|Native speakers||3,545 (2006)
North Slavey 1,235,
South Slavey 2,310
|Official language in||Northwest Territories|
|ISO 639-3||den – inclusive code
scs – North Slavey
xsl – South Slavey
Slavey (pron.: //; also Slave, Slavé) is an Athabaskan language spoken among the Slavey First Nations of Canada in the Northwest Territories where it also has official status. The language is written using Canadian Aboriginal syllabics or the Latin script.
Slavey was the native language spoken by the fictional band in the Canadian television series North of 60. Nick Sibbeston, a former Premier of the Northwest Territories, was a Slavey language and culture consultant for the show.
North Slavey language and South Slavey language 
North Slavey language (or Sahtúot’ı̨nę Yatı̨́), is spoken by the Sahtu (North Slavey) people in the Mackenzie District along the middle Mackenzie River from Fort Norman north, around Great Bear Lake, and in the Mackenzie Mountains of the Canadian territory of Northwest Territories.
Statistics: Speakers: 1,235 (2006 Statistics Canada)
Alternate names: Slavi, Dené, Mackenzian, Slave
Northern Slavey is an amalgamation of three separate dialects:
- ᑲᑊᗱᑯᑎᑊᓀ K’áshogot’ıne (Hare, spoken by the Gahwié gotinè - “Rabbitskin People” or K’áshogot’ıne - “Great Hare People”, referring to their dependence on the varying hare for food and clothing, also called Peaux de Lievre or Locheaux)
- ᓴᑋᕲᒼᑯᑎᑊᓀ Sahtúgot’ıne (Bear Lake, spoken by the Sahtu Dene or Sahtú gotine - “Bear Lake People”, also known as Gens du Lac d'Ours)
- ᗰᑋᑯᑎᑊᓀ Shıhgot’ıne (Mountain, spoken by the Shıhgot’ıne, Shuhtaot'ine or Shotah Dene - “Mountain People” or Mountain Indians, also called Nahagot’ine, Nahaa or Nahane Dene - “People of the west”, so called because they lived in the mountains west of the other Slavey groups, between the Mackenzie Mountains and the Mackenzie River, from the Redstone River to the Mountain River)
South Slavey language (ᑌᓀ ᒐ Dene-thah, Dené Dháh or Dene Zhatıé), is spoken by the Slavey (South Slavey) people, which were also known as Dehghaot'ine, Deh Cho, Etchareottine - “People Dwelling in the Shelter”, in the region of Great Slave Lake, upper Mackenzie River (Deh Cho - “Big River”) and drainage in Mackenzie District, northeast Alberta, northwest British Columbia.
Statistics: Speakers: 2,310 (2006 Statistics Canada)
Alternate names: Slavi, Slave, Dené, Mackenzian
The division of Slavey dialects is based largely on the way each one pronounces the old Proto-Athapaskan sounds *dz *ts *ts’ *s and *z.
The consonant inventories in the dialects of Slavey differ considerably. The table above lists the 30 consonants common to most or all varieties. Hare lacks aspirated affricates (on red background), which have merged into fricatives, whereas Mountain lacks /w/ (on blue). In addition, for some speakers of Hare, an alveolar flap /ɾ/ has developed into a separate phoneme.
The most pronounced difference is however the realization of a series of consonants that varies greatly in their place of articulation:[verification needed]
|Voiced fricative / semivowel||ð||v||w||w|
In Slavey proper, these are dental affricates and fricatives; comparative Athabaskan work reveals this to be the oldest sound value. Mountain has labials, with the voiceless stop coinciding with pre-existing /p/. Bearlake has labialized velars, but has lenited the voiced fricative to coincide with pre-existing /w/. The most complicated situation is found in Hare, where the plain stop is (as in Bearlake) a labialized velar, the ejective member is replaced by a /ʔw/ sequence, the voiceless fricative is (as in Mountain) /f/, into which the aspirated affricate has collapsed, and the voiced fricative has (again as in Bearlake) been lenited to /w/.
