Ditidaht language

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Native to Canada
Region Southern part of Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Ethnicity Ditidaht, formerly Pacheedaht
Native speakers
approx. 10  (2010)[2]
  • Southern
    • Ditidaht
Language codes
ISO 639-3 dtd
Glottolog diti1235[3]

Ditidaht (also Nitinaht, Nitinat, Southern Nootkan) is a South Wakashan (Nootkan) language spoken on the southern part of Vancouver Island. Nitinaht is related to the other South Wakashan languages, Makah and the neighboring Nuu-chah-nulth.

Status and history[edit]

The number of native Ditidaht speakers dwindled from about thirty in the 1990s[4] to just eight by 2006.[5] In 2003 the Ditidaht council approved construction of a $4.2 million community school to teach students on the Ditidaht (Malachan) reserve their language and culture from kindergarten to Grade 12. The program was successful in its first years and produced its first high-school graduate in 2005.[5] In 2014, the number of fluent Ditidaht speakers was 7, the number of individuals who have a good grasp on the language 6, and there were 55 people learning the language.[6]

As of July 2006, British linguistics professor Michael Fortescue has been living on the reserve, helping to complete a 500-page Ditidaht and Wakashan dictionary. The language existed only orally prior to 2002, but it now has a 53-letter alphabet. New terminology is being developed to adapt the language to modern technology and life. The Ditidaht have begun publishing the language to CD, DVD, and on FirstVoices.ca.[5]


The reason for the unusual discrepancy in the names Nitinaht and Ditidaht is that when the Ditidaht people were first contacted by Europeans, they had nasal consonants (/m/, /n/) in their language. Their autonym of Nitinaht was what the Europeans recorded for them and their language. Soon afterward the consonants shifted to voiced plosives (/b/, /d/) as part of an areal trend, so the people came to call themselves Ditidaht. Ditidaht is thus one of only a handful of languages in the world that do not have nasal consonants.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.ditidaht.ca/history.htm#THE DITIDAHT PEOPLE
  2. ^ Ditidaht at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Ditidaht". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ a b c Kwong, Matthew. (2006-07-22). "Standing by their words". The Globe and Mail.
  6. ^ http://maps.fphlcc.ca/_ditidaht

External links[edit]