Kutenai Language

The Ktunaxa langauage is spoken in south-eastern British Columbia (5 communities), northern Idaho, and in north-western Montana (1 community each). Although the Ktunaxa language has been tentatively grouped together with other North American languages, it is a unique language which may not be related to any other in the world.

There are are two writing system variants, the major difference being in the way the glottal stop is represented. In Canada, this is the full length character ʔ. In the United States, a smaller raised half ring is used, ʾ.

Note: 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.


According to the 1990 U.S. Census, there are 102 Kutenai speakers in the United States. Research conducted by the Canadian Census in 2002 shows that there are only 32 fluent speakers in Canada, all over the age of 65 (Don Maki, personal communication). Other statistics give 50 in the U.S., and 120 in Canada. The Canadian Census counts 200 Kutenai speakers in 2006, down from from 220 in 2001.

ISO 639-3 language code: kut


This is a list of the Ktunaxa/Ksanka speaking communities. In parentheses are the English place names followed by the number of speakers in that community according to the 2006 Canadian Census. Because of the small numbers of speakers, the census results are likely overestimates.

Ya·qannu·ki (Lower Ktunaxa) - 30

Kisamniⱡ (Shuswap Band) - 20

A·kisq̓nuknik̓ (Columbia Lake) - 20

ʔaq̓amniʔk̓ (St. Mary’s) - 50

ʔa·kanuxunik̓ (Tabacco Plains) - 10

ʔa·kaq̓ⱡahaⱡxu (Idaho Ksanka)

Ksanka (Montana Ksanka)

Ktunaxa/Ksanka Consonants

  bilabial alveolar lateral alveolar
palatal velar uvular glottal
voiceless stop p t   ȼ   k q ʔ / ʾ
ejective stop   ȼ̓    
voiceless fricative   s     x   h
nasal m n            
glottalised nasal            
approximate w   l   y      
glottalised approximate            

Ktunaxa/Ksanka Vowels

  front central back
high i / i· u / u·
low a / a·


Loanwords may contain ‹č› for the English /ch/ sound.

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©2002-2009 Chris Harvey/Languagegeek
Last Modified: 29-Jul-2009