X̄a'’islak̓ala – X̌àh̓isl̩ak̓ala – Haisla

The Haisla language is spoken on the British Columbia mainland, around the Douglas Channel, across from the Queen Charlotte Islands. There are two main dialects spoken, Kitamaat and Kitlope.

I have come across three writing systems for Haisla, discussed here, two of which each can be seen in the title of this page: X̄a'’islak̓ala / X̌àh̓isl̩ak̓ala. The first is current in the community—and was developed, I believe, by Hein Vink. The second is the orthography as given in Lincoln and Rath 1986. The third is used by Bach, and is similar to Vink’s. I do not have any information about names of these orthographies, so I am going to label them “Vink”, “Lincoln and Rath”, and “Bach”; these by no means are official names.

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: has


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

Community Names

There are historically two main Haisla community areas, each with its own dialect. Both are today spoken at Kitamaat.

C̓imo'c̓a (Kitimaat) - X̄a’islak̓ala dialect

Gitlo'p (Kitlope) - X̄enaksialak̓ala dialect


Sounds are given in the Vink orthography, with Lincoln & Rath and Bach in parentheses where different.

  bilabial alveolar alveolar affricate lateral velar (y-offglide) rounded velar uvular rounded uvular glottal
voiceless stop b d z dh (λ/dl) g gᵒ (gʷ) ḡ (ǧ/ḡ) ḡᵒ (ǧʷ/ḡʷ) ’ (-/’)
aspirated stop p t c tl (ƛ/tl) k kᵒ (kʷ) q qᵒ (qʷ)  
ejective stop p̓ (p̓/p’) t̓ (t̓/t’) c (c̓/c’) t̓h (ƛ̓/tl’) k̓ (k̓/k’) k̓ᵒ (k̓ʷ/kʷ’) q̓ (q̓/q’) q̓ᵒ (q̓ʷ/qʷ’)  
voiceless fricative     s lh (ɬ/lh)   xᵒ (xʷ) x̄ (x̌/x̄) x̄ᵒ (x̌ʷ/x̄ʷ) h (-/h)
nasal / resonant m n   l y (y or i) w (w or u)     - (h/-)
glottalised n/r m̓ (m̓/m’) n̓ (n̓/n’)   l̓ (l̓/l’) y̓ (y̓/y’) w̓ (w̓/w’)     - (h̓/-)
syllabic n/r - (m̩/-) - (n̩/-)   - (l̩/-) - (i/-) - (u/-)     - (a/-)
syllabic glottalised n/r - (m̩̓/-) - (n̩̓/-)   - (l̩̓/-) - (i̓/-) - (u̓/-)     - (a̓/-)


  front central back
high i (-/i)   u (-/u)
mid e (-/?) . (ǝ/?) o (-/?)
low   a (-/a)  


  1. Within parentheses, the letters to the left of the slash are from L&R, while those to the right are from Bach. Where there is no opposition, both orthographical traditions render the sound with the same character.
  2. Lincoln & Rath (L&R) treats resonants very differently from the other two orthographies. Essentially, what are heard as vowels are instead vocalic (syllabic) resonants. For this reason, there are no vowels listed in L&R.
  3. The grave accent in L&R indicates stress, whereas in Vink and Bach, stress is indicated by a straight quote.
  4. The vowels /e/ and /o/ in Vink are written ‹ai› and ‹au› in L&R. I have no data on the mid vowels in Bach’s orthography.
  5. In L&R, /w/ and /y/ are written ‹w› and ‹y› between vowels, and ‹u› and ‹i› elsewhere.
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Last Modified: 25-Aug-2011