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Nisga'a language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nisg̱a’a, nisqáʔamq
Native toCanada
RegionNorthwest British Columbia (Nisg̱a’a Nation)
Ethnicity5,495 Nisga'a
Native speakers
470 (2016 census)[1]
1,500 L2 speakers[2]
  • Nass–Gitksan
    • Nisga’a
Nisg̱a’a Script (NAPA)
Language codes
ISO 639-3ncg
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Nisga’a (also Nass, Nisgha, Nisg̱a’a, Nishka, Niska, Nishga, Nisqa’a) is a Tsimshianic language of the Nisga'a people of northwestern British Columbia. Nisga'a people, however, dislike the term Tshimshianic as they feel that it gives precedence to Coast Tsimshian. Nisga’a is very closely related to Gitxsan. Indeed, many linguists regard Nisga’a and Gitksan as dialects of a single Nass–Gitksan language. The two are generally treated as distinct languages out of deference to the political separation of the two groups.

History and usage

Like almost all other First Nations languages of British Columbia, Nisga’a is an endangered language. In the 2018 Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages, there were 311 fluent speakers and 294 active language learners reported in a population of 6,113.[3]

Anglican missionary James Benjamin McCullagh conducted much early linguistic work in Nisga’a, preparing translations of parts of the Bible and Book of Common Prayer published in 1890, as well as a Nisga’a primer for students published in 1897. These were published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK). These items included some portions of Scripture.

Other notable documentation of the Nisga'a language include 'A Short Practical Dictionary of the Gitksan Language' compiled by Bruce Rigsby and Lonnie Hindle,[4] published in 1973 in Volume 7, Issue 1 of Journal of Northwest Anthropology.[5] In this dictionary, Rigsby created a simple alphabet for Nisga'a that is widely used today.[6]

Revitalization efforts

In January 2012, a Nisga’a app for iPhone and iPad was released for free.[7] Recently, the app was made available for use on Android.[8] The Nisga'a app is a bilingual dictionary and phrase collection archived at the First Voices data base, resources include audio recordings, images and videos.[9]

Since 1990, the First Peoples' Heritage Language and Culture Council has been providing support to revitalize First Peoples' language, arts and cultures. A total of $20 million has been distributed to support various projects, including revitalization of Nisga'a language.[10] In 2003, First Voices website, an online language archive was created to support language documentation, language teaching, and revitalization.[11] The Nisga'a First Voices is publicly accessible. Information on the website is managed by the Wilp Wilx̱o'oskwhl Nisg̱a'a Institute. Resources include alphabets, online dictionary, phrasebook, songs, stories, and interactive online games with sounds, pictures and videos. A total of 6092 words and 6470 phrases have been archived on the Nisga'a Community Portal at First Voices.[8]

In 1993, the Wilp Wilx̱o'oskwhl Nisg̱a'a Institute (WWNI) was established to provide post-secondary education for Nisga'a community and promote language and culture revitalization. It is the Nisga'a university-college located in the Nass Valley in Gitwinksihlkw on the northwest coast of British Columbia. The WWNI is a community driven, non-profit organization that is affiliated with the University of Northern British Columbia, Northwest Community College, and Royal Roads University. It is the only place where students can earn accreditation and certification of its courses and programs in Nisga'a Studies.[12]

A recent project called “Raising Nisga’a Language, Sovereignty, and Land-Based Education Through Traditional Carving Knowledge” (RNL) was started by Nisga’a professor Amy Parent at University of British Columbia working with and the Laxgalts’ap Village Government.[13] It will run over several years and aims to combine virtual reality technology with traditional knowledge in Nisga'a.[14]


The phonology in Nisga'a is presented as follows:[15]


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
central lateral plain rounded
Stop voiceless p t k q ʔ
ejective kʼʷ
Affricate voiceless ts
ejective tsʼ tɬʼ
Nasal plain m n
glottalized ˀm ˀn
Fricative s ɬ x χ h
Approximant plain l j w
glottalized ˀl ˀj ˀw


Front Back
Short Long Short Long
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

The high and mid short front vowels /i/ and /e/ as well as the high and mid short back vowels /u/ and /o/ are largely found to be in complementary distribution in native Nisga'a words but these pairs of sounds contrast one another in words borrowed into the language, making them distinct.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Nisga’a at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "Nisga'a". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
  3. ^ Dunlop B., Gessner, S., Herbert T. & Parker A. (2018). "Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages" (PDF). The First Peoples' Cultural Council.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Hindle, L., Bruce, R. (1973). "A Short Practical Dictionary of the Gitksan Language". Journal of Northwest Anthropology. 7.
  5. ^ "Journal of Northwest Anthropology — List of Past Volumes". Journal of Northwest Anthropology. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  6. ^ Tarpent, Marie-Lucie (1987). A grammar of the Nisgha language. ISBN 0-315-68126-8. OCLC 28598572.
  7. ^ "FirstVoices Apps". FirstVoices. Retrieved 2012-10-04.
  8. ^ a b "FirstVoices: Nisga'a Community Portal". Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  9. ^ "Nisga'a on the App Store". App Store. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  10. ^ "First Peoples' Cultural Council | About us". Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  11. ^ "FirstVoices". Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  12. ^ "About « Welcome to WWNI – Nisga'a House of Wisdom". Archived from the original on 2016-10-21. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  13. ^ Reporter, Ben Bogstie,Local Journalism Initiative. "New project using virtual reality to revitalize Nisga'a language". Prince George Citizen. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
  14. ^ AP_admin. "Research Projects". Dr. Amy Parent. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
  15. ^ a b Tarpent, Marie-Lucie (1987). A grammar of the Nisgha language. ISBN 0-315-68126-8. OCLC 28598572.

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 24 December 2020, at 23:02
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