Dogrib language

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Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì
Native toCanada
RegionNorthwest Territories
Native speakers
1,735, 90% of ethnic population (2016 census)[1]
Official status
Official language in
 Northwest Territories[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-2dgr
ISO 639-3dgr
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 Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì is a Northern Athabaskan language spoken by the Tłı̨chǫ (Dogrib people) of the Canadian Northwest Territories. According to Statistics Canada in 2011, there were 2,080 people who speak Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì[4].

Tłıchǫ Yatıì is spoken by the Dene First Nations people that reside in the Northwest Territories of Canada, the Tłıchǫ. Tłı̨chǫ lands lie east of the Mackenzie River between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. There are four primary communities that speak the language: Gamètì (formerly Rae Lakes), Behchokǫ̀ (formerly Rae-Edzo), Wekweètì (formerly Snare Lakes) and Whatì. 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, Tłıchǫ Yatıì has seen a decrease in mother tongue speakers, hence placing it under the endangered list of languages. [5] [6]

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


Tłıchǫ Yatıì was traditionally only an oral language. But in 1992, the first edition of the Tłıchǫ Yatıì Enįhtł’è - A Dogrib Dictionary was published which provided the Tłıchǫ people with a database of words and spelling. This sparked the interest of community members and became the first step in revitalization efforts.[8]

In 2005, the Tłıchǫ signed the Tłıchǫ Agreement for Self-Governance[9]. This allowed the Tłıchǫ people to prioritize the preservation of their language, culture and way of life. Since its implementation, the Tłıchǫ Government has been working hard to help younger generations of Tłıchǫ learn the language by declaring Tłıchǫ Yatıì as one of two official languages of the Tłıchǫ Government. Revitalizations efforts include putting up signs in Tłıchǫ Yatıì, creating on the land programs, providing Tłıchǫ Yatıì classes for community members[10].

Geographic distribution[edit]

The language is mainly spoken in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The four official Tłıchǫ communities are Gamètì, Behchokǫ̀, Wekweètì and Whatì, although both communities of Yellowknife and Dettah also have many Tłıchǫ speakers.



The consonants of Tłıchǫ Yatıì in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):[11]

  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:[11]

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

Like Spanish and Portuguese, Tłıchǫ Yatıì 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.[12]

In addition to verbs and nouns, there are pronouns, clitics of various functions, demonstratives, numerals, postpositions, adverbs, and conjunctions in Tłıchǫ.[13][14] The class of adjectives is very small, probably around two dozen words: most descriptive words are verbs rather than adjectives.[15]


Example words and phrases:[16][17]

  • Tłı̨chǫ got'ı̨ı̨̀ – Tłıchǫ people
  • tłı̨ – dog
  • tłı̨cho – dog rib
  • łıwe / łıe – fish
  • detʼǫ – duck
  • eyè – egg
  • ejietʼò – milk
  • dìga – wolf
  • tʼooh – poplar
  • deh – river
  • elà – canoe
  • – island
  • kwe – rock
  • sìh or shìh – mount
  • – lake
  • zhah – snow
  • chǫ or tsǫ – rain
  • ło – smoke
  • kǫ̀ – house
  • degoo – white
  • dezǫ – black
  • dekʼo – red
  • dǫ nàke laànì nàtso – strong like two people

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. 2017-08-02. 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. ^ "Census in Brief Aboriginal Languages in Canada, Language, 2011 Census of Population" (PDF). Government of Canada. Government of Canada. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  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. ^ Dogrib Divisional Board of Education. "Tłıchǫ Yatıì Enįhtł'è - A Dogrib Dictionary" (PDF). Tłıchǫ Government. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Land Claims and Self-Government Agreement Among the Tłıchǫ" (PDF). Government of Canada. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Tłıchǫ Government Administrative Policy and Procedures" (PDF). Tłıchǫ Government. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  11. ^ a b Coleman, Phyllis Young (1979). Dogrib Phonology. Ann Arbor, Michigan, [etc.]: University Microfilms International.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Ackroyd, Lynda (1982). Dogrib grammar. unpublished. pp. 32–58.
  14. ^ Saxon, Leslie; Siemens, Mary (1997). A Dogrib dictionary. Rae-Edzo, Northwest Territories, Canada: Dogrib Divisional Board of Education. p. vi-xiv. ISBN 978-1-896790-00-8.
  15. ^ Welch, Nicholas (April 2016). "Propping up predicates: Adjectival predication in Tłı̨chǫ Yatıı̀". Glossa. 1 (1): 1–23. doi:10.5334/gjgl.7.
  16. ^ Saxon, L.; Siemens, M. (1996). Tłıchǫ Yatıì Enįhtł'è – Dogrib Dictionary. Rae-Edzo: Dogrib Divisional Board of Education.
  17. ^ Saxon, L.; Siemens, M. (2011), Tlinchon Yatıì Multimedia Dictionary, Victoria: U. of Victoria Linguistics Dept., archived from the original on 5 May 2014, retrieved 12 May 2014

External links[edit]