Upper Tanana language

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"Nabesna" redirects here. For the community, see Nabesna, Alaska.
Upper Tanana
Native to United States
Region Alaska (middle Yukon River, Koyukuk River)
Ethnicity ca. 340 (1997–2007)[1]
Native speakers
ca. 110  (1997–2007)[1]
Latin (Northern Athabaskan alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tau
Glottolog uppe1437[2]

Upper Tanana (also known as Tabesna or Nabesna) is an endangered Athabaskan language spoken in eastern Interior Alaska, mainly in the villages of Northway, Tetlin, and Tok, and adjacent areas of Canada's Yukon Territory. In 2000 there were fewer than 100 speakers, and the language was no longer being actively acquired by children.


Upper Tanana shows near mutual-intelligibility with neighboring Tanacross but differs in several phonological features. In particular, Upper Tanana has low tone as a reflex of Proto-Athabaskan constriction, where Tanacross has high tone. Upper Tanana also has an extra vowel phoneme and has developed diphthongs through loss of final consonants.

Traditionally, four main dialects have been recognized.

The main Upper Tanana speaking communities today are located in the Alaskan communities of Northway and Tetlin and in the Canadian community of Beaver Creek.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Upper Tanana at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Upper Tanana". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  • Heinrich, Albert. 1957. Sib and Social Structure on the Upper Tanana. Science in Alaska: Proceedings of the 8th Alaskan Science Conference, 10-22. Anchorage: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • John, Bessie. 1997. Nee'aaneek: Upper Tanana Glossary, Scottie Creek Dialect. Beaver Creek, Yukon: Upper Tanana Cultural Society.
  • McKennan, Robert A. 1959. The Upper Tanana Indians. (Yale University Publications in Anthropology 55). New Haven: Yale University Department of Anthropology.
  • Milanowski, Paul G. & John, Alfred. 1979. Nee'aaneegn'. Upper Tanana (Tetlin) Junior Dictionary. Anchorage: National Bilingual Materials Development Center.
  • Minoura, Nobukatsu. 1994. A Comparative Phonology of the Upper Tanana Athabaskan Dialects. Languages of the North Pacific Rim, ed. by Miyaoka, Osahito. pp. 159–96. (Hokkaido University Publications in Linguistics 7.). Sapporo: Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Letters, Hokkaido University.
  • Minoura, Nobukatsu. 1997. A Note on Possessive Construction in Upper Tanana Athabaskan. Studies in Possessive Expressions, ed. by Hayasi, Tooru & Bhaskararao, Peri. pp. 177–96. Tokyo: Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
  • Sam, Avis. 1999. Upper Tanana Athabaskan Language Lessons. Whitehorse: Yukon Native Language Centre
  • Shinkwin, Anne D., Aigner Jean S. & Andrews, Elizabeth. 1980. Land Use Patterns in the Upper Tanana Valley, Alaska. Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska 19(2).43-53.
  • Tyone, Mary. 1996. Ttheek'adn Ut'iin Yaaniida' Oonign' (Old Time Stories of the Scottie Creek People). Fairbanks: Alaska Native Language Center.