Gitxsan language

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Gitxsanimaax, Gitxsanimx
Native to Canada
Region Skeena region, British Columbia
Ethnicity 7,600 Gitxsan people (2014, FPCC)[1]
Native speakers
350 (2014, FPCC)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 git
Glottolog gitx1241[2]

The Gitxsan language /ˈɡɪtsæn/,[3] or Gitxsanimaax (also rendered Gitksan, Giatikshan, Gityskyan, Giklsan), is a First Nations language of northwestern British Columbia. It is a Tsimshianic language, 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. Gitxsanimx is an endangered language. According to the 2006 census there were 1,175 native speakers.[4]

Gitxsan is the name of the people who speak this language. It means "People of the Skeena River" ("'Ksan" being the name of the Skeena in this language).


The Gitxsan inventory is as follows:[5]

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[6] 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 Gitxsan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Gitxsan". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ 2006 Canada Census, Selected Language Characteristics, Registered Indian Status, etc.
  5. ^ Bruce Rigsby & John Ingram (1990) "Obstruent Voicing and Glottalic Obstruents in Gitksan". International Journal of American Linguistics, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 251–263.
  6. ^ The palatals are written ⟨k⟩, ⟨x⟩, ⟨y⟩ in orthography, and transcribed ⟨kʸ⟩, ⟨xʸ⟩, ⟨y⟩ in Americanist notation.


  • Brown, Jason, Henry Davis, Michael Schwan, and Barbara Sennott (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.

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