Klallam language

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Native to United States
Region Washington
Extinct 4 February 2014, with the death of Hazel Sampson[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 clm
Glottolog clal1241[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Klallam or Clallam (native name: nəxʷsƛ̕ay̕əmúcən) was a Straits Salishan language that was traditionally spoken by the Klallam peoples at Becher Bay on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.[3]

Klallam was closely related to North Straits Salish, but not mutually intelligible.

The last native speaker of Klallam was Hazel Sampson, who died on February 4, 2014, at age 103.[4] It continues to be spoken with varying degrees of fluency by six younger Klallam as a second language.[5]

Use and revitalization efforts[edit]

The first Klallam dictionary was published in 2012. Port Angeles High School, in Port Angeles, Washington, offers Klallam language classes to its students "to meet graduation and college entrance requirements."[6]

The last native speaker of Klallam as a first language was Hazel Sampson of Port Angeles, who died on February 4, 2014 at the age of 103.[7] Sampson had worked along with Bea Charles (d. 2009) and Adeline Smith (d. 2013), other native speakers of Klallam, and with linguists Jamie Valadez and Timothy Montler from 1990 to compile the Klallam dictionary.[7] In 1999, this effort led to the development of a lesson plan and guidebooks to teach students the basics of the language through storytelling.[7]



The 34 consonants of Klallam written in its orthography, with IPA in brackets when different:

  Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
central lateral plain labial plain labial
Nasal plain m n           ŋ /ɴ/    
glottalized           ŋ /ɴʼ/    
Plosive plain p t       (k) q  
glottalized         kʼʷ qʼʷ ʔ
Affricate plain   c /t͡s/   č /t͡ʃ/            
glottalized   cʼ /t͡sʼ/ ƛʼ /t͡ɬʼ/ čʼ /t͡ʃʼ/            
Fricative   s ɬ š /ʃ/     x̣ /χ/ x̣ʷ /χʷ/ h
Approximant plain     l   y /j/   w      
glottalized         yʼ /jʼ/        
  • Glottalized sonorants /mʼ/, /nʼ/, /ɴʼ/, /jʼ/, /wʼ/ are realized either
  1. with creaky voice: [m̰], [n̰], [ɴ̰], [j̰], [w̰],
  2. as decomposed glottal stop + sonorant: [ʔm], [ʔn], [ʔɴ], [ʔj], [ʔw], or
  3. as decomposed sonorant + glottal stop: [mʔ], [nʔ], [ɴʔ], [jʔ], [wʔ]
  • /k/ is borrowed from English and occurs in only a few words.
  • /l/ also rarely occurs in Klallam.
  • The alveolar affricate /t͡s/ contrasts with a sequence of stop + fricative /ts/.


The 5 vowels of Klallam:

Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e ə
Close a
  • The sound /e/ is rare.
  • Vowels may be stressed or unstressed. Unstressed vowels are shorter and lower in intensity than stressed vowels.
  • Vowels are lowered when followed by a glottal stop /ʔ/:
'bird'   /t͡sʼiʔt͡sʼəmʼ/[t͡sʼɛʔt͡sʼəmʼ ]
'deer'   /huʔpt/[ hoʔpt ]
'salmon backbone'   /sχəʔqʷəʔ/[ sχaʔqʷaʔ ]
  • Vowels are also often lowered when followed by a glottalized sonorant (i.e. /mʼ/, /nʼ/, /ɴʼ/, /jʼ/, /wʼ/).


  1. ^ Klallam at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Clallam". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ "Linguist keeping language, culture of Pacific Northwest tribes alive". News, University of North Texas. 2002-09-26. Retrieved 2013-01-12. 
  4. ^ "Last native speaker of Klallam language dies in Washington state", Reuters, February 7, 2014.
  5. ^ Rice, Arwyn (2014-02-06). "Eldest member among Klallam tribes, last native speaker of language dies in Port Angeles at 103". Peninsula Daily News. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  6. ^ Arwyn Rice (2012-12-13). "First Klallam language dictionary revives ancient Native American tongue". Olympic Peninsula Daily NEWS. Retrieved 2013-01-12. 
  7. ^ a b c Arwyn Rice, "Last Native Klallam Speaker Dies in Port Angeles," Peninsula Daily News, Feb. 5, 2014.


  • Brooks, Pamela. (1997). John P. Harrington's Klallam and Chemakum place names. Proceedings of the International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, 32, 144-188.
  • Fleisher, Mark. (1976). Clallam: A study in Coast Salish ethnolinguistics. (Doctoral disseration, Washington State University).
  • Fleisher, Mark. (1977). Aspects of Clallam phonology and their implication of reconstruction. Proceedings of the International Conference on Salishan Languages, 12, 132-141.
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Montler, Timothy. (1996). Languages and dialects in Straits Salishan. Proceedings of the International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, 31, 249-256.
  • Montler, Timothy. (1996). Some Klallam paradigms. Proceedings of the International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, 31, 257-264.
  • Montler, Timothy. (1998). The major processes affecting Klallam vowels. Proceedings of the International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, 33, 366-373.
  • Montler, Timothy. (1999). Language and dialect variation in Straits Salishan. Anthropological linguistics, 41 (4), 462-502.
  • Montler, Timothy. (2005). [Personal communication].
  • Montler, Timothy. (2012). Klallam Dictionary. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Montler, Timothy. (2015). Klallam Grammar. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  • Thompson, Laurence; & Thompson, M. Terry. (1969). Metathesis as a grammatical device. International Journal of American Linguistics, 35, 213-219.
  • Thompson, Laurence; & Thompson, M. Terry. (1971). Clallam: A preview. University of California Publications in Linguistics, 65, 251-294.
  • Thompson, Laurence; Thompson, M. Terry; & Efrat, Barbara. (1974). Some phonological developments in Straits Salish. International Journal of American Linguistics, 40, 182-196.

External links[edit]