Gwich’in language

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Gwich’in
Dinjii Zhu’ Ginjik
Native toCanada, United States
RegionNorthwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska
Ethnicity3,000 Gwich'in people (2007)
Native speakers
ca. 560 (2007–2016)[1]
Latin (Northern Athabaskan alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
 Canada[2]
 Alaska[3]
Language codes
ISO 639-2gwi
ISO 639-3gwi
Glottologgwic1235[4]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Gwich’in language (Dinju Zhuh K’yuu)[5] belongs to the Athabaskan language family and is spoken by the Gwich’in First Nation (Canada) / Alaska Native People (United States). It is also known in older or dialect-specific publications as Kutchin, Takudh, Tukudh, or Loucheux.[6] Gwich'in is spoken primarily in the towns of Inuvik, Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Old Crow, and Tsiigehtchic (formerly Arctic Red River) in the Northwest Territories and Yukon of Canada.[7] In Alaska of the United States, Gwich’in is spoken in Beaver, Circle, Fort Yukon, Chalkyitsik, Birch Creek, Arctic Village, Eagle, and Venetie.[8][not in citation given]

The ejective affricate in the name Gwich’in is usually written with symbol U+2019 RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK, though the correct character for this use (with expected glyph and typographic properties) is U+02BC MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE.

Current status[edit]

Few Gwichʼin speak their heritage language as a majority of the population shifts to English. According to the UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, Gwich’in is now "severely endangered." There are about 260 Gwich’in speakers in Canada out of a total Gwich’in population of 1,900. About 300 out of a total Alaska Gwich’in population of 1,100 speak the language.[5]

In 1988, the NWT Official Languages Act named Gwich'in as an official language of the Northwest Territories, and the Official Languages of Alaska Law as amended declared Gwich'in a recognized language in 2014.[5]

The Gwich'in language is taught regularly at the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow, Yukon Territory.[8]

Projects are underway to document the language and enhance the writing and translation skills of younger Gwich'in speakers. In one project, lead research associate and fluent speaker Gwich’in elder Kenneth Frank works with linguists and young Gwich'in speakers affiliated with the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks to document traditional knowledge of caribou anatomy.[9]

Classification[edit]

Gwich’in is a member of the Northern Athabaskan subgroup of the Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit language family. It shares the Hän-Kutchin subdivision with the Hän language.[10]

Dialects[edit]

There are two main dialects of Gwich’in, eastern and western, which are delineated roughly at the Canada–US border.[10] There are several dialects within these subgroupings, including Fort Yukon Gwich’in, Arctic Village Gwich’in, Western Canada Gwich’in (Takudh, Tukudh, Loucheux), and Arctic Red River. Each village has unique dialect differences, idioms, and expressions. The Old Crow people in the northern Yukon have approximately the same dialect as those bands living in Venetie and Arctic Village, Alaska.

Phonology[edit]

Consonants[edit]

The consonants of Gwichʼin in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):[8]

Labial Interdental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral plain labialized
Nasal voiced (m  /m/) n  /n/
voiceless nh  //
Plosive plain (b  /p/) d  /t/ dr  /ʈ/ g  /k/ gw  //  /ʔ/
aspirated t  // tr  /ʈʰ/ k  // kw  /kʷʰ/
ejective t’  // tr’  /ʈʼ/ k’  //
prenasalized nd  /ⁿd/
Affricate plain ddh  // dz  /ts/ dl  // j  //
aspirated tth  /tθʰ/ ts  /tsʰ/ tl  /tɬʰ/ ch  /tʃʰ/
ejective tth’  /tθʼ/ ts’  /tsʼ/ tl’  /tɬʼ/ ch’  /tʃʼ/
prenasalized nj  /ⁿdʒ/
Fricative voiced v  /v/ dh  /ð/ z  /z/ zhr  /ʐ/ zh  /ʒ/ gh  /ɣ/ ghw  /ɣʷ/
voiceless (f  /f/) th  /θ/ s  /s/ ł  /ɬ/ shr  /ʂ/ sh  /ʃ/ kh  /x/ h  /h/
Approximant voiced l  /l/ r  /ɻ/ y  /j/ w  /w/
voiceless rh  /ɻ̥/

Vowels[edit]

  • Short
    • a [a]
    • e [e]
    • i [i]
    • o [o]
    • u [u]
  • Long
  • Nasal vowels are marked with an ogonek, e.g. [ą]
  • Low tone is marked with a grave accent, e.g. [à]
  • High tone is never marked

Gwich’in language in place names[edit]

The Porcupine River, a 916-kilometre (569 mi) tributary of the Yukon River in Canada and the United States, is called Ch’ôonjik[11] in Gwich’in.

