Squamish language

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Sḵwx̱wú7mesh snichim
Pronunciation [sqʷχʷuʔməʃ snit͡ʃim]
Native to Canada
Region British Columbia
Ethnicity 4,080 Squamish people (2014, FPCC)[1]
Native speakers
7 (2014, FPCC)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 squ
Glottolog squa1248[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Squamish /ˈskwɔːmɪʃ/[3] (Squamish Sḵwx̱wú7mesh snichim [sqʷχʷuʔməʃ snit͡ʃim], snichim meaning "language") is a Coast Salish language spoken by the Squamish people of southwestern British Columbia, Canada, centred on their reserve communities in Squamish, North Vancouver, and West Vancouver. An archaic historical rendering of the native "Sḵwx̱wú7mesh" is "Sko-ko-mish" but this should not be confused with the name of the Skokomish people of Washington state. Squamish is most closely related to the Sechelt, Halkomelem, and Nooksack languages. Because the /ʔ/ (glottal stop) character glyph is not found on typewriters and did not exist in most fonts until the widespread adoption of Unicode, the Squamish orthography still conventionally represents the glottal stop with the number symbol "7"; of course, the same character glyph is also used as a digit to represent the number seven.


Part of a series on the
Squamish people
Chief George and daughter.jpgSquamish Pole Raising Ceremony - North Vancouver - 2012.jpg
General information

3,893 approx.



Related peoples

Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, Shishalh, Nooksack, Coast Salish

Anthropologists and linguists who have worked on the Squamish language go back to the 1880s. The first collection of words was collected by German anthropologist Franz Boas. During the following decade, anthropologist Charles Hill-Tout collected some Squamish words, sentences and stories. In the 1930s, anthropologist Homer Barnett worked with Jimmy Frank to collect information about traditional Squamish culture, including some Squamish words. In the 1950s, Dutch linguist Aert H. Kuipers worked on the first comprehensive grammar of the Squamish language, later published as The Squamish Language (1967). In 1968, the British Columbia Language Project undertook more documentation of the Squamish language and culture. Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy, the main collaborators on this project, devised the writing system presently used for Squamish.

Use and language revitalization efforts[edit]

Bilingual road sign in Squamish and English languages.

In 1990, the Chief and Council of the Squamish people declared Squamish to be the official language of the Squamish people, a declaration made to ensure funding for the language and its revitalization.[4] As of 2010, the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council considers the language to be "critically endangered" and "nearly extinct", with just 10 fluent speakers.[5] As of 2011, the language is being taught using the "Where Are Your Keys?" technique.[6] A Squamish–English dictionary was completed in 2011.

A Squamish festival was scheduled for April 22, 2013, with two fluent elders.

"The festival is part of a multi-faceted effort to ensure the language's long-term survival, not only by teaching it in the schools, but by encouraging parents to speak it at home, event co-organizer Rebecca Campbell said. Squamish Nation cultural workers, for example, have begun to provide both parents and children with a list of common Squamish phrases that can be used around the home, as a way to reinforce the learning that takes place in the Sea to Sky School District schools, Campbell said. So far 15 families in the Squamish area are part of the program ... 'The goal is to revive the language by trying to have it used every day at home — getting the parents on board, not just the children.'"[7]

As of 2014, a Squamish-language program is available at Capilano University.[8]


The consonant phonemes of Squamish, first in IPA and then in the Squamish orthography:[9]

Bilabial Alveolar Postalveolar Velar Uvular Glottal
simple affricate lateral plain labialized plain labialized
and affricate
plain /p/ p /t/ t /t͡s/ ts /t͡ʃ/ ch (/k/) (k) /kʷ/ kw /q/ /qʷ/ ḵw /ʔ/ 7
ejective /p’/ p’ /t’/ t’ /t͡s’/ ts’ /t͡ɬ’/ lh’ /t͡ʃ’/ ch’ (/k’/) (k’) /k’ʷ/ kw’ /q’/ ḵ’ /q’ʷ/ ḵw’
Fricative /s/ s /ɬ/ lh /ʃ/ sh /xʷ/ xw /χ/ /χʷ/ x̱w
and approximant
plain /m/ m /n/ n /l/ l /j/ y /w/ w /h/ h
glottalized /m̰/ m’ /n̰/ n’ /l̰/ l’ /j̰/ y’ /w̰/ w’ /ɦ̰/ h’

There are also four vowel phonemes, /a/, /i/, /u/, and /ə/ (spelled respectively a, i, u, and e).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Squamish at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Squamish". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. ^ Baker-Williams, Kirsten (August 2006). "Squamish Language Revitalization: From the Hearts and the Minds of the Language Speakers" (PDF). University of British Columbia. p. 34. Retrieved March 12, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2010" (PDF). First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council. 2010. p. 64. Retrieved March 12, 2012. 
  6. ^ Tessa Holloway (October 11, 2011). "Squamish Nation struggles to preserve a threatened language". North Shore News. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  7. ^ Burke, David (2013-04-18). "Squamish language festival set : Skwxú7mesh-speaking elders help inspire effort to ensure tongue's long-term survival". Squamish Chief, Squamish, BC. Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  8. ^ Wood, Stephanie (2014-01-22). "Despite limited resources, indigenous-language programs persevere in B.C.". Georgia Straight, Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2014-02-27. 
  9. ^ Dyck (2004: 6, 33)


  • Dyck, Ruth Anne (2004). Prosodic and Morphological Factors in Squamish (Sḵwxwú7mesh) Stress Assignment. Dissertation for University of Victoria. Retrieved online (PDF) on August 14, 2007.

External links[edit]