Tłı̨chǫ language

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Not to be confused with Dogri language.
Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì
Native to Canada
Region Northwest Territories
Ethnicity Dogrib people
Native speakers
2,100  (2011 census)[1]
Official status
Official language in
 Northwest Territories (Canada)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-2 dgr
ISO 639-3 dgr
Glottolog dogr1252[3]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Tlicho communities in the Northwest Territories

The Tłı̨chǫ (Tlinchon) language (/ˈtlɪnɒn/; Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì [tɬʰĩtʃʰõ jatʰîː]), or Dogrib, is a Northern Athabaskan language spoken by the First Nations Tłı̨chǫ people of the Canadian territory Northwest Territories. According to Statistics Canada in 2006, there were approximately 2,640 people who spoke Tłı̨chǫ.[4]

The Tłı̨chǫ region covers the northern shore of Great Slave Lake, reaching almost up to Great Bear Lake. Rae-Edzo, now known by its Tłı̨chǫ name, Behchokǫ̀, is the largest community in the Tłı̨chǫ region.



The consonants of Tłı̨chǫ in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):[5]

  Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral plain labialized
Nasal plain  m  /m/  n  /n/            
prenasalized  mb  /ᵐb/  nd  /ⁿd/            
Plosive voiced  b  /b/  d  /d/        g  /ɡ/  gw  /ɡʷ/  
voiceless    t  /t/        k  /k/  kw  /kʷ/    /ʔ/
ejective    t’  /tʼ/        k’  /kʼ/  kw’  /kʷʼ/  
Affricate voiced    dz  /dz/  dl  /dɮ/  j  /dʒ/        
voiceless    ts  /ts/  tl  /tɬ/  ch  /tʃ/        
ejective    ts’  /tsʼ/  tl’  /tɬʼ/  ch’  /tʃʼ/        
Fricative voiced    z  /z/    zh  /ʒ/    gh  /ɣ/    
voiceless    s  /s/  ł  /ɬ/  sh  /ʃ/    x  /x/    h  /h/
Approximant voiced    r  /ɹ/  l  /l/    y  /j/    w  /w/  
voiceless              wh  /ʍ/  


The language uses long, short and nasal vowels, and distinguishes them in writing, along with low tone:[5]

  • Short:
    • a /a/
    • e /e/
    • ı /i/
    • o /o/
    • ą /ã/
    • ę /ẽ/
    • ı̨ /ĩ/
    • ǫ /õ/
  • Long:
    • aa /aː/
    • ee /eː/
    • ıı /iː/
    • oo /oː/
    • ąą /ãː/
    • ęę /ẽː/
    • ı̨ı̨ /ĩː/
    • ǫǫ /õː/
  • Nasal vowels are marked by an ogonek (called wįghǫą, 'its little nose', in Tłı̨chǫ) e.g. ą.
  • Low tone is marked with a grave accent (called wets'aà, 'its hat', in Tłı̨chǫ), e.g. à.
  • High tone is never marked.


Typologically, Tłı̨chǫ is an agglutinating, polysynthetic head-marking language, but many of its affixes combine into contractions more like fusional languages. The canonical word order of Tłı̨chǫ is SOV. Tłı̨chǫ words are modified primarily by prefixes, which is unusual for an SOV language (suffixes are expected).

Like Spanish and Portuguese, Tłı̨chǫ has two verbs similar to English 'be'. One is used for ways of being that are more dynamic or temporary; the other for more permanent and immutable properties. For example, nàzèe-dǫǫ̀ ts’įįlį and nàzèe-dǫǫ̀ ats’įįt’e both mean 'we are hunters', but the first means that the speakers are currently hunters (for example, part of a hunting party), while the second implies that hunting is their regular profession.

In addition to verbs and nouns, there are pronouns, clitics of various functions, demonstratives, numerals, postpositions, adverbs, and conjunctions in Tłı̨chǫ. The class of adjectives is very small, probably around two dozen words: most descriptive words are verbs rather than adjectives.


Example words and phrases:[6][7]

  • Tłı̨chǫ got'ı̨ı̨̀ 'Tłı̨chǫ people'
  • tłı̨ 'dog'
  • tłı̨cho' 'horse' (literally 'big dog')
  • łıwe / łıe 'fish'
  • detʼǫ 'duck'
  • eyè 'egg'
  • ejietʼò 'milk'
  • dìga 'wolf'
  • tʼooh 'poplar'
  • deh 'river'
  • elà 'canoe'
  • 'island'
  • kwe 'rock'
  • sìh /shìh 'mount'
  • 'lake'
  • zhah 'snow'
  • chǫ /tsǫ' 'rain'
  • ło 'smoke'
  • kǫ̀ 'house'
  • degoo 'white'
  • dezǫ 'black'
  • dekʼo 'red'
  • dǫ nàke laànì nàtso 'strong like two people', the motto of the Tłįchǫ Government

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dogrib at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Official Languages of the Northwest Territories (map)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Dogrib". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Statistics Canada: 2006 Census
  5. ^ a b Coleman, Phyllis Young (1979). Dogrib Phonology. Ann Arbor, Michigan, [etc.]: University Microfilms International. 
  6. ^ Saxon, Leslie; Siemens, Mary (1996). Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì Enįhtł'è = Dogrib Dictionary. Rae-Edzo, NWT, Canada: Dogrib Divisional Board of Education. 
  7. ^ Saxon, Leslie; Siemens, Mary (2011), Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì Multimedia Dictionary, Victoria, BC, Canada: U. of Victoria Linguistics Dept., archived from the original on 2014-05-05, retrieved 2014-05-12 

External links[edit]