List of endangered languages in Canada

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An endangered language is a language that is at risk of falling out of use, generally because it has few surviving speakers. If it loses all of its native speakers, it becomes an extinct language. UNESCO defines four levels of language endangerment between "safe" (not endangered) and "extinct":[1] There are primarily eight languages that were spoken in Canada around 2010.

  • Vulnerable
  • Definitely endangered
  • Severely endangered
  • Critically endangered
Language Speakers Status Comments Ref
Aivilingmiutut language[1]   Vulnerable Inuktitut  
Assiniboine language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered    
Atikamekw language[1]   Vulnerable    
Beaver language[1]   Definitely endangered    
Bella Coola language[1]  17 Critically endangered    
Blackfoot language (Canada)[1]  3500 Definitely endangered  Southern Alberta, CA and Northern Montana, USA[2]  
Bungee language[1]   Critically endangered    
Carrier language[1]   Severely endangered    
Cayuga language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered  Split into two geographically distant groups  
Central Ojibwe language[1]   Definitely endangered    
Chilcotin language[1]   Definitely endangered    
Chipewyan language[3] 2,235[4] Definitely endangered Athapaskan language in Canadian Subartic[3]
Comox-Sliammon language[1]   Critically endangered    
Dakota language[1]   Definitely endangered    
Dene language[1]   Vulnerable    
Dogrib language[1]   Vulnerable    
Eastern Montagnais language[1]   Vulnerable Innu language  
Eastern Ojibwe language[1]   Severely endangered    
Gitksan language[1]   Severely endangered    
Gwich'in language (Canada)[1]   Severely endangered    
Haisla language[1]  240 Critically endangered    
Halkomelem language[1]   Severely endangered Also in the United States  
Han language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered    
Heiltsuk language[1]  60 Critically endangered    
Huron-Wyandot language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered    
Inuinnaqtun language[1]   Definitely endangered    
Inuiuuk[5] 40 Critically endangered Also known as Inuit Sign Language or Inuit Uukturausingit (IUR).  
Kaska language[1]  350 Severely endangered  British Columbia and Yukon Canada  
Kivallirmiutut language[1]   Vulnerable Inuktitut  
Kutenai language[1]   Severely endangered Also in the United States  
Kwak'wala language[1]   Critically endangered Also in the United States  
Lakota language[1]   Critically endangered    
Lillooet language[1]   Severely endangered    
Malecite-Passamaquoddy language[1]   Definitely endangered Also in the United States  
Maritime Sign Language   Critically endangered    
Maniwaki Algonquin language[1]   Severely endangered    
Michif language[1]   Critically endangered    
Micmac language (Canada)[1]   Vulnerable    
Mohawk language (Kahnawake)[1]   Definitely endangered    
Mohawk language (Kanesatake)[1]   Definitely endangered    
Mohawk language (Six nations)[1]   Definitely endangered    
Mohawk language (Tyendinega)[1]   Definitely endangered    
Mohawk language (Wahta)[1]   Definitely endangered    
Moose Cree language[1]   Vulnerable    
Munsee language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered    
Naskapi language[1]   Vulnerable    
Natsilingmiutut[1]   Vulnerable Netsilik dialect  
Nisga'a language[1]   Severely endangered    
Nootka language[1]   Severely endangered    
North Alaskan Inupiaq language (Canada)[1]   Severely endangered    
North Slavey language[1]   Definitely endangered    
Northern Algonquin language[1]   Vulnerable    
Northern East Cree language[1]   Vulnerable    
Northern Haida language[1]   Critically endangered Also in the United States  
Northern Tutchone language[1]   Definitely endangered    
Northwestern Ojibwe language[1]   Vulnerable    
Nunatsiavummiutut[1]   Definitely endangered Nunavimmiutitut, Inuktitut  
Nunatsiavummiut dialect[1]   Vulnerable Inuktitut  
Oji-Cree language[1]   Vulnerable    
Okanagan language[1]   Definitely endangered Also in the United States  
Oneida language (Canada)[1]  100 Critically endangered Ontario, CA and Wisconsin, USA[2]
Onondaga language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered Also in the United States  
Ottawa language (Canada)[1]   Severely endangered Also in the United States  
Ottawa language (Walpole Island)[1]   Severely endangered Also in the United States  
Plains Cree language[1]   Vulnerable    
Plains Sign Talk   Critically Endangered    
Potawatomi language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered    
Qikiqtaaluk nigiani language[1]   Vulnerable Inuktitut  
Qikiqtaaluk uannangani language[1]   Vulnerable Inuktitut  
Rigolet Inuktitut language[1]   Critically endangered Inuktitut  
Sarcee language[1]   Critically endangered    
Saulteau language[1]   Vulnerable    
Sechelt language[1]  4 Critically endangered    
Sekani language[1]   Critically endangered    
Seneca language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered    
Shuswap language[1]   Definitely endangered    
Siglit dialect[1]   Severely endangered Siglitun  
South Slavey language[1]   Definitely endangered    
Southern East Cree language[1]   Vulnerable    
Southern Haida language[1]   Critically endangered    
Southern Tutchone language[1]   Critically endangered    
Squamish language[1]  7 Critically endangered    
Stoney language[1]   Vulnerable    
Straits Salish language[1]   Severely endangered Also in the United States  
Swampy Cree language[1]   Vulnerable    
Tagish language[1]   Critically endangered    
Tahltan language[1]   Critically endangered    
Thompson language[1]   Severely endangered    
Tlingit language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered    
Tsimshian language[1]   Critically endangered    
Tuscarora language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered  Was spoken as the mother tongue  
Upper Tanana language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered    
Western Abenaki language (Canada)[1]   Critically endangered    
Western Montagnais language[1]   Vulnerable Innu language  
Woods Cree language[1]   Vulnerable    

