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dxʷləšúcid or txʷəlšucid
Native toCanada, United States
RegionSouthern British Columbia into Northern Washington
EthnicityDuwamish, Snohomish, Suquamish, Sammamish, Snoqualmie, Puyallup, Sahewamish, Stillaguamish, Skagit, Nisqually
Extinctno fully fluent native speakers as of 2008[1] some second-language speakers
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
lut – Lushootseed
slh – Southern Puget Sound Salish
ska – Skagit (covered by [lut])
sno – Snohomish (covered by [lut])
Lang Status 20-CR.png
Lushootseed is classified as Critically Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Lushootseed (txʷəlšucid, dxʷləšúcid), also Puget Salish, Puget Sound Salish or Skagit-Nisqually, is a language made up of a dialect continuum of several Salish tribes of modern-day Washington state. Lushootseed is one of the Coast Salish languages. The latter is one of two main divisions of the Salishan language family.


Lushootseed has a complex consonantal phonology and 4 vowel phonemes. Along with more common voicing and labialization contrasts, Lushootseed has a plain-glottalic contrast, which is realized as laryngealized with sonorants, ejective with voiceless stops or fricatives.


Lushootseed consonants[2][3]
Labial Alveolar (Alveolo-)
Velar Uvular Glottal
plain sibilant plain lab. plain labio.
Stop voiced b d dz ɡ ɡʷ
voiceless p t ts k q
glottalized tsʼ tʃʼ kʷʼ qʷʼ ʔ
lateral tɬʼ
Fricative ɬ s ʃ χ χʷ h
Approximant plain l j w

The nasals [m], [m̰], [n], and [n̰] may appear in some speech styles and words as variants of /b/ and /d/.[2]


Lushootseed vowels[3]
Front Central Back
High i ~ ɪ ʉ ~ u
Mid ə
Low a ~ ɑ


Lushootseed can be considered a relatively agglutinating language, given its high number of morphemes, including a large number of lexical suffixes. Word order is fairly flexible, however, it is generally considered to be verb-subject-object (VSO).[4]

Lushootseed is capable of creating grammatically correct sentences that contain only a verb, with no subject or object. All information beyond the action is to be understood by context. This can be demonstrated in ʔuʔəy’dub '[someone] managed to find [someone/something]'.[5] Sentences which contain no verb at all are also common, as Lushootseed has no copula. An example of a sentence like this is stab əẃə tiʔiɫ 'What [is] that?'.[6]

Despite its general status as VSO, Lushootseed can be rearranged to be subject-verb-object (SVO) and verb-object-subject (VOS). Doing so does not modify the words themselves, but requires the particle ʔə to mark the change. The exact nature of this particle is the subject of some debate.

Prepositions in Lushootseed are almost entirely handled by one word, ʔal, which can mean ‘on, above, in, beside, around’ among a number of potential other meanings. They come before the object they reference, much like in English. Examples of this can be found in the following sentences:

  1. stab əẃə tiʔiɫ ʔal tə stuləkʷ ‘What is that in the river?’
  2. ʔuyayus ti dbad ʔal tudiʔ ‘My Father is working over there.’
  3. šəqabac ʔal ti piitOn top of the bed.’ (this example is interesting as šəqabac actually means ‘on top of a large/bulky object’ on its own, but still contains the ʔal preposition)

Determiners usually come before a noun they belong to, and have two possible genders “masculine” and “feminine”. However, in a sentence reordered to become SVO, such as sqwəbayʔ ti ʔučalatəb ʔə tiʔiɬ wiw'su ‘The dog is what the children chased’ the determiner for sqwəbayʔ ‘dog’ comes after the noun, instead of before it. Gender primarily manifests in the addition of an -s- within the determiner, generally following immediately after the first letter of the word, i.e. tiʔiɫ ‘that’ becomes tsiʔiɫ, te ‘the, a’ becomes tse, ti ‘this’ becomes tsi,

Lushootseed has four subject pronouns: čəd ‘I’ (1st-person singular), čəɫ ‘we’ (1st-person plural), čəxʷ ‘you’ (2nd-person singular), and čələp ‘you folks’ (2nd-person plural). It does not generally refer to the third person in any way. The subject pronoun always comes in the second position in the sentence. For example dxʷləbiʔ čəxʷ ʔu ‘Are you Lummi?’ as compared to xʷiʔ čəd lədxʷləbiʔ ‘I am not Lummi’. Here, negation takes the first position, the subject pronoun takes the second, and Lummi is pushed to the end of the sentence.[5]

