Sarcee language

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Native to Canada
Region Alberta
Ethnicity Tsuu Tina
Native speakers
170 (2011 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 srs
Glottolog sars1236[2]
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Sarcee (Sarsi), also Tsuut’ina (Tsuu T’ina, Tsu T’ina, Tsúùtínà)[3] is a language spoken by the people of the Tsuu T'ina Nation band government whose reserve and community is near Calgary, Alberta. It belongs to the Athabaskan language family, which also include the Navajo and Chiricahua of the south, and the Dene Suline and Tłı̨chǫ of the north.

The name Tsuu T'ina comes from the Tsuu T’ina self designation Tsúùt’ínà which is translated variously as "many people", "nation tribe",[citation needed] or "people among the beavers".[citation needed]



The consonants of Tsuut'ina in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):

Sarcee consonants[4]
  Bilabial Alveolar Lateral Postalveolar Velar Velar Rounded Glottal
Stop tenuis   b*  [p]   d  [t]       g  [k]   gw*  [kʷ]    [ʔ]
aspirate     t  [tʰ]       k  [kʰ]   kw*  [kʷʰ]
ejective     t’  [tʼ]       k’  [kʼ]   kw’  [kʷʼ]  
Affricate tenuis     dz  [ts]   dl  [tɬ]   dj  [tʃ]      
aspirate     ts  [tsʰ]   tl  [tɬʰ]   tc  [tʃʰ]      
ejective     ts’  [tsʼ]   tl’  [tɬʼ]   tc’  [tʃʼ]      
Fricative voiced     z  [z]     j  [ʒ]   γ  [ɣ]    
voiceless     s  [s]   ł  [ɬ]   c  [ʃ]   x  [x]     h  [h]
Nasal     m  [m]   n  [n]          
Approximant       l  [l]   y  [j]     w  [w]  

* /p/ is only found in mimetic bu· 'to buzz' and borrowed bu·s 'cat'. The phonemic status of [kʷ] and [kʷʰ] is questionable; they might be /ku, kʰu/ before another vowel. /kʷʼ/ is quite rare but clearly phonemic.


There are four distinct vowels in Tsuut'ina - i, a, o, and u. While a and o are fairly constant, i and u can vary considerably.

  • i varies between [i] and [e]
  • a [a]
  • o [ɒ] - The vowel o does not correspond to the sound [o].
  • u varies between [u] and [o]
  • long vowels are marked with an asterisk, e.g., a* [aː]
  • high tone is marked with an acute accent, e.g., á
  • low tone is marked with a grave accent, e.g., à
  • medial tone is marked with a macron, e.g., ā


Nouns in Tsuut'ina are not declined, and most plural nouns are not distinguished from singular nouns. However, kinship terms are distinguished between singular and plural form by adding the suffix -ká (or -kúwá) to the end of the noun or by using the word yìná.

List of nouns[edit]


  • Husband - kòlà
  • Man, human - dìná
  • Wife - ts'òyá
  • Woman - ts'ìkā


  • Buffalo, cow - xāní
  • Cloud - nàk'ús
  • Dog - tłí(ch'à)
  • Fire -
  • Mud, dirt - gútł'ìs
  • Snow - zòs
  • Water -

Noun possession[edit]

Nouns can exist in free form or possessed form. When in possessed form, the prefixes listed below can be attached to nouns to show possession. For example, más, "knife", can be affixed with the 1st person prefix to become sìmázà’ or "my knife". Note that -mázà’ is the possessed form of the noun.

Some nouns, like más, as shown above, can alternate between free form and possessed form. A few nouns, like zòs, "snow", are never possessed and exist only in free form. Other nouns, such as -tsì’, "head", have no free form and must always be possessed.

Typical possession prefixes[edit]

  • 1st person - si-
  • 2nd person - ni-
  • 3rd person - mi-
  • 4th person (Athabascan) - ɣi-


  • Cook, Eung-Do. (1971a). “Vowels and Tone in Sarcee”, Language 47, 164-179.
  • Cook, Eung-Do. (1971b). “Morphophonemics of Two Sarcee Classifiers”, International Journal of American Linguistics 37, 152-155.
  • Cook, Eung-Do. (1971d). “Sarcee Numerals”, Anthropological Linguistics 13, 435-441.
  • Cook, Eung-Do. (1972). “Sarcee Verb Paradigms”, Mercury Series Paper No. 2. Ottawa: National Museum of Man.
  • Cook, Eung-Do. (1973b). “Complementation in Sarcee”. [Unpublished?]
  • Cook, Eung-Do. (1978b). “The Synchronic and Diachronic Status of Sarcee ɣy”, International Journal of American Linguistics 43, 259-268.
  • Cook, Eung-Do. (1978c). “Palatalizations and Related Rules in Sarcee”, in: Linguistic Studies of Native Canada, eds. Cook, E.-D. and Kaye, J. 19-36. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
  • Cook, Eung-Do. (1978d). “The Verb ‘BE’ in Sarcee”, Amerindia 3, 105-113.
  • Cook, Eung-Do. (1984). A Sarcee Grammar. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. ISBN 0-7748-0200-6.
  • Goddard, P. E. (1915). “Sarcee Texts”, University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 11, 189-277.
  • Honigmann, J. (1956). “Notes on Sarsi Kin Behavior”, Anthropologica 11, 17-38.
  • Hofer, E. (1973). “Phonological Change in Sarcee”. [Unpublished?]
  • Hofer, E. (1974). “Topics in Sarcee Syntax”. M.A. Thesis. The University of Calgary.
  • Hoijer, H. and Joël, J.. (1963). “Sarcee Nouns”, in Studies in the Athabaskan Languages, eds. Hoijer, H. et al., 62-75.
  • Li, F.-K.. (1930). “A Study of Sarcee Verb Stems”, International Journal of American Linguistics 6, 3-27.
  • Sapir, E. (1924). “Personal Names Among the Sarcee Indians”, American Anthropologist n.s. 26, 108-199.
  • Sapir, E. (1925). “Pitch Accent in Sarcee, An Athabaskan language”, Journal de la Société des Américanistes de Paris n.s. 17, 185-205.
  • Sarcee Culture Program. 1979. Tsu T’ina and the Buffalo. Calgary.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sarcee at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Sarsi". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ "Tsuutina-Language" page, Tsuu Tina Nation website
  4. ^ Cook (1984: 7 ff)

External links[edit]