North Slavey Syllabarium

Below is the complete North Slavey Syllabarium as it appears in the 1911 book ᑌᓀ ᒼᐊᕱᐁ ᐁᑎᐠᕃ ᑲᗱ ᑯᑎᑊᓀ ᒼᐁᑎᑊᐁ ᑫᑊᘚᐠ. It was developped specifically for K’áshogot’ine (Hare), but can be easily adapted to the other dialects. The syllabary is based on the French/Catholic tradition, which is also used by the Chipewyans of the Northwest Territories.

Unicode places all finals at the top-line, where Dene requires some finals to be top-line, some mid-line, and some baseline. The location of the final is vital to correct pronunciation. Please note that your browser may not be able to accomodate the mid-line and baseline finals.


Onset Vowel Final
a e i o
(V̨1) ᐊᐠ ᐁᐠ ᐃᐠ ᐅᐠ  
(h)2 ᐊᑊ ᐁᑊ ᐃᑊ ᐅᑊ  
(gh, x)2 ᒼᐊ ᒼᐁ ᒼᐃ ᒼᐅ  
(ʔ)2 ᐥᐊ ᐥᐁ ᐥᐃ ᐥᐅ  
w ᐊᐧ ᐁᐧ ᐃᐧ ᐅᐧ
d, r
k ᒼᑲ ᒼᑫ ᒼᑭ ᒼᑯ  
(ł) ᒼᕍ ᒼᕃ ᒼᕄ ᒼᕊ  
(dl, tl’)  
gh, x, ʀ3
sh, zh  
(j, ch’)  
fw4 F
(v)5         V
gw4 ᐟᒐ ᐟᒉ ᐟᒋ ᐟᒍ  

The traditional K’áshogot’ine (Hare) syllabary did not differentiate all of the distinct sounds (phonemes) of the language, e.g. /j/ and /ch’/ were written with the same symbol. Most likely, this would cause little difficulty for fluent speakers who can infer the correct phoneme from context.

The onsets in (round brackets) were not included in the chart in the original 1911 document, but were described in some detail on the following page. Digraphs are written with a “final” plus a syllabic: e.g. for /tla/.

Tone is not written. The traditional system uses the Roman period ‹.› instead of the syllabic version ‹᙮›. The asterisk * indicates the following word is a proper name.


  1. The ogonek or “hook” accent ‹ą› stands for nasal vowel as in standard Roman orthography. A nasal vowel (V̨) without a consonant onset has been given a unique set of characters in Unicode. ᐫ ᐬ ᐭ ᐮ. However, nasal vowels which are part of a consonant-vowel syllable (CV̨) have not been encoded separately. These must be written as a combination of two characters: ᘚᐠ is plus . It is my advise that all nasal vowels are typed as two separate characters, and that the precomposed nasal vowel syllabics only be used in archaic cases where the nasal mark is written direcly above the syllabic.
  2. Please see Note 2 on the Denesųłįne Page which gives a detailed discussion of these sounds. In the Hare Syllabics text, the final appears before a vowel (e.g. ) to represent /he/, and when at the end of a syllable, is also pronounced /h/. This pronunciation is different from Chipewyan. Glottal stops are not indicated at the beginnings of words. The sound /h/ is often simply left out of syllabics texts.
  3. The symbol “ρ” (the Greek letter rho) is used on the missionary chart for the sound /gh/. However, the final is described in the accompanying text as “r” as the French ʀ is very close in sound to /gh/. The Dene ‹r› is a alveolar tap (a Spanish “r” or North American English “d” in “ladder”), and written using the d-series. French words, especially names like Marie and Pierre, are written as ᒪᖋ “maghi” and ᐱᔦ “biyer”
  4. There is some confusion as to the status of the three sounds given on the chart as “foua, foue…”, “koua, koue”, and “kkfoua, kkfoue…”. The missionary who adapted Chipewyan syllabics to Hare must have noticed the sound correspondences between the two languages. So where Chipewyan has /ddh/, /tth/, /tth’/, /dh/, and /th/, Hare has /gw/, /f/, /w’/, /w/, and /w/ respectively.
    • The syllabic characters match somewhat between the two languages, so that where Chipewyan has for /ddh/, Hare uses the same symbol for /gw/, written “koua, koue…” by the French missionary.
    • The 1800’s /wh/ sound transcribed “foua, foue…” corresponds to the Chipewyan /th/ sound. Today, this sound is pronounced /f/, merging with the 1800’s /f/ which matches Chipewyan /tth/.
    • The -series in Chipewyan is used for /tth’/. The Hare chart labels this series “kkfoua, kkfoue…” which leads one to suppose that the sound is [kw’], but this sound does not exist in modern Hare, and is instead /w’/.
  5. “v” is not a distinctive sound in K’áshogot’ine, although it is in the neighbouring language Shihgot’ine (Mountain Slavey).
  6. The modern day Hare dialect has changed some instances of 1800’s /n/ into /r/; this was obviously not reflected in the early syllabics.
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©2008 Chris Harvey/Languagegeek
Last Modified: 31-Dec-2008