The Tsimshianic languages are a family of languages spoken in northwestern British Columbia and in Southeast Alaska on Annette Island and Ketchikan. All Tsimshianic languages are endangered, some with only around 400 speakers. Only around 2,170 people of the ethnic Tsimshian /ˈsɪmʃiən/ population in Canada still speak a Tsimshian language; about 50 of the 1,300 Tsimshian people living in Alaska still speak Coast Tsimshian. Tsimshianic languages are considered by most linguists to be an independent language family, with four main languages: Coast Tsimshian, Southern Tsimshian, Nisg̱a’a, and Gitksan.
|British Columbia, Alaska|
Pre-contact distribution of Tsimshianic languages
Tsimshianic consists of 4 lects:
Coast Tsimshian is spoken along the lower Skeena River in Northwestern British Columbia, on some neighbouring islands, and to the north at New Metlakatla, Alaska. Southern Tsimshian was spoken on an island quite far south of the Skeena River in the village of Klemtu, however it became extinct in 2013. Nisga’a is spoken along the Nass River. Gitksan is spoken along the Upper Skeena River around Hazelton and other areas.
Nisga’a and Gitksan are very closely related and are usually considered dialects of the same language by linguists. However, speakers from both groups consider themselves ethnically separate from each other and from the Tsimshian and thus consider Nisga’a and Gitksan to be separate languages. Coast and Southern Tsimshian are also often regarded as dialects of the same language.
Consonantal inventory of Proto-Tsimshian:
|Fricative||*s, *ɬ||*x||*χ||*χʷ||*h, *hʷ|