Stony Rapids 140 out of 243 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Black Lake (Chicken 224) 1040 out of 1070 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Uranium City (hamlet)
  • Camsell Portage (hamlet)
  • Wollaston Lake
  • Wollaston Post (Lac La Hache 220) 1165 out of 1251 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.

3,920 were in the upper Churchill River area including Peter Pond Lake, Churchill Lake, Lac La Loche, Descharme Lake, Garson Lake and Turnor Lake in the communities of:

  • La Loche 2,300 out 2,611 chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Clearwater River 720 out of 778 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Black Point (hamlet)
  • Bear Creek (hamlet)
  • Garson Lake (hamlet)
  • Descharme Lake (hamlet)
  • Turnor Lake
  • Turnor Lake (Birch Narrows First Nation) 70 out of 419 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Dillon (Buffalo River Dene Nation) 330 out of 764 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • St. George’s Hill, Saskatchewan 85 out of 100 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Michel Village 55 out of 66 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Buffalo Narrows 35 out of 1153 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Patuanak 35 out of 64 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Patuanak (Wapachewunak 1920) 265 out of 482 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Beauval (La Plonge 192) 25 out of 115 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.

Manitoba

Two isolated communities are in northern Manitoba.

  • Lac Brochet (197 A) 720 out of 816 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Tadoule Lake (Churchill 1) 170 out of 321 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.

Alberta

The Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake Economic Region in the north eastern portion of Alberta from Fort Chipewyan to the Cold Lake area has the following communities. 510 residents of this region chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.

  • Fort Chipewyan 45 out of 847 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Fort McKay 30 out of 562 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Janvier (Janvier 194) 145 out of 295 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Janvier South 35 out of 104 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Cold Lake 149 105 out of 594 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Cold Lake 149 B, Alberta 25 out of 149 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.

Northwest Territories

Three communities are located south of Great Slave Lake in Region 5. 260 residents of Region 5 chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.

  • Fort Smith 30 out of 2093 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Fort Resolution 95 out of 474 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.
  • Lutselk’e 120 out of 295 residents chose Dene as their mother tongue in 2011.



Published in April 2020.









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