Dogrib language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì
Native to Canada
Region Northwest Territories
Ethnicity Tłı̨chǫ
Native speakers
1,735, 90% of ethnic population (2016 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. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

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

The Dogrib language, also commonly referred to as Tłı̨chǫ (which means “dog’s rib”), is spoken by the Dene First Nations people that reside in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The Tłı̨chǫ lands lie east of the Mackenzie River between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. The five small communities that speak the language include: Detah, Gameti formerly Rae Lakes, Behchokǫ̀ formerly Rea-Edzo, Wekweti formerly Snare Lake and Wha Ti. There are also about 220 speakers in the city of Yellowknife. From a population number of about 800 during the mid-19th century to about 1,700 by the 1970s, the population has grown to about 2,080 as recorded by the 2011 Census. However, recently the Dogrib language has seen a large decrease in its native speakers with only about 2,470 speakers worldwide, hence placing it under the endangered list of languages. [5] [6]

The Tlinchon region covers the northern shore of Great Slave Lake, reaching almost up to Great Bear Lake. Rae-Edzo, now known by its Tlinchon name, Behchokǫ̀, is the largest community in the Tlicho region. According to the Endangered Languages Project, approximately 1,350 people speak the language while at home. Speakers are commonly fluent in English.[7]


Much of the native speakers of the Dogrib people are not consistently found online and this remains a common occurrence. Their attempts to bridge the gap between the old and new generation of people has been seen in their education system and teaching musical tales and stories at their schools. Music keeps their culture alive and it also inspires the youth to take part in community events that teach them the traditions of the language. Dogrib shares many of its phonology and historical changes with the dialect of Slave. Both Dogrib and Slave separated from each other at some point in history. [8]

Geographic distribution[edit]

The language is mainly spoken in the Northwest Territories of Canada. As mentioned five small communities speak the language include: Detah (105 speakers), Gameti formerly Rae Lakes (210 speakers), Bechoko formerly (1,010 speakers), Wekweti (100 speakers) and Wha Ti (325 speakers). There are also about 220 speakers in the city of Yellowknife.[9][full citation needed]



The consonants of Tlinchon in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):[10]

  Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral plain labialized
Nasal plain  m  /m/  n  /n/            
prenasalized  mb  /ᵐb/  nd  /ⁿd/            
Plosive tenuis  (b  /p/)  d  /t/        g  /k/  gw  /kʷ/    /ʔ/
aspirated    t  /tʰ/        k  /kʰ/  kw  /kʷʰ/
ejective    t’  /tʼ/        k’  /kʼ/  kw’  /kʷʼ/  
Affricate tenuis    dz  /ts/  dl  /tɬ/  j  /tʃ/        
aspirated    ts  /tsʰ/    /tɬʰ/  ch  /tʃʰ/        
ejective    ts’  /tsʼ/  tł’  /tɬʼ/  ch’  /tʃʼ/        
Fricative voiced    z  /z/  l  /ɮ/  zh  /ʒ/  gh  /ɣ/    
voiceless    s  /s/  ł  /ɬ/  sh  /ʃ/    x  /x/    h  /h/
Approximant voiced    r  /ɾ~ɹ/    y  /j/    w  /w/  
voiceless              wh  /ʍ/  

Tenuis stops may be lightly voiced. Aspirated stops may be fricated [Cˣʰ] before back vowels.

Tlicho communities in the Northwest Territories


The language uses long, short and nasal vowels, and distinguishes them in writing, along with low tone:[10]

  • 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 wı̨ghǫą, 'its little nose', in Tlinchon) e.g. ą.
  • Low tone is marked with a grave accent (called wets'aà, 'its hat', in Tlinchon), e.g. à.
  • High tone is never marked.
  • The letter 'i' is written without a dot.


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

Like Spanish and Portuguese, Tlinchon 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’ı̨ı̨lı̨ and nàzèe-dǫǫ̀ ats’ı̨ı̨t’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.[11]

In addition to verbs and nouns, there are pronouns, clitics of various functions, demonstratives, numerals, postpositions, adverbs, and conjunctions in Tlinchon.[12][13] The class of adjectives is very small, probably around two dozen words: most descriptive words are verbs rather than adjectives.[14]


Example words and phrases:[15][16]

  • Tłı̨chǫ got'ı̨ı̨̀ 'Tlinchon 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

More examples include:[17]

  • "jihcho (55) - dzitso (23)" 'big mitts'
  • "gozhii (47) - gozii (47)" 'breathing, breath'
  • "shaa (90) - saa (92)" 'knot'
  • "gocho (39) - gotso (46)" 'ancestors'
  • "ch·o (8) - ts·o (106)" 'porcupine'

Video of Tlicho word lesson: [18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Language Highlight Tables, 2016 Census - Aboriginal mother tongue, Aboriginal language spoken most often at home and Other Aboriginal language(s) spoken regularly at home for the population excluding institutional residents of Canada, provinces and territories, 2016 Census – 100% Data". Government of Canada, Statistics. Retrieved 2017-11-23. 
  2. ^ Official Languages of the Northwest Territories Archived December 6, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. (map)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Dogrib". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ Statistics Canada: 2006 Census Archived October 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ History. (2012, January 05). Retrieved March 09, 2017, from
  6. ^ "Did you know Dogrib is endangered?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
  7. ^ "Did you know Dogrib is endangered?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  8. ^ Marinakis, A. (2010). Dogrib Co-occurrence Restrictions: The Disappearance of [u]. Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle, 16, 43-56.
  9. ^ "Did you know Dogrib is endangered?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
  10. ^ a b Coleman, Phyllis Young (1979). Dogrib Phonology. Ann Arbor, Michigan, [etc.]: University Microfilms International. 
  11. ^ Welch, Nicholas (March 29, 2016). "Copulas are not just inflection: Evidence from Tłı̨chǫ Yatıı̀". Canadian Journal of Linguistics. 61 (1): 98–106. doi:10.1017/cnj.2016.8. 
  12. ^ Ackroyd, Lynda (1982). Dogrib grammar. unpublished. pp. 32–58. 
  13. ^ Saxon, Leslie; Siemens, Mary (1997). A Dogrib dictionary. Rae-Edzo, Northwest Territories, Canada: Dogrib Divisional Board of Education. p. vi-xiv. ISBN 1-896790-00-3. 
  14. ^ Welch, Nicholas (April 2016). "Propping up predicates: Adjectival predication in Tłı̨chǫ Yatıı̀". Glossa. 1 (1): 1–23. doi:10.5334/gjgl.7. 
  15. ^ Saxon, Leslie; Siemens, Mary (1996). Tlinchon Yatıì Enįhtł'è = Dogrib Dictionary. Rae-Edzo, NWT, Canada: Dogrib Divisional Board of Education. 
  16. ^ Saxon, Leslie; Siemens, Mary (2011), Tlinchon Yatıì Multimedia Dictionary, Victoria, BC, Canada: U. of Victoria Linguistics Dept., archived from the original on 2014-05-05, retrieved 2014-05-12 
  17. ^ Marinakis, A. (2010). Dogrib Co-occurrence Restrictions: The Disappearance of [u]. Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle, 16, 43-56.
  18. ^ [Joseph George Mantla]. (2012, Jan 31). Tlicho Lesson

External links[edit]