Tłı̨chǫ language

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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
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

Dogrib, the English translation of the indigenous name Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì (IPA: [tɬʰĩtʃʰõ jatʰîː]), 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 Dogrib.[3]

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



The consonants of Dogrib in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):

  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/  


  • 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 Dogrib) e.g. ą
  • low tone is marked with a grave accent (called wets'aà - 'its hat' in Dogrib), e.g. à
  • high tone is never marked


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

Like Spanish and Portuguese, Dogrib 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 Dogrib. The class of adjectives is very small, probably around two dozen words: most descriptive words are verbs rather than adjectives.


Example words and phrases:[4]

  • 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]


Further reading[edit]

  • Coleman, Phyllis Young. Dogrib Phonology. Ann Arbor, Michigan, [etc.]: University Microfilms International, 1979.
  • Saxon, Leslie and Mary Siemens. Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì Enįhtł'è = Dogrib Dictionary. Rae-Edzo, N.W.T.: Dogrib Divisional Board of Education, 1996.
  • Saxon, Leslie and Mary Siemens. Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì Multimedia Dictionary [1].

External links[edit]