Changes in Canadian Endangered Languages[edit]


  • Phonological Process: Patterns that young children use to simplify adult speech[6]
  • Soundless Vowels: Inaudible, unvoiced vowels or syllables[2]
  • Language Death: The death of the last speaker of a language[7]
  • Phoneme: Sound syllable
  • Contraction: Shortened version of a written or spoken word[8]
  • Elision: Omission of a sound or syllable when speaking[9]
  • Metatheses: the transposition (changing place) of sounds or letters in words[10]

Oneida (Iroquoian Language)[edit]

  • Critically Endangered
  • Visual Information/Cues teach the language[2]

There is a "phonological process," or patterns used to simplify speech[6] in the Oneida language that has been passed down for generations, this process is described as the loss of voicing in the vowel of the last syllable of a word.[2] This process is vital to the preservation of the language, and has been changing among the speakers, such that some speakers have introduced a degree of voiced vowels in these final forms, which poises additional stress on the small population of speakers.[2] The introduction in voicing the last syllable in words that typically are unvoiced is that it changes the traditional morphology of the language, pushing the original dialect towards language death, especially since the majority of speakers are older in age.

Blackfoot (Algonquian Language)[edit]

  • Definitely Endangered
  • Visual Information/Cues teach the language[2]

The Blackfoot language consists of the loss of voicing in the last syllable of a word, which is typically inaudible.[2] Certain inflections, or the use of inaudible vowels has been identified as "old Blackfoot" (traditional), and are not in frequent use by younger speakers.[2] Similarly, a minority of Blackfoot speakers use the "soundless" suffixes, which is pushing the traditional language towards more extreme language endangerment and potentially language death.[2]

Chipewyan (Athapaskan Language)[edit]

  • Definitely Endangered
  • Most speakers from Mid-to-late adulthood[3]

The Chipewyan language exhibits morphological characteristics that are far more complex than the majority of European languages.[3] This includes conditioning of tone and morphology of phonemes, as well as frequent contractions, elisions, metatheses, and consonantal substitutions.[3] Chipewyan is mainly endangered due to its complex structure, which makes it difficult to decipher the morphological code, as well as the fact that the majority of the speakers are in their mid-late adulthood.[3]


  • Critically Endangered
  • Also called Nakoda or Hohe

Assinibone is one of the language divisions out of five main language divisions within the Dakotan group of the Siouan family. The sound of this language differs from the other languages in the group because it merges voiceless stops with voiced stops. There are reports that syllabics to have been used by Assinibone speakers. (A written character to represent a syllable). The Assiniboine language is spread over 2 communities in Canada, and is mainly used by older adults.

Central Objiwe[edit]

  • Definitely Endangered
  • Also called Anishinaabemowin, Ojibway, and Chippewa

There are about 8,000 speakers in the central Ojibwe language, and it has been spread over 16 communities in Canada. The language is spoken from Ontario Canada to Manitoba. It is also spoken in places from Michigan to Montana next to the Great Lakes which is the home of the Ojibwe people. The language today is spoken by people over the age of 70. The people of the Ojibwe language note that double vowels in their language are treated as standing for unit sounds, therefore they are alphabetized after corresponding single values.

