Gwichʼin language

The Gwichʼin language (Dinju Zhuh Kʼyuu)[5] belongs to the Athabaskan language family and is spoken by the Gwichʼin First Nation (Canada) / Alaska Native People (United States). It is also known in older or dialect-specific publications as Kutchin, Takudh, Tukudh, or Loucheux.[6] Gwich'in is spoken primarily in the towns of Inuvik, Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Old Crow, and Tsiigehtchic (formerly Arctic Red River) in the Northwest Territories and Yukon of Canada.[7] In Alaska of the United States, Gwichʼin is spoken in Beaver, Circle, Fort Yukon, Chalkyitsik, Birch Creek, Arctic Village, Eagle, and Venetie.[8]

The ejective affricate in the name Gwichʼin is usually written with symbol U+2019 RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK, though the correct character for this use (with expected glyph and typographic properties) is U+02BC MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE.

Gwichʼin
Dinjii Zhuʼ Ginjik
Native toCanada, United States
RegionNorthwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska
Ethnicity3,000 Gwichʼin people (2007)
Native speakers
ca. 560 (2007–2016)[1]
Latin (Northern Athabaskan alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
 Canada[2]
 Alaska[3]
Language codes
ISO 639-2gwi
ISO 639-3gwi
Glottologgwic1235[4]

Current status

Few Gwichʼin speak their heritage language as a majority of the population shifts to English. According to the UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, Gwichʼin is now "severely endangered." There are about 260 Gwichʼin speakers in Canada out of a total Gwichʼin population of 1,900. About 300 out of a total Alaska Gwichʼin population of 1,100 speak the language.[5]

In 1988, the NWT Official Languages Act named Gwich'in as an official language of the Northwest Territories, and the Official Languages of Alaska Law as amended declared Gwich'in a recognized language in 2014.[5]

The Gwich'in language is taught regularly at the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow, Yukon Territory.[8]

Projects are underway to document the language and enhance the writing and translation skills of younger Gwich'in speakers. In one project, lead research associate and fluent speaker Gwichʼin elder Kenneth Frank works with linguists and young Gwich'in speakers affiliated with the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks to document traditional knowledge of caribou anatomy.[9]

Classification

Gwichʼin is a member of the Northern Athabaskan subgroup of the Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit language family. It shares the Hän-Kutchin subdivision with the Hän language.[10]

Dialects

There are two main dialects of Gwichʼin, eastern and western, which are delineated roughly at the Canada–US border.[10] There are several dialects within these subgroupings, including Fort Yukon Gwichʼin, Arctic Village Gwichʼin, Western Canada Gwichʼin (Takudh, Tukudh, Loucheux), and Arctic Red River. Each village has unique dialect differences, idioms, and expressions. The Old Crow people in the northern Yukon have approximately the same dialect as those bands living in Venetie and Arctic Village, Alaska.

Phonology

Consonants

The consonants of Gwichʼin in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):[8]

Labial Interdental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
central lateral plain labialized
Nasal voiced (m  /m/) n  /n/
voiceless nh  //
Plosive plain (b  /p/) d  /t/ dr  /ʈ/ g  /k/ gw  // ʼ  /ʔ/
aspirated t  // tr  /ʈʰ/ k  // kw  /kʷʰ/
ejective  // trʼ  /ʈʼ/  //
prenasalized nd  /ⁿd/
Affricate plain ddh  // dz  /ts/ dl  // j  //
aspirated tth  /tθʰ/ ts  /tsʰ/ tl  /tɬʰ/ ch  /tʃʰ/
ejective tthʼ  /tθʼ/ tsʼ  /tsʼ/ tlʼ  /tɬʼ/ chʼ  /tʃʼ/
prenasalized nj  /ⁿdʒ/
Fricative voiced v  /v/ dh  /ð/ z  /z/ zhr  /ʐ/ zh  /ʒ/ gh  /ɣ/ ghw  /ɣʷ/
voiceless (f  /f/) th  /θ/ s  /s/ ł  /ɬ/ shr  /ʂ/ sh  /ʃ/ kh  /x/ h  /h/
Approximant voiced l  /l/ r  /ɻ/ y  /j/ w  /w/
voiceless rh  /ɻ̥/

Vowels

  • Short
    • a [a]
    • e [e]
    • i [i]
    • o [o]
    • u [u]
  • Long
  • Nasal vowels are marked with an ogonek, e.g. [ą]
  • Low tone is marked with a grave accent, e.g. [à]
  • High tone is never marked

Gwichʼin language in place names

The Porcupine River, a 916-kilometre (569 mi) tributary of the Yukon River in Canada and the United States, is called Chʼôonjik[11] in Gwichʼin.

