Talk:Tlingit language

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Obstruent voicing?[edit]


Just wondering about the voiced stops & affricates. Are these really voiced? Or (like Athabaskan languages) are they really lenis voiceless unaspirated consonants that contrast with aspirated and ejective obstruents?

I havent read about Tlingit. Do the authors here know more about the phonetic realization of these?


ishwar  (SPEAK) 15:25, 2005 Apr 18 (UTC)

Some (most?) younger speakers voice them under influence from English. Older speakers use unaspirated consonants as in Athabaskan languages. The orthographies represent them as voiced consonants and as such encourage their voicing, so we can expect a complete transition to voiced consonants over the next generation. However I have heard younger speakers use unvoiced unaspirated consonants word-finally, so I think that the two sounds are merging into a single phoneme and may end up varying by position. BTW I have an excellent reference to modern Tlingit phonology which I'll add to the references section this month some time (whenever it shows up via ILL). — Ts'éiyoosh 04:20, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)


Nice work on the map. But it's not quite accurate, at least as far as existing research has it. See the Native Peoples and Languages of Alaska map by Krauss from the Alaska Native Language Center [1]. This map shows a large interior lobe corresponding to the areas where Tlingit is/was spoken along the Atlin, Tagish, and Teslin people, and on the Taku River. — Ts'éiyoosh

hi. yes, i am aware that Krauss and others in Alaska have made several different linguistic maps. i havent actually seen these (although that particular map is not very expensive...). i have seen maps showing the inland Tlingit area, but Goddard (1996, 1999) does not show this. so, in the future i will change the map (you are welcome to do so, too). but, i did put a note on the description page (in commons) and now have pasted your comments there as well. thank you. — ishwar  (SPEAK) 19:38, 2005 Jun 2 (UTC)

Tlingit - tlhIngan?[edit]

It seems to me that the obviously rare phoneme "tl" in this language was the inspiration for the same sound in Klingon. Perhaps the linguist who designed Klingon was inspired by the similarity of both names? Caesarion 09:25, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

probably not specifically Tlingit. Although not a common sound in the rest of the world, this alveolar lateral affricate is very common in the western half of North America. For example, it occurs in several of the Alsean, Chimakuan, Chinookan, Coosan, Nadene, Salishan, Tsimshian, Wakashan, and Wintuan families, and also in Haida, Lake Miwok, Molala, and Siuslaw (Lake Miwok borrowed the sound from neighboring Wintuan languages). If you look on a map, you can see that this is an areal feature of the mostly Northwest Coast and other western regions.
Outside of the Americas, Zulu has this sound. Other lateral affricates that are velar or palatal/postalveolar occur in Russia (Archi) and Tanzania (Hadza, Iraqw, & Sandawe).
So I think it is more a general western N. America inspiration that led to the inclusion of this sound in Klingon. If Tlingit (or Athabascan langs) were a specific inspiration for the phonology, I would expect series of unaspirated-aspirated-glottalized stops & affricates. peace – ishwar  (speak) 15:53, 2005 Jun 22 (UTC)

OK, I read a lot of the articles on these languages before, but until this one I never realized they featured that specific sound. Caesarion 09:09, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)


There have been a number of orthographies for Tlingit in the past. At present there are three major systems in use. One is the “Canadian” system used by the Yukon Native Language Center for its publications as well as most Canadian Tlingit speakers and students. Another is the “American” orthography used by Sealaska in all of its publications. The third is the “email” orthography which is a sort of compromise between the other two.

The Canadian system features a set of diacritics which are used over vowels to indicate tone and length. It also uses the set of consonants kh, xh, gh to represent the uvular consonant series. It has not been used much outside of the YNLC publications except in one published book written about the Taku River people. The American system represents these with an underscore, an innovation from typewriter days: k, x, g. It also has digraphs for long vowels and uses diacritics only for marking tone (except for ÿ which is an archaic consonant). It has been in use in one form or another since the 1960s, and is the most commonly used orthography in print.

The email orthography is a compromise between these two systems. It retains the digraphic long vowels; not the double vowels of Navajo, et sim., but ones similar to English pronounciations. It adopts the Canadian uvular graphs rather than the underscores for a technical reason—they are easily typed in email, but overstruck underscores are essentially impossible in plain text (^H_ notwithstanding).

The point to this explanation is that I am considering switching all of the Wikipedia entries using Tlingit from the American orthography to the email orthography. It is very difficult to constantly note the uvular consonants with the text “<u>k</u>”, the HTML cruft making the source almost unreadable. On the other hand writing the corresponding “kh” is simple, and easily read in both source and rendered form. There is no problem with kh being confused for k and h together, since the latter sequence does not seem to occur in Tlingit, and even if it did it would necessarily be the end of one syllable and the beginning of another, and would be easy to distinguish with a hyphen, e.g. k-h. This is similar to the use of hyphens in English to separate two vowels, e.g. co-ordinate, auto-assembly.

The only problem with this change is that some people may be unaware of the email orthography. This is unlikely for most active students of Tlingit (and for speakers who use computers) since they are already exposed to the email orthography in many informal situations. Indeed, as a community they developed the email orthography themselves, despite it not having any officially sanctioned use. Others will probably have little problem adapting to it since it differs little with the American system.