Phonological processes 
The following phonological and phonetic statements apply to all four dialects of Slavey.
- Unaspirated obstruents are either voiceless or weakly voiced, e.g.
- /k/ → [k] or [k̬]
- Aspirated obstruents are strongly aspirated.
- Ejectives are strongly ejective.
- When occurring between vowels, ejectives are often voiced, e.g.
- /kʼ/ → [ɡˀ] or [kʼ]
- /t͡sʰ/ is usually strongly velarized, i.e. [tˣ].
- Velar obstruents are palatalized before front vowels, e.g.
- /kɛ/ → [cɛ]
- /xɛ/ → [çɛ]
- /ɣɛ/ → [ʝɛ]
- Velar fricatives may be labialized before round vowels.
- The voiceless fricative is usually labialized, e.g.
- /xo/ → [xʷo]
- The voiced fricative is optionally labialized and may additionally be defricated e.g.
- /ɣo/ → [ɣo] or [ɣʷo] or [wo]
- The voiceless fricative is usually labialized, e.g.
- Velar stops are also labialized before round vowels. These labialized velars are not as heavily rounded as labial velars (which occur in Bearlake and Hare), e.g.
- /ko/ → [kʷo]
- /kʷo/ → [k̹ʷwo]
- Lateral affricates are generally alveolar, but sometimes velar, i.e.
- /tɬ/ → [tɬ] or [kɬ]
- /tɬʰ/ → [tɬʰ] or [kɬʰ]
- /tɬʼ/ → [tɬʼ] or [kɬʼ]
- /x/ may be velar or glottal, i.e.
- /x/ → [x] or [h]
- a [a]
- e [ɛ]
- ə [e] or [ie]
- i [i]
- o [o]
- u [u]
- nasal vowels are marked with an ogonek accent, e.g., ⟨ą⟩ [ã]
- South Slavey does not have the ⟨ə⟩ vowel.
Slavey has two tones:
In Slavey orthography, high tone is marked with an acute accent, and low tone is unmarked.
Tones are both lexical and grammatical.
Lexical: /ɡáh/ 'along' vs. /ɡàh/ 'rabbit'
See also 
Further reading 
- Howard, Philip G. 1990. A Dictionary of the Verbs of South Slavey. Yellowknife: Dept. of Culture and Communications, Govt. of the Northwest Territories, ISBN 0-7708-3868-5
- Isaiah, Stanley, et al. 1974. Golqah Gondie = Animal Stories - in Slavey. Yellowknife: Programme Development Division, Government of the Northwest Territories, .
- Mithun, Marianne. 1999. The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
- Monus, Vic, and Isaiah, Stanley. 1977. Slavey Topical Dictionary: A Topical List of Words and Phrases Reflecting the Dialect of the Slavey Language Spoken in the Fort Simpson Area. [Yellowknife: Government of the Northwest Territories, Canada?].
- Northwest Territories. 1993. South Slavey Legal Terminology. [Yellowknife, N.W.T.]: Dept. of Justice, Govt. of the Northwest Territories.
- Northwest Territories. 1981. Alphabet Posters in the Wrigley Dialect of the Slavey Language. [Yellowknife?]: Dept. of Education, Programs and Evaluation Branch.
- Tatti, Fibbie, and Howard, Philip G.. 1978. A Slavey Language Pre-Primer in the Speech of Fort Franklin. [Yellowknife]: Linguistic Programmes Division, Dept. of Education, Northwest Territories.
- Anand, Pranav and Nevins, Andrew. Shifty Operators in Changing Contexts. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~lingdept/IndexicalityWorkshop/anandnevins04.pdf
- Rice, Keren. 1989. A Grammar of Slave. Mouton Grammar Library (No. 5). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-010779-1.
- Sabourin, Margaret. 1975. Readers: Slavey Language. Yellowknife: Dept. of Education, Programme Development Division.
- Statistics Canada: 2006 Census
- Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
- Northwest Territories Official Languages Act, 1988 (as amended 1988, 1991-1992, 2003)