Negation in Lushootseed takes the form of an adverb xʷiʔ 'no, none, nothing' which always comes at the beginning of a sentence that is to be negated. It is constructed in two possible ways, one for negatives of existence, and one for negatives of identity. If taking the form of a negative of identity, a proclitic lə- must be added to the sentences on the next adverb. If there are no further adverbs in the sentence, the proclitic attaches to the head word of the predicate, as in the sentence xʷiʔ čəxʷ sixʷ ləbakʷɬ ' Don't get hurt again'.[5]

Related languages and current status[edit]

Lushootseed, like its neighbour Twana, is in the Southern Coast Salish subgroup of the Salishan family of languages. The language was spoken by many Puget Sound region peoples, including the Duwamish, Steilacoom, Suquamish, Squaxin Island Tribe, Muckleshoot, Snoqualmie, Nisqually, and Puyallup in the south and the Snohomish, Stillaguamish, Skagit, and Swinomish in the north.

Bust of Chief Seattle with accompanying text in Lushootseed: ti šišəgʷł gʷəl al tiʔəʔəxʷ sgʷaʔčəł səxʷəsłałlilčəł siʔał dəgʷi gʷəl liiiiləxʷ dʔiišəd cəłul’ul’ cəł ʔəslax̌ədxʷ ti gʷaalapu

Ethnologue quotes a source published in 1990 (and therefore presumably reflecting the situation in the late 1980s), according to which there were 60 fluent speakers of Lushootseed, evenly divided between the northern and southern dialects.[7] On the other hand, the Ethnologue list of United States languages also lists, alongside Lushootseed's 60 speakers, 100 speakers for Skagit, 107 for Southern Puget Sound Salish, and 10 for Snohomish (a dialect on the boundary between the northern and southern varieties).[7] Some sources given for these figures, however, go back to the 1970s when the language was less critically endangered. Linguist Marianne Mithun has collected more recent data on the number of speakers of various Native American languages, and could document that by the end of the 1990s there were only a handful of elders left who spoke Lushootseed fluently. The language was extensively documented and studied by linguists with the aid of tribal elder Vi Hilbert, d. 2008, who was the last speaker with a full native command of Lushootseed.[1] There are efforts at reviving the language, and instructional materials have been published.

Language revitalization[edit]

As of 2013, the Tulalip Tribes' Lushootseed Language Department teaches classes in Lushootseed,[8][9] and its website offers a Lushootseed "phrase of the week" with audio.[10] The Tulalip Montessori School also teaches Lushootseed to young children.[11]

Wa He Lut Indian School teaches Lushootseed to Native elementary school children in their Native Language and Culture program.

As of 2013, an annual Lushootseed conference is held at Seattle University.[12] A course in Lushootseed language and literature has been offered at Evergreen State College.[13] Lushootseed has also been used as a part of environmental history courses at Pacific Lutheran University.[1] It has been spoken during the annual Tribal Canoe Journey (Tribal Journeys) that take place throughout the Salish Sea.

There are also efforts within the Puyallup Tribe. Their website and social media, aimed at anyone interested in learning the language, are updated often.[14]

In the summer of 2016, the first ever adult immersion program in Lushootseed was offered at the University of Washington's Tacoma campus. It was sponsored by The Puyallup Tribal Language Program in partnership with University of Washington Tacoma and its School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.[15] A similar program is scheduled to be offered in August 2019, with the instructors Danica Sterud Miller, Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington Tacoma, and Zalmai Zahir, a PhD student of theoretical linguistics at the University of Oregon.[16]


Lushootseed consists of two dialect groups which can be further divided into subdialects:


According to work published by Vi Hilbert and other Lushootseed language specialists, Lushootseed uses a morphophonemic writing system meaning that it is a phonemic alphabet which does not change to reflect the pronunciation such as when an affix is introduced. The chart below is based on the Lushootseed Dictionary. Typographic variations such as p' and p̓ do not indicate phonemic distinctions.

