Tlingit Language

Published on February 5, 2014 by Amy

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Tlingit Language
Tlingit Language

Like many of the diverse Native American Languages, the phonology and dialects of this dying language are complex. A branch of the Na-Dené language family of Alaska and western Canada, the Tlingit language may have split from the closely-related Athabaska language five thousand years ago. Upon their arrival in the late eighteenth century, Russian Missionaries created the first Tlingit alphabet and literacy program. When the Americans controlled the Alaskan frontier, however, they greatly discouraged the use of this language in children, forcing families to conform to more Americanized ways. However, as the acceptance of these diverse cultures grew in the later part of the twentieth century, the creation of the widely used, latin-based Tlingit alphabet began. Since many Tlingit families are adapting to contemporary American culture, language revitalization programs have been introduced by the 1,100 native Tlingit speakers left. These efforts are being initiated in hopes of restoring the cultural and historical importance of this aspect of Tlingit culture.

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Unlike English, the Tlingit language is mainly based in tone. There are 24 unique tones not heard in the English language; they are mainly guttural sounding, not unlike some found in the German language. In addition, there are 32 consonants and 8 vowels in the Tlingit script, with periods, underlines, apostrophes, and other punctuation marks used to indicate these various letters. These are several vocabulary words commonly used in the Tlingit language:

Yoo xat duwasaaku- My name is

Gunalchéech- Thank you

Yak’ei ixwsiteeni- Good to see you

Wáasa iyatee- How are you

Haa kaa gaa kuwatee- Good weather for us

Gugán- Sun

Dís- Moon

Tléix’- One

Shawút- Woman

Káh- Man

Source: thetlingitpeople Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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