Key vocabulary

Vadzaih (caribou) are an integral part of First Nations and Inuit oral histories and legends including the Gwich'in creation story of how Gwichʼin people and the caribou separated from a single entity.[12] The caribou is the cultural symbol and a keystone subsistence species of the Gwich'in, just as the buffalo is to the Plains Indians.[9]

Elders have identified at least 150 descriptive Gwich'in names for all of the bones, organs, and tissues "Associated with the caribou's anatomy are not just descriptive Gwich'in names for all of the body parts including bones, organs, and tissues as well as "an encyclopedia of stories, songs, games, toys, ceremonies, traditional tools, skin clothing, personal names and surnames, and a highly developed ethnic cuisine."[9]

References

  1. ^ Gwichʼin at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  2. ^ Official Languages of the Northwest Territories Archived 2013-12-06 at the Wayback Machine (map)
  3. ^ https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/04/21/305688602/alaska-oks-bill-making-native-languages-official
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Gwich'in". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. ^ a b c "Gwichʼin". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  6. ^ McDonald. ''A Grammar of the Tukudh Language''. Yellowknife, N.W.T.: Curriculum Division, Dept. of Education, Government of the Northwest Territories, 1972.
  7. ^ Firth, William G. 1991. Teetłʼit Gwìchʼin Kʼyùu Gwiʼdìnehtłʼèe Nagwant Trʼagwàłtsàii: A Junior Dictionary of the Teetl'it Gwich'in Language. Department of Culture and Communications, Government of the Northwest Territories. ISBN 978-1-896337-12-8.
  8. ^ a b c "Yukon Native Language Centre". ynlc.ca. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  9. ^ a b c Mishler, Craig (2014), "Linguistic Team Studies Caribou Anatomy", Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCOS), retrieved 11 January 2015
  10. ^ a b "Did you know Gwich'in is severely endangered?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  11. ^ Holton, Gary (July 16, 2013). "Alaska Native Language Archive: Alaska Place Names". University of Alaska Fairbanks. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
  12. ^ "Vuntut Gwich'in", First Voices, 2001–2013, retrieved 17 January 2014

Further reading

  • Firth, William G., et al. Gwìndòo Nànhʼ Kak Geenjit Gwichʼin Ginjik = More Gwichʼin Words About the Land. Inuvik, N.W.T.: Gwichʼin Renewable Resource Board, 2001.
  • Gwichʼin Renewable Resource Board. Nànhʼ Kak Geenjit Gwichʼin Ginjik = Gwichʼin Words About the Land. Inuvik, N.W.T., Canada: Gwichʼin Renewable Resource Board, 1997.
  • McDonald. A Grammar of the Tukudh Language. Yellowknife, N.W.T.: Curriculum Division, Dept. of Education, Government of the Northwest Territories, 1972.
  • Montgomery, Jane. Gwichʼin Language Lessons Old Crow Dialect. Whitehorse: Yukon Native Language Centre, 1994.
  • Northwest Territories. Gwichʼin Legal Terminology. [Yellowknife, N.W.T.]: Dept. of Justice, Govt. of the Northwest Territories, 1993.
  • Norwegian-Sawyer, Terry. Gwichʼin Language Lessons Gwichyàh Gwichʼin Dialect (Tsiigèhchik–Arctic Red River). Whitehorse: Yukon Native Language Centre, 1994.
  • Peter, Katherine, and Mary L. Pope. Dinjii Zhuu Gwandak = Gwichʼin Stories. [Anchorage]: Alaska State-Operated Schools, Bilingual Programs, 1974.
  • Peter, Katherine. A Book of Gwichʼin Athabaskan Poems. College, Alaska: Alaska Native Language Center, Center for Northern Educational Research, University of Alaska, 1974.
  • Yukon Native Language Centre. Gwichʼin Listening Exercises Teetlʼit Gwichʼin dialect. Whitehorse: Yukon Native Language Centre, Yukon College, 2003. ISBN 1-55242-167-8

External links

Aklavik

Aklavik (Inuvialuktun: Akłarvik) (from the Inuvialuktun meaning barrenground grizzly place) is a hamlet located in the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Until 1961, with a population over 1,500, the community served as the regional administrative centre for the territorial government. Building conditions at the time considered to be unsuitable (primarily due to flooding) resulted in the development of Inuvik 63 km (39 mi) to the east, meant to entirely replace Aklavik. However, many residents persevered and kept Aklavik as a community, with a 2016 population of nearly 600. The mayor of Aklavik is Andrew Charlie.

Gwich'in

The Gwichʼin (or Kutchin) are an Athabaskan-speaking First Nations people of Canada and an Alaska Native people. They live in the northwestern part of North America, mostly above the Arctic Circle.

Gwichʼin are well known for their crafting of snowshoes, birchbark canoes, and the two-way sled. They are renowned for their intricate and ornate beadwork. They also continue to make traditional caribou-skin clothing and porcupine quillwork embroidery, both of which are highly regarded among Gwichʼin. Today the economy is mostly a mix of hunting, fishing, and seasonal wage-paying employment.

Voiced dental fricative

The voiced dental fricative is a consonant sound used in some spoken languages. It is familiar to English-speakers, as the th sound in father. Its symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet is eth, or [ð] and was taken from the Old English and Icelandic letter eth, which could stand for either a voiced or unvoiced interdental non-sibilant fricative.

