Orthography for Dene Sųłiné

Different orthographies have been developed and used for the Dene Sųłiné languages over time. Different commuities may also use slightly different sets of symbols.  The orthography listed below is one commonly used in contemporary work and dictionaries. Listed below this orthography is a chart of the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols for each of these sounds. 


There are approximately 5 phonemic vowel qualities in the Dene Sųłiné languages. Some Dene Sųłiné languages may also have a central vowel written as ’ë’, 'ə' or ’ɛ', which we have not included in the chart below.  The vowels may contrast in tone (High or Low), length and nasality. The long vs short vowel contrast may not present in all Dene Sųłiné languages. The contrasts of tone, length and nasality are marked as follows, using the ’a’-symbol. The Dene Sųłiné languages are 'low tone marked' languages. 

  • aa   Long vowel  
  • ą     Nasal vowel  
  • á     High vowel    (Low tone is unmarked)
  • ą́     High nasal vowel  
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Rice, Sally. Dene Suline Dictionary, Grammar, and Text Project. Online information: Department of Linguistics, University of Alberta.

Cook, Eung-Do. (2004). A Grammar of Dëne Sųłiné (Chipewyan). Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics - Special Athabaskan Number, Memoir 17. Winnipeg: Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics. ISBN 0-921064-17-9.

Li, Fang-Kuei. (1946). Chipewyan. In C. Osgood & H. Hoijer (Eds.), Linguistic Structures of Native America (pp. 398–423). New York: The Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology (No. 6). (Reprinted 1963, 1965, 1967, & 1971, New York: Johnson Reprint Corp.).

Mithun, Marianne (1999). The languages of native North America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Eung-Do Cook has two resources available on the open web.

  • A set of index cards an English-Chipewyan Dictionary made available at the University of Calgary. It features animal names, tools, clothing, body parts, people, plants, weather, food, colors, and seasons.
  • Sarcee Grammar published in 1984 in Vancouver, British Columbia by University of British Columbia Press

Harvey, Chris (2012) LanguageGeek [website] from http://www.languagegeek.com/

See also Language Materials

denespeechatlas@rochester.edu  © Joyce McDonough 2012