Letter Letter Name IPA Notes
ʔ Glottal stop /ʔ/ Question mark (?) used alternatively
a /ɑ/
b /b/
Glottalized b /ɓ/ Rare, non-initial
c /t͡s/
Glottalized c /t͡sʼ/
č c-wedge /t͡ʃ/
čʼ Glottalized c-wedge /t͡ʃʼ/
d /d/
dᶻ d-raised-z /d͡z/
ə Schwa /ə/
g /ɡ/
g-raised-w /ɡʷ/ Labialized counterpart of /ɡ/
h /h/
i /ɪ~i/
ǰ j-wedge /d͡ʒ/
k /k/
Glottalized k //
k-raised-w // Labialized counterpart of /k/
kʼʷ Glottalized k-raised-w /kʼʷ/ Labialized counterpart of /kʼ/
l /l/
Strictured l //
ɫ/ɬ Barred l or Belted l /ɬ/ Both letters refer to the same sound, but either letter can be used.[18][19]
ƛʼ Glottalized barred-lambda /t͜ɬʼ/
m /m/
Strictured m // Laryngealized bilabial nasal
n /n/
Strictured n // Laryngealized alveolar nasal
p /p/
Glottalized p //
q /q/
Glottalized q //
q-raised-w // Labialized counterpart of /q/
qʼʷ Glottalized q-raised-w /qʼʷ/ Labialized counterpart of /qʼ/
s /s/
š s-wedge /ʃ/
t /t/
Glottalized t //
u /ʉ~u/
w /w~ʋ/
Strictured w // Laryngealized high back rounded glide
x-w // Labialized counterpart of /x/
x-wedge /χ/
x̌ʷ Rounded x-wedge /χʷ/ Labialized counterpart of /χ/
y /j/
Strictured y // Laryngealized high front unrounded glide

See the external links below for resources.

Some vocabulary[edit]

The Lushootseed language originates from the coastal region of Northwest Washington State and the Southwest coast of Canada. There are words in the Lushootseed language which are related to the environment and the fishing economy that surrounded the Salish tribes. The following tables show different words from different Lushootseed dialects relating to the salmon fishing and coastal economies.

Southern Lushootseed Salmonoid Vocabulary
sčədadx a word that covers all Pacific salmon and some species of trout.
sac̓əb Chinook or King
cʼuwad Sockeye salmon
skʷǝxʷic coho salmon
ƛ̕xʷayʼ chum salmon
hədu the pink salmon
skʷawǝľ Steelhead
pədkʷəxʷic coho season
sc̓ayʼayʼ gills
ɫičaʔa nets
ɫičaʔalikʷ net fishing
ʔalil tiʔiɫ ƛ̕usq̓íl spawning season
skʷǝɫt tailfin
t̓altəd fillet knife
sqʼʷəlus kippered dried salmon
səlusqid fish heads
qəlx̌ dried salmon eggs
ƛ̕ǝbƛ̕əbqʷ fresh eggs
sɫuʔb dried chum
sxʷudᶻəʔdaliɫəd fish with a large amount of body fat
xʷšabus Lightly smoked
Northern Lushootseed Salmonoid Vocabulary
sʔuladxʷ a word that covers all Pacific salmon and some species of trout.
yubəč Chinook or King
scəqiʔ sockeye salmon
ƛ̕xʷayʔ chum salmon
skʷəxʷic silver salmon
Northern Lushootseed Aquatic Vocabulary
qalʼqaləx̌ič blackfish - killer whale
čəxʷəluʔ grey whale
sq̓aƛ̕ otter
sup̓qs seal
sťəqxʷ beaver
sqibk̕ʷ octopus
ʔaləšək Western pond turtle
waq̓waq̓ frog
sk̕ʷic̕i sea urchin
təǰabac sea cucumber
q̓ʷəlačiʔ star fish
bəsqʷ crab
ťaɫiɡʷs Rock Cod
p̓uay̓ flounder
kəlapx̌ʷəlč jelly fish
sʔax̌ʷuʔ clam
tulqʷ mussel
ƛ̕ux̌ʷƛ̕ux̌ʷ oyster
c̕ubc̕ub barnacle
sx̌aʔaʔ little neck steam clams
xʷč́iɫqs large native oyster
ɡʷidəq geoduck
stxʷub butter clam
sx̌əpab cockle clam
haʔəc horse clam
č́ič́əlpyaqid / puʔps periwinkle
sč́awyʔ any seashell
ʔuk̕ʷs large chiton
x̌ald small chiton