Lakota (Siouan Language)[edit]

  • Critically Endangered
  • Mutually intelligible with Dakota language

There are about 6,000 speakers in the Northern Plain States of North Dakota and South Dakota. Most native speakers are in their mid-50s.[11] There is a growing interest to revitalize the language.[12] At the Red Cloud Indian school, there are immersion classes for children to teach the language. However, at the moment, there are no children on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation that are fluent in the language.[11] Within the next ten years, there will be children fluent in Lakota.[11]

Dakota (Siouan Language)[edit]

  • Definitely Endangered
  • Mutually intelligible with Lakota language

There are about 20,000 native speakers, primarily in the North Dakota and South Dakota area, about 4,000 of which live in Minnesota.[13] Dakota Wicohon is an after school camp that helps children learn the language, since it is not taught in the government-run boarding schools for American Indian youth.[13] To help preservation efforts, technology like phraselators come into play, allowing learners to type in the words they want or orally speak the word they want and the machine will find it for them.[14]

Dogrib (Northern Athabaskan Language)[edit]

  • Vulnerable
  • Also called Tlinchon

There are about 2,640 speakers of the language in the Canadian Northwest Territories from the Great Slave Lake to the Great Bear Lake. Dogrib phonology is rather intricate and is organized into 5 levels.[15] The first person to write a book in Dogrib was Herb Zimmerman, who translated the Bible into the language in 1981.[16] Unlike many other Native American languages, there are children who are fluent in the language.[17]

Kaska (Athabaskan Language)[edit]

  • Severely Endangered

This was typically a First Nations speaking language, and mainly lived in northern British Columbia and some from southeast Yukon in Canada.[18] People who speak Kaska today still live within the British Columbia and Yukon Territory area. The speakers are elders, such as grandparents, and their children and grandchildren would speak English. First Nations have started work to re-create and preserve their heritage language.[19]

Ottawa (Ojibwe Language)[edit]

  • Severely Endangered
  • Also called Odawa

The number of people who speak the Ottawa dialect is unknown, though it is predicted to be around 13,000. Native communities received $5 million a year for 7 years (2007-2014) to help them in their efforts to preserve their languages and teach it to their children.[20] The language is written with Latin letters and is a dialect of the Ojibwe language. Many descendants of migrants now live in Kansas and Oklahoma.

Stoney (Siouan Language)[edit]

  • Vulnerable
  • Also called Nakoda or Alberta Assiniboine

There are roughly 3,200 people who speak Stoney in the Northern Plains and the Alberta province of Canada. Stoney has a Latin alphabet. The stress is one of the harder aspects about the language.[21] The Stoney Indian Language Project was created to help make a standard format of the Stoney language. The project created 6 books for adults and children, as well as a videotape for third graders.[22]

Potawatomi (Central Algonquian Language)[edit]

  • Critically Endangered
  • Related to languages such as Cree, Ojibwa, Menominee, Kickapoo, and Odawa[23]

The Potawatomi Language is critically endangered because there are only 52 fluent speakers left surrounding the Great Lakes region in Michigan.[24] Within a decade, those who are fluent (the majority being the elderly) will soon be dead, causing the culture to die out with them, along with the knowledge of history that has been passed down from previous generations. English has become the predominant language spoken in homes due to the halt of parents speaking Potawatomi to children from 20 to more than 50 years ago.[23] Currently there are no teachings of the language but there are revitalization efforts to bring back the language and the culture that could possibly be gone forever.

Tuscarora (Northern Iroquoian Language)[edit]

  • Critically Endangered
  • With migration southward, historically situated in North Carolina[25]

Tuscarora entails complex morphology dealing with the copying of words, roots, stems, and affixes.[26] There was a time where the Tuscarora language was spoken 'as the mother tongue,' used for all situations, (formal and informal) but now there are approximately only four to five remaining elders who are fluent in the language. All of the elders are around the ages of seventy to eighty years old, where a possible result is the extinction of the Tuscarora language.

Cayuga (Northern Iroquoian Language)[edit]

  • Critically Endangered
  • The Native American Cayuga speaking people were split into two geographically separate groups.

