You are here: Home » Editors Picks » NaDene Language Family
  • Follow Us!

NaDene Language Family 

nadene

Introduction

The Na-Dené (also called Athabascan or Athapascan) language family includes 47 distantly related languages that are spoken over a large area spanning from northwestern Canada and Alaska south to the Rio Grande. With 180,000 speakers, it is the second largest language family in North America in terms of number of languages and the number of speakers after the Uto-Aztecan language family. The name Athabaskan comes from the Cree name for Lake Athabasca in Canada.

The Dene-Yeniseian hypothesis proposes a genetic relationship between the Athabascan-Eyak-Tlingit (or Dene) languages of North America and the Yeniseian languages of Central Siberia. Recent research links the Ket, an endangered Yenisenian language spoken along the Yenisei River in western Siberia by less than 1,000 people, and the Na-Dené anguages that encompasses the Athabascan tribes in Alaska, the Tlingit and Eyak people. The only other established link between Siberian and North American language families is the case of Yupik, a variety of Eskimo-Aleut spoken across theBering Strait.

The Na-Dené language family is made up of three branches: Athabaskan-Eyak which comprises 43 languages, Haida, and Tlingit (Ethnologue). The latter two branches have one language each.The two single languages are Haida (40 speakers) and Tlingit (700 speakers). The genetic relationship of Tlingit, Eyak and Athabaskan is widely accepted, while the inclusion of Haida is a subject of continued controversy.

Athabaskan-Eyak (43 languages)
Spoken in the Northwest Territory, the Yukon, and adjacent parts of Canada, west to Cook Inlet in Alaska; in two isolated areas of the Pacific coast (southwestern Oregon and northern California); and in the southwestern United States (mostly in New Mexico and Arizona).

Apachean (this includes Navajo)
(6 varieties of which 1 is almost extinct)
163,875
Canadian
(13 varieties of which 3 are almost extinct)
13,638
Ingalik-Koyukon 
(3 varieties of which 2 are almost extinct)
350
Pacific Coast 
(9 varieties of which 5 are extinct and 4 are almost extinct)
20-15
Tahitan-Kaska
(3 varieties of which 2 are almost extinct)
437
Tanaina-Ahtna
(2 varieties with less than 100 speakers each)
155
Tanana-Upper Kuskokwim 
(4 varieties 3 of which have fewer than 50 speakers each)
200
Tutchone 
(2 varieties)
400
Tsetsaut extinct
Eyak extiinct

Status
All Na-Dené languages, except for Apache with 12,000 speakers and Navajo with 149,000 speakers, are seriously endangered or on the verge of extinction. Navajo, the largest Na-Dené languages spoken in Arizona and New Mexico, is one of the few North American Indian languages with a growing number of speakers.

Dialects

Structure

Sound system
Na-Dené languages generally have a small inventory of vowels and a large inventory of consonants.

Vowels

  • Na-Dené languages have a relatively small number of vowels
  • Vowels can be long or short.
  • In some languages, such as Navajo, vowel nasalization can make a difference in word meaning.

Consonants

Tone
Na-Dené languages use tones to distinguish Navajo has 4 tones, while Apache and Gwich’in have two tones.

Grammar
Na-Dené languages are polysynthetic, i.e., they are characterized by a very high number of morphemes per word. They tend to have very long words that correspond to complete sentences in less synthetic languages such as English. However, Na-Dené languages are less polysynthetic than Algonquian or Eskimo-Aleut languages.

Vocabulary
Here are some basic words in five Na-Dené languages.

one
Láá’íí
Dalaa
K’eel
Sgwáansang
Tléix’
two
Naaki
Naki
Neteeh
Sdáng
Déix
three
Taá’
Táági
Tokk’ee
Hlgúnahl
Nús’k
four
Dii’
Dii’i
Denk’ee
Stánsang
Dax’ón
five
Ashdla’
Ashdla’i
K’eelts’ednaale
Tl’éihl
Keijín
man
Hastiin
Ndeen
Denaa
Iihlangaa
Káh
woman
Asdzáán
Izdzán
Solt’aanh
Jáadaa
Shawút
sun
Shá
Yá’i
So
Juuyáay
Gugán
moon
Tl’éhonaa’éí
Tl’e’gona’ái
Dolt’ol
Kúng
Dís
water
Too
Gántl
IÍsh

Writing

Until the arrival of European settlers and missionaries, Na-Dené languages were unwritten. To translate the Bible, missionaries used the Roman alphabet to develop orthographies for these languages that often missed or misinterpreted important sound features of the languages.

Below is the text of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Navajo which has a standardized orthography.

Łáaʼii Góneʼ Biyiʼ Yisdzohígíí
Bilaʼashdaʼii tʼáá ałtsoh yiníkʼehgo bidizhchįh dóó aheełtʼeego ílį́į́go bee baahóchįʼ. Eíí háníʼ dóó hánítshakees hwiihdaasyaʼ eíí binahjį́ʼ ahidiníłnáhgo álíleekʼehgo kʼé bee ahił niidl.
Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
  • Long vowels are written with double letters, e.g., ee represents long /e/.
  • áá = high tone; aa = low tone; áa = rising tone;  = falling tone.
  • Nasal vowels are marked with a cedilla, e.g., ą represents nasal /a/.

Difficulty

Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Na-Dené languages?
There is no data on the difficulty level of Na-Dené languages for speakers of English.

11 Responses to NaDene Language Family

  1. google authorship for business

    May I simply say what a comfort to uncover a person that truly understands what they are
    discussing on the internet. You certainly understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important.
    A lot more people have to look at this and understand
    this side of the story. I can’t believe you aren’t more popular given that you certainly have the gift.

     
  2. http://hvoicemag.com/2012/01/02/kathleens-guide-to-facebook-stalking/

    Hi there! This post could not be written any better!
    Looking at this article reminds me off mmy previous roommate!
    He constantly kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this information to
    him. Fairly certain he’ll havve a great read. I appreciate you for sharing!

     
  3. best golf bags

    It’s in reality a great and useful piece of info.
    I’m happy that you just shared this useful info with us.

    Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

     
  4. Stormfall Age Of War Hack Free

    Greetings from Florida! I’m bored to death at work so I
    decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break.
    I enjoy the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my phone ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, superb site!

     
  5. best kitchen knife set

    This is a topic which is close to my heart…

    Best wishes! Exactly where are your contact details though?

     
  6. construction dumpsters Philadelphia

    With havin so much content do you ever run into any problemss of plagorism
    or copyright infringement? My blog has a lot of unique content I’ve either
    created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it
    up alll over the web without my permission. Do you know any
    ways to help reduce content from being ripped off?
    I’d certainly appreciate it.

     
  7. www.43things.com

    Thanks , I have recently been searching for info approximately this subject for a long time and yours is the greatest I’ve discovered so far.
    But, what about the conclusion? Are you
    certain concerning the source?

     
  8. bestacnetreatmentproducts07.jimdo.com

    I am fascinated by this helpful article. There are plenty of things stated here I had never believed of before.
    You have made me comprehend there is more than one way to think about these things.

     
  9. jazztimes.com

    Incredible! This blog looks exactly like my old one! It’s on a entirely different subject but
    it has pretty much the same page layout and design.
    Superb choice of colors!

     

Add a Comment