Gitxsan language

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Gitxsanimaax, Gitxsanimx
Native toCanada
RegionSkeena region, British Columbia
Ethnicity5,680 Gitxsan
Native speakers
1,020 (2016 census)[1]
  • Nass–Gitksan
    • Gitxsan
Language codes
ISO 639-3git

The Gitxsan language /ˈɡɪtsæn/,[3] or Gitxsanimaax (also rendered Gitksan, Giatikshan, Gityskyan, Giklsan), is an endangered Tsimshianic language of northwestern British Columbia, closely related to the neighboring Nisga’a language. The two groups are, however, politically separate and prefer to refer to Gitxsan and Nisga'a as distinct languages. According to the 2016 census there were 1,020 native speakers.[1]

Gitxsan means "People of the Skeena River" ("Ksan" being the name of the Skeena in Gitxsan).


The Gitxsan inventory is as follows:[4]

Gitxsan vowels
i iː u uː
(e) eː (ə) (o) oː
a aː

The mid and high vowels are nearly in complementary distribution, suggesting that Gitxsan once had a three-vowel system. Short mid vowels are emerging. Schwa may not be phonemic.

Gitxsan consonants
Obstruents p t t͡s c[5] q
t͡sʼ t͜ɬʼ kʷʼ
s ɬ ç χ
Sonorants m n l j w h

The palatal obstruents become velar before /s/ and /l/.


  1. ^ a b "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. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Gitxsan". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-23. Retrieved 2014-01-07.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Bruce Rigsby & John Ingram (1990) "Obstruent Voicing and Glottalic Obstruents in Gitksan". International Journal of American Linguistics, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 251–263.
  5. ^ The palatals are written ⟨k⟩, ⟨x⟩, ⟨y⟩ in orthography, and transcribed ⟨kʸ⟩, ⟨xʸ⟩, ⟨y⟩ in Americanist notation.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bicevskis, Katie; Davis, Henry; Matthewson, Lisa (2017). "Quantification in Gitksan". In Paperno, Denis; Keenan, Edward L. Handbook of Quantifiers in Natural Language. II. Springer. pp. 281–382. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-44330-0_6.
  • Brown, Jason; Davis, Henry; Schwan, Michael; Sennott, Barbara (2016). "Gitksan". Illustrations of the IPA. Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 46 (3): 367–378. doi:10.1017/S0025100315000432.
  • Halpin, Marjorie, and Margaret Seguin (1990) "Tsimshian Peoples: Southern Tsimshian, Coast Tsimshian, Nishga, and Gitksan." In Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7: Northwest Coast, ed. by Wayne Suttles, pp. 267–284. Washington: Smithsonian Institution).
  • Hindle, Lonnie and Bruce Rigsby (1973) A Short Practical Dictionary of the Gitksan language, Northwest Anthropological Research Notes 1:1-60.
  • Matthewson, Lisa (2013). "Gitksan Modals". International Journal of American Linguistics. 79 (3): 349–394. doi:10.1086/670751.

External links[edit]