The Native American Cayuga speaking people are located in Oklahoma and Ontario. With the splitting of the people into two geographical locations, they now begin to differ in terms of language usage, morphology and phonology. In the setting of Oklahoma, Cayuga has become influenced by other tribes and has to a certain extent, lost their original vocabulary.[27] Cayuga contains a pitch accent where the placement of it can be predicted by metrical structure and constraints on the structure of the syllables.[28]

Upper Tanana Language[edit]

  • Critically Endangered

The Upper Tanana Language originally was spoken in only five villages, each with a different dialect. Those villages were Beaver Creek, Scottie Creek, Northway, Nabesna, and Tetlin. Today, the language is only spoken by about 95 people, above the age of 50, in eastern interior Alaska. Depending on the dialect, the Upper Tanana Language has about six to seven phonemic vowels. the primary difference between the dialects is by the pitch of the tone. Also a major factor in the split of different dialects is that different dialects have different vowel inventories.[29]

Nootka Language[edit]

  • Severely Endangered

Despite misinterpretation of studies which describe the phonetic inventory of Nootka, these studies do not suggest that its phonemic inventory is the main reason why the Nootka language may be severely endangered. A process known as glottalization is a key factor in being able to articulate certain sounds in the language, called ejective consonants. Though these sounds are not in English, they not linguistically rare. Many languages with a large body of speakers, including Arabic and Amharic contain these sounds, an observation which immediately discredits this theory. It is clear that Nootka, like all Canadian aboriginal languages, is endangered due to social factors alone.[30]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn Moseley, Christopher, ed. (2010). Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. Memory of Peoples (3rd ed.). Paris: UNESCO Publishing. ISBN 978-92-3-104096-2. Retrieved 2015-04-11.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gick, B, Bliss, H, Michelson, K, Radanov, B. (2012). Articulation without acoustics: "Soundless" vowels in Oneida and Blackfoot. Journal of Phonetics 40(1): 46-53
  3. ^ a b c d e f Rice, S, Libben, G, Derwing, B. (2002). Morphological Representation in an Endangered, Polysynthetic Language. Brain and Language 81(1-3): 473-486
  4. ^ "Endangered Languages". Chipewyan. A Project for the Alliance of Linguistic Diversity. 2010. Retrieved October 27. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ "Cataloguing Endangered Sign Languages". UNESCO.
  6. ^ a b "What Are Phonological Processes?" (PDF). Super Duper Inc. Super Duper Publications. 2004. Retrieved October 27. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  7. ^ Crystal, David (2000). Language Death. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 0-521-65321-5.
  8. ^ "the definition of contraction". Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  9. ^ "the definition of transpose". Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  10. ^ "metathesis | a change of place or condition: as". Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  11. ^ a b c "Lakota: The Revitalization of Language and the Persistence of Spirit". Truthout. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
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  13. ^ a b Dakota language a resurgence among Native youth Guntzel, Jeff Severns. The Circle : News from an American Indian Perspective [Minneapolis] 01 Sep 2011: 7.
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  18. ^ Meek, Barbra A. (2014). ""She can do it in English too": Acts of intimacy and boundary-making in language revitalization". Language & Communication. 38: 73–82. doi:10.1016/j.langcom.2014.05.004.
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  23. ^ a b Wetzel, Christopher (2006). "Neshnabemwen Renaissance: Local and National Potawatomi Language Revitalization Efforts". American Indian Quarterly.
  24. ^ Buszard-Welcher, Laura (1997). "Language Use and Language Loss in the Potawatomi Community: A Report on the Potawatomi Language Institute". Papers of the Algonquian Conference/Actes du Congres des Algonquinistes.
  25. ^ Burnaby, Barbara Jane (2002). "Indigenous Languages across the Community". Proceedings of the Annual Conference on Stabilizing Indigenous Languages.
  26. ^ Mithun, Marianne (2013). "Challenges and Benefits of Contact among Relatives: Morphological Copying". Journal of Language Contact.
  27. ^ Mithun, Marianne (1992). The Incipient Obsolescence of Polysynthesis: Cayuga in Ontario and Oklahoma. Cambridge U Press. ISBN 978-0521437578.
  28. ^ Dyck, Carrie (1997). "Cayuga Accent: A Synchronic Analysis". The Canadian Journal of Linguistics.
  29. ^ "Web of Science [v.5.19] - Web of Science Core Collection Full Record". Retrieved 2015-10-30.
  30. ^ Esling, John H.; Fraser, Katherine E.; Harris, Jimmy G. (2005-10-01). "Glottal stop, glottalized resonants, and pharyngeals: A reinterpretation with evidence from a laryngoscopic study of Nuuchahnulth (Nootka)". Journal of Phonetics. 33 (4): 383–410. doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2005.01.003.