Key vocabulary[edit]

Vadzaih (caribou) are an integral part of First Nations and Inuit oral histories and legends including the Gwich'in creation story of how Gwich’in people and the caribou separated from a single entity.[12] The caribou is the cultural symbol and a keystone subsistence species of the Gwich'in, just as the buffalo is to the Plains Indians.[9]

Elders have identified at least 150 descriptive Gwich'in names for all of the bones, organs, and tissues "Associated with the caribou's anatomy are not just descriptive Gwich'in names for all of the body parts including bones, organs, and tissues as well as "an encyclopedia of stories, songs, games, toys, ceremonies, traditional tools, skin clothing, personal names and surnames, and a highly developed ethnic cuisine."[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gwich’in at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  2. ^ Official Languages of the Northwest Territories Archived 2013-12-06 at the Wayback Machine. (map)
  3. ^ https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/04/21/305688602/alaska-oks-bill-making-native-languages-official
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Gwich'in". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ a b c "Gwich'in". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  6. ^ McDonald. ''A Grammar of the Tukudh Language''. Yellowknife, N.W.T.: Curriculum Division, Dept. of Education, Government of the Northwest Territories, 1972.
  7. ^ Firth, William G. 1991. Teetł'it Gwìch’in K’yùu Gwi’dìnehtł’èe Nagwant Tr’agwàłtsàii: A Junior Dictionary of the Teetl'it Gwich'in Language. Department of Culture and Communications, Government of the Northwest Territories. ISBN 978-1-896337-12-8.
  8. ^ a b c "Yukon Native Language Centre". ynlc.ca. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  9. ^ a b c Mishler, Craig (2014), "Linguistic Team Studies Caribou Anatomy", Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCOS), retrieved 11 January 2015
  10. ^ a b "Did you know Gwich'in is severely endangered?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  11. ^ Holton, Gary (July 16, 2013). "Alaska Native Language Archive: Alaska Place Names". University of Alaska Fairbanks. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
  12. ^ "Vuntut Gwich'in", First Voices, 2001–2013, retrieved 17 January 2014

Further reading[edit]

  • Firth, William G., et al. Gwìndòo Nànhʼ Kak Geenjit Gwichʼin Ginjik = More Gwichʼin Words About the Land. Inuvik, N.W.T.: Gwichʼin Renewable Resource Board, 2001.
  • Gwichʼin Renewable Resource Board. Nànhʼ Kak Geenjit Gwichʼin Ginjik = Gwichʼin Words About the Land. Inuvik, N.W.T., Canada: Gwichʼin Renewable Resource Board, 1997.
  • McDonald. A Grammar of the Tukudh Language. Yellowknife, N.W.T.: Curriculum Division, Dept. of Education, Government of the Northwest Territories, 1972.
  • Montgomery, Jane. Gwichʼin Language Lessons Old Crow Dialect. Whitehorse: Yukon Native Language Centre, 1994.
  • Northwest Territories. Gwichʼin Legal Terminology. [Yellowknife, N.W.T.]: Dept. of Justice, Govt. of the Northwest Territories, 1993.
  • Norwegian-Sawyer, Terry. Gwichʼin Language Lessons Gwichyàh Gwichʼin Dialect (Tsiigèhchik–Arctic Red River). Whitehorse: Yukon Native Language Centre, 1994.
  • Peter, Katherine, and Mary L. Pope. Dinjii Zhuu Gwandak = Gwichʼin Stories. [Anchorage]: Alaska State-Operated Schools, Bilingual Programs, 1974.
  • Peter, Katherine. A Book of Gwichʼin Athabaskan Poems. College, Alaska: Alaska Native Language Center, Center for Northern Educational Research, University of Alaska, 1974.
  • Yukon Native Language Centre. Gwichʼin Listening Exercises Teetlʼit Gwichʼin dialect. Whitehorse: Yukon Native Language Centre, Yukon College, 2003. ISBN 1-55242-167-8

External links[edit]