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Athabaskan (Na-Dene) Language Family

In the past, this language family was simply known as the Athabaskan language family, which is the name recognized by most speakers of these languages (the spelling "Athabascan" is more preferred today, but both spellings are still commonly used, and "Athapaskan" can occasionally be seen as well.) But once it was discovered that non-Athabascan languages (like Tlingit, Eyak, and possibly Haida) were also related, linguists began using the new term Na-Dene to refer to the language family instead. The name Na-Dene was created by combining the word na, which means "people" in Tlingit and "home" in Haida, with the word dene, which means "people" in several Athabascan languages.



The Na-Dene languages are spoken from northwestern Canada and Alaska south to the Rio Grande. They include:

  • Athabaskan Languages
  • Apachean Languages
  • Eastern Apache
  • Dine (Navajo)
  • Western Apache
  • Northern Athabaskan Languages
  • Central Alaska-Yukon Athabascan Languages
  • Degexit'an (Ingalik)
  • Gwich'in
  • Han
  • Holikachuk
  • Koyukon
  • Lower Tanana
  • Tanacross
  • Tutchone
  • Upper Tanana
  • Upper Kuskokwim
  • Southern Alaskan Athabascan Languages
  • Ahtna (Ahtena)
  • Tanaina
  • Central British Columbia Athapaskan Languages
  • Babine
  • Dakelh (Carrier, Yinka Dene)
  • Chilcotin
  • Northwest Canadian Athapaskan Languages
  • Kaskan Languages (Nahanni)
  • Kaska
  • Tahltan
  • Tagish
  • Dane-zaa (Beaver)
  • Dene Suline (Chipewyan)
  • Dogrib
  • Sekani
  • Dene Tha (Slavey)
  • Clatskanie
  • Tsuu T'ina (Sarcee)
  • Tsetsaut
  • Pacific Coast Athabaskan Languages
  • Oregon Athabaskan Languages
  • Chetco
  • Galice
  • Tolowa
  • Tututni-Coquille
  • Upper Umpqua
  • California Athabaskan Languages
  • Hupa
  • Mattole
  • Wailaki (Sinkyone/Lassik)
  • Kato
  • Eyak
  • Tlingit
  • Possibly Athabaskan:
  • Haida
  • Native Languages

    Our Athabaskan Language Features

    Athabaskan Vocabulary:
         Words in various Athabaskan languages.

    Links to Other Athabaskan Language Resources

    Na-Dene Language Family:
         Ethnologue of Athabaskan languages.
    Athabaskan Languages:
        Overview of the Athabaskan Indian languages, their history and distribution.
    Athapascan Family of Indians:
        Article on the Athabaskan Indian tribes and their languages.

    Athabaskan Language Materials Available Offline

    The Athabaskan Languages:
         An excellent overview of the syntax, phonology, sociolinguistics and historical linguistics of the Athabaskan language family.
    Bibliography Of The Athapascan Languages:
         Pilling's venerable survey of Athapascan linguistic study.
    Athabaskan Language Studies:
         Sixteen essays on Athapaskan linguistics.
    Word Formation in the Athapaskan Verb:
         Book on the morphology of verbs in Athabaskan languages.
    Bekk'aatugh Ts'uhuney: Stories We Live By: Traditional Koyukon Athabaskan Stories:
         Bilingual presentation of Alaskan Athabaskan legends.

    Culture and History of the Athabascan Indians

    Northern Athapaskan Art: A Beadwork Tradition:
         Beautiful book on Canadian and Alaskan Athabascan art and beaded clothing, with many photographs.
    Cold River Spirits: The Legacy of an Athabascan-Irish Family from Alaska's Yukon River:
         Interesting family history of a mixed-race Alaskan Athabascan woman.
    Crow Is My Boss: The Oral Life History of a Tanacross Athabaskan Elder:
         Compelling autobiography of an Alaska Athabascan man.
    Coquelle Thompson, Athabaskan Witness: A Cultural Biography (Civilization of the American Indian Series):
         Life story and traditional history of an Athabaskan Indian from Oregon.
    The Crooked Stovepipe: Athapaskan Fiddle Music and Square Dancing in Northeast Alaska and Northwest Canada (Music in American Life):
         History of the songs and dances of the northern Athabaskan Indians.



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