By Sharon Hargus
Phonetics - Phonology - Morphology
Witsuwit’en is an endangered First Nations language spoken in western-central British Columbia. A member of the Athapaskan family of languages, the language had been known to have some intriguing characteristics of consonant-vowel interaction, the details of which have been in dispute among scholars.
Witsuwit’en Grammar presents acoustic studies of several aspects of Witsuwit’en phonetics, including vowel quality, vowel quantity, ejectives, voice quality, and stress. Information about the sound system and word structure of Witsuwit’en is also provided, revealing many unusual features not previously described in this level of detail for an Athapaskan language.
Witsuwit’en has elaborate morphology, even by the standards of the Athapaskan language family. Witsuwit’en Grammar will be of interest to anthropologists interested in the history of the Athapasakan language family, linguists interested in comparative Athapaskan grammar, or any linguist interested in phonetics-phonology or phonology-morphology interaction.
Witsuwit'en Hinic (Language) ResourceS
Tsë Cakh Wit'en: An Evening in the Village
A new Witsuwit'en Language learning Resource
Professor Hargus has worked with Witsuwit’en people for almost thirty years, documenting the language and grammar to develop a writing system unique to Witsuwit’en. This in an invaluable language learning resource. It provides an overview of the Witsuwit’en alphabet, compares sounds and words that are similar. It also gives learners a good insight into the complexities of the Witsuwit’en language. The voices of many Tsë Cakh Elders, most of whom have since passed on, were captured in these recordings to teach listeners basic Witsuwit’en and impart the stories and wisdom of the Ancestors, Niwhts’ide’nï.
In 2017, the Witsuwit’en Language and Culture Society (WLCS) forged a partnership with Hagwilget Village to make this precious language learning resource available again to Witsuwit’en learners. The WLCS digitised the audiocassettes, removed as much static and extraneous noise as possible and coordinated the production of this second edition.
Hagwilget Village provided feedback throughout the project and some financial support towards the project’s production.
The WLCS would also like to acknowledge the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation for supporting this project through its grant program.
We have published a limited number of copies and priority will be given to Witsuwit'en language learners. Given the COVID-19 situation, we are working on a distribution plan to ensure that we can deliver copies safely to each of the six Witsuwit'en communities. We will be contacting you in the coming weeks! For Witsuwit'en people living off-yin tah (outside the territory), please contact the WLCS: firstname.lastname@example.org
Witsuwi'ten bï yets'olhdic! (Let's speak Witsuwit'en!)
Tsë Cakh Wit’en: An Evening in the Village, originally created by Hagwilget Village in 1991, consisted of two audiocassettes and a Witsuwit’en language-learning booklet, illustrated by Don Monet (Colonialism on Trial) and the late Gisdewe (Gisday Wa) Alfred Joseph, who was instrumental in researching and providing testimony for the renown Delgamuukw & Gisday Wa land claims court case. Linguist Sharon Hargus (University of Washington) compiled most of the content and prepared the original manuscript. Some recordings were made available to her by Jim Kari and Hagwilget Village. Dora Wilson, Alfred Joseph, Carol Eichstaedt, Jim Kari and Stacy Waters provided editorial support in the first project. She also received comments and feedback from several people involved in Moricetown Band’s (now Witset First Nation) Territorial Management Training Program including: Bernie Gellenbeck, Eileen Joseph, Dennis Kale, Warner Naziel, Sister Theresa Joseph, Vern Michell and particularly George Holland and Janet Williams.