Haiɫzaqvla : Heiltsuk

Heiltsuk is a northern Wakashan language spoken mid-way up the Pacific coast of British Columbia.

The writing system presented here is based on the practical orthography as shown in Rath 1981. It is currently used in Kitasoo and Bella Bella, with several modifications (shown at the Bella Bella Community School page). The main differences are shown below in the charts, with Rath’s orthography in parenthesis. It appears from the Heiltsuk Nation website, that this is the official standard. It is a compromise of sorts between the linguistic and B.C.-style practical orthographies. Some its most notable features are: using ‹v› as a diacritic for rounded velars and uvulars, the caron accent ˇ where other B.C. languages use the underline, and the complex forms of vocalic nasals (e.g. ṃ̓).

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.

ISO 639-3 language code: hei


The Canadian Census does not individually count Heiltsuk speakers. According to Howe and Cook, there are 200 speakers.

Community Name

Bella Bella - Waglisla


  bilabial alveolar alveolar affricate lateral velar (y-offglide) rounded velar uvular rounded uvular glottal
voiced stop b d z λ (dh) g gv ǧ ǧv ’ǎ / ’
voiceless stop p t c ƛ (th) k kv q qv  
ejective stop ƛ̓ (t̓h) k̓v q̓v  
voiceless fricative     s ł (lh) x xv x̌v  
nasal / resonant m n   l y w    
glottalised nasal / resonant       h̓ 
syllabic nas. / res.            
syllabic stressed n/r ṃ́ ṇ́   ḷ́          
syllabic glottalised n/r ṃ̓ ṇ̓   ḷ̓          


  front central back
high i í i̓   u ú u̓
mid   e é  
low   a á a̓  


  1. The letters in parentheses are in Rath 1981.
  2. The capital forms of λ and ƛ are upside-down capital ‘Y’ and ‘Y’ with a bar. These capital letters are not cuurently in Unicode.
  3. The acute accent á is high tone. The apostophe accent indicates a glottalised vowel.
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Last Modified: 25-Aug-2011