North Slavey Language

Northern Slavey is an amalgamation of three separate dialects: K’áshogot’ıne (Hare), Sahtúgot’ıne (Bear Lake) and Shıhgot’ıne (Mountain). In the Northwest Territories, “Sahtúot’ı̨nę Yatı̨́” refers to Northern Slavey as an entirety. All are spoken in the western North-West Territories, while Mountain also has speakers in Yukon. There are four “Slavey” dialects/languages: South Slavey, Hare, Mountain, and Bear Lake. Usually they are divided into two orthographical groups: South Slavey and North Slavey (a combination of the other three). However, each community could be said to have its own dialect.

The division of Slavey dialects is based largely on the way each one pronounces the old Proto-Athapaskan sounds *dz *ts *ts’ *s and *z.

Proto-Athapaskan South Slavey Bear Lake Hare Mountain
*dz ddh gw gw/b b
*ts tth kw f p
*ts’ tth’ kw’ w’ p’
*s th/dh wh/w w f/v

There are several Roman Orthography conventions on this site that may require further explanation. On the charts below, there is lots of phonetic terminology that may not be familiar to everyone.

ISO 639-3 language code: scs

Syllabics Information

Dene Communities

This is a list of the North Slavey speaking communities. In parentheses are the English place name and the dialect spoken there, followed by the number of speakers in that community according to the 2006 Canadian Census.

Tulít’a (Ft. Norman–Mountain) 130

Łe Gǫ́hlı̨nı̨ (Norman Wells–Mtn) 10

Délı̨ne (Ft. Franklin–Bear Lake) 465

Rádı̨lı̨h Kóé (Ft. Good Hope–Hare) 45

K’áhbamı̨́túé (Colville Lake–Hare) 30


The 2006 Canadian Census (2001 figures in parentheses) indicates 1,235 (1,025) North Slavey speakers, to which would have to be added a portion of the 11,130 (10,585) who are reported as Dene speakers. According to Howe and Cook, there are 3,850 speakers of all Slavey dialects.

Roman Orthography: Consonants

  bilabial alveolar alveolar affricate lateral palato-alveolar palatal velar velar rounded glottal
voiceless stop b d dz dl j   g gw ɂ
aspirated stop p t ts tl ch   k kw  
ejective stop p’ t’ ts’ tl’ ch’   k’ kw’  
voiced fricative v   z   zh   gh wh  
voiceless fricative f   s ł sh   x   h
nasal m n              
nasalised voiced stop mb nd              
resonant   r   l   y   w  
glottalised resonant               w’  

Roman Orthography: Vowels

  front central back
high ı   u
mid-high ǝ   o
mid-low e    
low   a  


  • Bear Lake does not have the following sounds:
    /p/ /p’/ /v/ /f/ /w’/.
  • Hare does not use these sounds:
    /p/ /p’/ /v/ /mb/ /nd/ /ts/ /tl/ /ch/ /kw/ /kw’/ /wh/.
  • Mountain does not include the following sounds:
    /gw/ /kw/ /kw’/ /wh/ /w/ /w’/.
  • /wh/ can be pronounced bilabially [ɸ], as a labio-velar [w], a labio-dental [f], or a rounded labio-dental [fʷ].
  • Hare /f/ can be pronounced bilabially [ɸ], as a labio-dental [f], or a rounded labio-dental [fʷ]. The Hare /b/ can also be pronounced like /gw/.
  • High tone is indicated by an acute accent ‹á›. Low tone is unmarked.
  • Nasal vowels are show by an ogonek accent ‹ą›.
  • In the nwt, the glottal stop ‹ɂ› has tall capital and short lowercase forms.
  • Phonetically /l/ and /y/ are classified in the resonants row, but in the language, /l/ is the voiced partner of /ł/, and /y/ is the voiced counterpart of /sh/. There is some variation between /y/ and /zh/.
  • The ‹ı› is undotted.
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Last Modified: 25-Aug-2011