Lower Tanana language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Lower Tanana
Menhti Kenaga
Native toUnited States
RegionAlaska (middle Yukon River, Koyukuk River)
Ethnicity400 Tanana (2007)[1]
Native speakers
15 (2007)[1]
Latin (Northern Athabaskan alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3taa
ELP(Lower) Tanana

Lower Tanana (also Tanana and/or Middle Tanana) is an endangered language spoken in Interior Alaska in the lower Tanana River villages of Minto and Nenana. Of about 380 Tanana people in the two villages, about 30 still speak the language. As of 2010, “Speakers who grew up with Lower Tanana as their first language can be found only in the 250-person village of Minto.”[3] It is one of the large family of Athabaskan languages, also known as Dené.

The Athabaskan (or Dené) bands who formerly occupied a territory between the Salcha and the Goodpaster rivers spoke a distinct dialect that linguists term the Middle Tanana language.


  • Toklat area dialect (Tutlʼot)
  • Minto Flats-Nenana River dialect: Minto (Menhti) and Nenana (Nina Noʼ)
  • Chena River dialect: Chena Village (Chʼenoʼ)
  • Salcha River dialect: Salcha (Sol Chaget)

Vocabulary Samples[edit]

  • dena “man”
  • trʼaxa “woman”
  • setseya “my grandfather”
  • setsu “my grandmother”
  • xwtʼana “clan”
  • ddheł “mountain”
  • tu “black bear”
  • bedzeyh “caribou”
  • łiga “dog”
  • beligaʼ “his/her dog”
  • kʼwyʼ “willow”
  • katreth “moccasin”
  • trʼiyh “canoe”
  • yoyekoyh “Northern Lights”
  • tena “trail”
  • khwnʼa “river”
  • t’eede gaay “girl” (Middle Tanana)



Bilabial Dental Alveolar Post-
Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral
Plosive plain [p] [t] [k] [ʔ]
aspirated [tʰ] [kʰ]
ejective [tʼ] [kʼ]
Affricate plain [tθ] [ts] [tɬ] [tʃ] [tʂ]
aspirated [tθʰ] [tsʰ] [tɬʰ] [tʃʰ] [tʂʰ]
ejective [tθʼ] [tsʼ] [tɬʼ] [tʃʼ] [tʂʼ]
Fricative voiceless [θ] [s] [ɬ] [ʃ] [x] [h]
voiced [ð] [z] [ɣ]
Nasal [n]
Approximant [w] [l] [j]


Vowel sounds in Tanana are /a æ ɪ~i ʊ~u ə/.


In a 2008–2009 project, linguist Siri Tuttle of the University of Alaska's Native Language Center “worked with elders to translate and document song lyrics, some on file at the language center and some recorded during the project.”[4]

“The Minto dialect of Tanana ... allows speakers to occasionally change the number of syllables in longer words.”[4]


  1. ^ a b Lower Tanana at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/04/21/305688602/alaska-oks-bill-making-native-languages-official
  3. ^ Christopher Eshleman (2010-11-09). "Neal Charlie dies at 91. Minto elder, former chief kept language culture alive". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Archived from the original on 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
  4. ^ a b Christopher Eshleman (2010-09-13). "Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Alaska Native Language Center linguist helps document dialects". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Archived from the original on 2010-12-03. Retrieved 2012-09-15.


  • Charlie, Teddy. 1992. Ode Setl'oghwnh Da': Long After I Am Gone, Fairbanks: Alaska Native Language Center. ISBN 1-55500-045-2
  • Kari, James, Isabel Charlie, Peter John & Evelyn Alexander. 1991. Lower Tanana Athabaskan Listening and Writing Exercises, Fairbanks: Alaska Native Language Center.
  • Tuttle, Siri. 1998. Metrical and Tonal Structures in Tanana Athabaskan, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington.
  • Tuttle, Siri. 2003. Archival Phonetics: Tone and Stress in Tanana Athabaskan. University of Alaska Fairbanks.

External links[edit]