The letter ⟨ð⟩ is sometimes used to represent the dental approximant, a similar sound, which no language is known to contrast with a dental non-sibilant fricative, but the approximant is more clearly written with the lowering diacritic: ⟨ð̞⟩.

Very rarely used variant transcriptions of the dental approximant include ⟨ʋ̠⟩ (retracted [ʋ]), ⟨ɹ̟⟩ (advanced [ɹ]) and ⟨ɹ̪⟩ (dentalized [ɹ]).

It has been proposed that either a turned ⟨ð⟩ or reversed ⟨ð⟩ be used as a dedicated symbol for the dental approximant, but despite occasional usage this has not gained general acceptance.

Dental non-sibilant fricatives are often called "interdental" because they are often produced with the tongue between the upper and lower teeth (as in English), and not just against the back of the upper teeth, as they are with other dental consonants.

This sound and its unvoiced counterpart are rare phonemes. Almost all languages of Europe and Asia, such as German, French, Persian, Japanese, and Mandarin, lack the sound. Native speakers of languages without the sound often have difficulty enunciating or distinguishing it, and they replace it with a voiced alveolar sibilant [z], a voiced dental stop or voiced alveolar stop [d], or a voiced labiodental fricative [v]; known respectively as th-alveolarization, th-stopping, and th-fronting. As for Europe, there seems to be a great arc where the sound (and/or its unvoiced variant) is present. Most of Mainland Europe lacks the sound. However, some "periphery" languages as Gascon, Welsh, English, Icelandic, Elfdalian, Kven, Northern Sami, Mari, Greek, Albanian, Sardinian, some dialects of Basque and most speakers of Spanish have the sound in their consonant inventories, as phonemes or allophones.

Within Turkic languages, Bashkir and Turkmen have both voiced and voiceless dental non-sibilant fricatives among their consonants. Among Semitic languages, they are used in Turoyo, Modern Standard Arabic, albeit not by all speakers of modern Arabic dialects, as well as in some dialects of Hebrew and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic.

Voiced postalveolar fricative

Voiced fricatives produced in the postalveolar region include the voiced palato-alveolar fricative [ʒ], the voiced postalveolar non-sibilant fricative [ɹ̠˔], the voiced retroflex fricative [ʐ], and the voiced alveolo-palatal fricative [ʑ]. This article discusses the first two.

Voiced velar fricative

The voiced velar fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in various spoken languages. It is not found in Modern English but it existed in Old English {Baker, 2012, P. 15}. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɣ⟩, a Latinized variant of the Greek letter gamma, ⟨γ⟩, which has this sound in Modern Greek. It should not be confused with the graphically similar ⟨ɤ⟩, the IPA symbol for a close-mid back unrounded vowel, which some writings use for the voiced velar fricative.

The symbol ⟨ɣ⟩ is also sometimes used to represent the velar approximant, though that is more accurately written with the lowering diacritic: [ɣ̞] or [ɣ˕]. The IPA also provides a dedicated symbol for a velar approximant, [ɰ], though there can be stylistic reasons to not use it in phonetic transcription.

There is also a voiced post-velar fricative (also called pre-uvular) in some languages. For voiced pre-velar fricative (also called post-palatal), see voiced palatal fricative.

Voiceless dental fricative

The voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. It is familiar to English speakers as the 'th' in thing. Though rather rare as a phoneme in the world's inventory of languages, it is encountered in some of the most widespread and influential (see below). The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨θ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is T. The IPA symbol is the Greek letter theta, which is used for this sound in post-classical Greek, and the sound is thus often referred to as "theta".

The dental non-sibilant fricatives are often called "interdental" because they are often produced with the tongue between the upper and lower teeth, and not just against the back of the upper or lower teeth, as they are with other dental consonants.

This sound and its voiced counterpart are rare phonemes occurring in 4% of languages in a phonological analysis of 2155 languages. Among the more than 60 languages with over 10 million speakers, only English, various dialects of Arabic, Standard European Spanish, Swahili (in words derived from Arabic), Burmese, Greek have the voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative. Speakers of languages and dialects without the sound sometimes have difficulty producing or distinguishing it from similar sounds, especially if they have had no chance to acquire it in childhood, and typically replace it with a voiceless alveolar fricative (/s/) (as in Indonesian), voiceless dental stop (/t/), or a voiceless labiodental fricative (/f/); known respectively as th-alveolarization, th-stopping, and th-fronting.The sound is known to have disappeared from a number of languages, e.g. from most of the Germanic languages or dialects, where it is retained only in Scots, English, Elfdalian, and Icelandic, but it is alveolar in the last of these. Among non-Germanic Indo-European languages as a whole, the sound was also once much more widespread, but is today preserved in a few languages including the Brythonic languages, Castilian Spanish, Venetian, Albanian and Greek. It has likewise disappeared from many Semitic languages, such as Hebrew and many modern varieties of Arabic (excluding Tunisian, Mesopotamian Arabic and various dialects in the Arabian Peninsula which still include it).

Voiceless retroflex approximant

The voiceless retroflex approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɻ̊⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is r\`_0.

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