  1. ^ a b c Brown, Drew (2003). "History professor helps keep local Native American language alive". Scene - Life of the Mind, Pacific Lutheran University. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  2. ^ a b Bates, Dawn; Hess, Thom; Vi, Hilbert (1994). Lushootseed Dictionary. University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295973234. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b Beck, David. "Words and prosodic phrasing in Lushootseed narrative*" (PDF). University of Toronto. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  4. ^ Bates, Dawn E., 1959- (1994). Lushootseed dictionary. Hess, Thom, 1936-2009., Hilbert, Vi., Hess, Thom, 1936-2009. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0295973234. OCLC 29877333.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b c Hess, Thom, 1936-2009. (1995). Lushootseed reader with introductory grammar. [Place of publication not identified]: Tulalip Tribes. ISBN 1879763117. OCLC 79169469.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Hess, Thom; Hilbert, Vi (1995). Lushootseed Grammar Book 1. Lushootseed Press. pp. 2–4.
  7. ^ a b "Lushootseed". Ethnologue.
  8. ^ "Tulalip Lushootseed". Tualip Tribes. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  9. ^ Fiege, Gale (2013-03-31). "For students, Tulalip Tribes' native language a connection to the past". Everett, WA. Archived from the original on 2013-06-30. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  10. ^ "Lushootseed". Tulalip Tribes. Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  11. ^ Gauld, Ben (June 24, 2015). "Voices of Youth Keep Lushootseed Language Alive". 94.9 FM - Seattle News & Information. Retrieved 2015-10-03.
  12. ^ "dxʷləšucid, Lushootseed Research". Retrieved 2013-04-04.
  13. ^ Lushootseed_Syllabus_06.pdf (PDF), retrieved 2013-04-04
  14. ^ "haʔł sləx̌il txʷəl gʷəlapu. ʔəsx̌id čəxʷ siʔiʔab. - Puyallup Tribal Language".
  15. ^ UWT to offer Lushootseed immersion program this summer Archived 2016-04-17 at the Wayback Machine, Puyallup Tribal News, April 7, 2016 (retrieved April 25, 2016)
  16. ^ "LUSHOOTSEED LANGUAGE INSTITUTE". University of Washington Tacoma.
  17. ^ Eijk, Jan Van. The Lillooet Language: Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, UBC Press, 1985, p.xxiv.
  18. ^ "sƛ̕əladiʔ – Alphabet/Sounds". Tulalip Lushootseed. Retrieved 27 April 2022.
  19. ^ "The Alphabet". Puyallup Tribal Language. Retrieved 27 April 2022.

Language learning materials[edit]

  • Bates, D., Hess, T., & Hilbert, V. (1994). Lushootseed dictionary. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295973234
  • Beck, David. "Transitivity and causation in Lushootseed morphology." Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle 13 (1996): 11–20.
  • Browner, Tara (2009). Music of the First Nations: Tradition and Innovation in Native North America. University of Illinois Press. pp. 35–36.
  • Indiana University, Bloomington (1996). Lushootseed texts: an introduction to Puget Salish narrative aesthetics. Studies in the anthropology of North American Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press in cooperation with the American Indian Studies Research Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington. ISBN 0803212623.
  • Chamberlain, Rebecca, Lushootseed Language & Literature: Program reader. (Lushootseed language, cultural, and storytelling traditions.)
  • Hess, Thom (1995). Lushootseed reader. University of Montana occasional papers in linguistics. S.l.: Tulalip Tribes. ISBN 1879763141.
  • Hess, Thom and Vi Hilbert. Lushootseed Book 1; The language of the Skagit, Nisqually, and other tribes of Puget Sound. An Introduction. Lushootseed Press 1995
  • Hess, Thom and Vi Hilbert. Lushootseed Book 2 (Advanced Lushootseed). Lushootseed Press, 1995
  • Hess, Thom (1995). Lushootseed Reader with Introductory Grammar. Missoula: University of Montana. ISBN 1879763117.
  • Hilbert, Vi. Haboo: Native American Stories from Puget Sound. Seattle: University of Washington, 1985
  • Hilbert, Vi, Crisca Bierwest, Thom Hess. Way of the Lushootseed People; Ceremonies & Traditions of North Puget Sound's First People. Third Edition, Lushootseed Press, 2001
  • dxʷlešucid xʷgʷədgʷatəd tul̓ʔal taqʷšəblu; Some Lushootseed Vocabulary from taqʷšəblu. Lushootseed Press, 1993

External links[edit]