Dogrib 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.

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

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 Tlinchon region. According to the Endangered Languages Project, approximately 1,350 people speak the language while at home. Speakers are commonly fluent in English. [5]



The consonants of Tlinchon in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):[6]

  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:[6]

  • 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 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.


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’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.[7]

In addition to verbs and nouns, there are pronouns, clitics of various functions, demonstratives, numerals, postpositions, adverbs, and conjunctions in Tlinchon.[8][9] The class of adjectives is very small, probably around two dozen words: most descriptive words are verbs rather than adjectives.[10]


Example words and phrases:[11][12]

  • 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dogrib at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Official Languages of the Northwest Territories Archived December 6, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. (map)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Dogrib". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ Statistics Canada: 2006 Census Archived October 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Did you know Dogrib is endangered?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  6. ^ a b Coleman, Phyllis Young (1979). Dogrib Phonology. Ann Arbor, Michigan, [etc.]: University Microfilms International. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Ackroyd, Lynda (1982). Dogrib grammar. unpublished. pp. 32–58. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Welch, Nicholas (April 2016). "Propping up predicates: Adjectival predication in Tłı̨chǫ Yatıı̀". Glossa. 1 (1): 1–23. doi:10.5334/gjgl.7. 
  11. ^ Saxon, Leslie; Siemens, Mary (1996). Tlinchon Yatıì Enįhtł'è = Dogrib Dictionary. Rae-Edzo, NWT, Canada: Dogrib Divisional Board of Education. 
  12. ^ 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 

External links[edit]