(I should admit that I have moved to the email orthography in my personal writing. I also have a fairly extensive article on Tlingit grammar that I have been writing, and am considering it for inclusion in Wikipedia as part of this article. I've used the email orthography throughout, so moving to this would ease the incorporation of this article.)

That's my proposal. Any comments? — Jéioosh 20:46, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

sounds good to me. usually we should go with the most widespread orthography. in the case of endangered langs, i think the definition of widespread use be what is used by language users (and not merely the majority usage in published work). this would be the most practical & useful approach in my opinion. these other orthographies are, i would guess, creations of linguists. a community-authored orthography is much better for many reasons. although sometimes they are not so linguistically sound, it seems that this email orthography is a sort of re-transliteration of the others: so it poses no problem (right?).
the underscores are a bad idea, too. i've heard that some scripts (among Salishan langs) are changing the underscores to different symbols because of computer issues & also they seem to harder to process psychologically (less salient).
in order to help anyone not aware of the email orthog., you can make an appendix on a separate page showing the correspondences between all orthographies.
good luck on your grammar (is it pedogagical?). peace – ishwar  (speak) 01:23, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
I will hack up a table to compare the orthographies, and one for alphabetic orderings. Once they look good enough I'll upload them to Wikipedia at Tlingit alphabet and add the article to the appropriate category. I'll put together some text about the different orthographies as well, their histories and such.
The grammar is pedagogical. It's inevitable that I use a lot of linguistic jargon, but it's meant to be useful for teaching as well. I'm deriving much of my information from Jeff Leer's PhD dissertation and Gillian Story and Constance Naish's masters dissertations, plus some information from the grammar sketch by Story and the grammar sketch in the Tlingit Verb Dictionary. Leer's work is a heavy mixture of linguistic theory from a novel autolexical perspective, and Naish and Story worked in tagmemics, so it's a problem of finding coherent pieces from very different theoretical backgrounds. I'll put some portions of the grammar that are more or less complete up here before the end of the year. — Jéioosh 02:24, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
Update: I've created the article including the table. I'm now off to convert some of the articles, starting with Tlingit and Tlingit language. — Jéioosh 05:53, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
Another update: I went through the Tlingit article and made the changes, as well as converting HTML entities (e.g. &eacute;). I realized that it would be a disservice to the knowledgable reader to convert the bibliography entries. So from now on the bibliographic entries which contain Tlingit text should use the orthography that they were originally titled in at publication. References to the books in running text should also be in the original orthography to reduce confusion. This seems to conform to the Principle of Least Astonishment. — Jéioosh 06:14, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
If you want to change the Canadian Tlingit-related articles (it's up to you whehter you use the YNLC orthography), you might want to do a search on "Atlin" and "Teslin" to find the relative articles. I know I put some Tlingit words in List of place names in Canada of Aboriginal origin and a few other places. Luigizanasi 07:10, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
Luckily, aa tlein and deisleen don't differ between e-mail and American orthographies. The vowels differ in the Canadian orthography, but not many people use that outside of YNLC and its teachers. — Jéioosh 07:19, 23 October 2005 (UTC)
Maybe back in 2005 it was a bit difficult to get the underline accent. But in Unicode, there is a simple and effective way of producing the underline: U+0331. There is no real technical reason why the underline accent should not be used and it is the usual Tlingit orthography. The underlines appear to be in use in language classes ( see ). A number of Native langauges have evolved ASCII’ed orthographies (such as NetSiouan), but these were never intended to replace the actual writing systems, and published works continue to employ the accented orthographies. I suggest that the Tlingit page reverts back to the underlines (U+0331), not using html tags. This should be an easy fix. Any opinions? Technological “ease” should not dictate how languages are written, technology changes to fit language. And there’s absolutely no real barrier to using the underline accents. I would like to hear from people about this before I consider making changes to the Tlingit pages. I will also contact Tlingit language people about which orthography is actually in use by speakers and teachers. Languagegeek 20:48, 20 February 2007 (UTC)

Number of speakers[edit]

The text says 500 native speakers, while the sidebar lists > 1,200 speakers. Is the sidebar including non-native speakers? (That would seem to go against what's done for most other languages). Or are there different numbers from different sources? A small discrepancy wouldn't be so bad, but these numbers are off by a large amount, so it would be good to stick with the more accurate number if there's a disagreement. Jiashudiwanjin 04:01, 25 August 2007 (UTC)

Data from the US Census (through the MLA) is unreliable because of self-reporting issues. Language revitalization enthusiasts often report themselves as speakers of a minority language when in fact they are second language learners with only limited fluency. Also, fluent minority speakers often fail to report this on the US Census. A genuine linguistic speaker survey has yet to be done for the whole population, and the only speaker surveys done recently were in Sitka, Haines, Atlin, and Teslin. Taken together they are too limited for guesstimation. The population numbers have been changed to reflect the last survey estimation done by Michael Krauss in 1995. The actual number now is probably considerably lower as almost all speakers are elderly (only two fluent speakers exist under the age of 60, one in Yakutat and one in Haines.) — 23:22, 25 August 2007 (UTC)

Tongass dialect[edit]

I've been researching materials for Fort Tongass and Tongass Island and may yet dare to write Tongass people (without ethnography being my specialty...). In the websearches I found this interesting page on the Tongass dialect of Tlingit, and figured someone of the linguistics folks here might find it worthwhile to incorporate into the article, or even stub up a separate article.Skookum1 (talk) 15:56, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

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