Northern Athabaskan

The Northern Athabaskan Languages are a group of indigenous languages spoken by the Athabaskan people in Alaska and western Canada.

It includes languages such as Dena’ina, Deg Xinag, Gwich’in, Han, Holikachuk, Koyukon, Upper Kuskokwim, and Tanana.

Northern Athabaskan Language Tree

The language tree for Northern Athabaskan Language comprises the Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit language family, which includes Eyak, Tlingit, and Athabaskan languages.

In the past, Northern Athabaskan Languages were spoken in various regions of Alaska and western Canada. The Athabaskan people have lived in these areas for thousands of years, and their languages have evolved over time.

Where it is spoken today

Today, the Northern Athabaskan Languages are still spoken in Alaska and western Canada, particularly in rural areas. However, the number of fluent speakers has decreased significantly over the years, and many of the languages are endangered.

Northern Athabascan Alphabet

The Northern Athabaskan languages have a written alphabet with various symbols representing vowel and consonant sounds.

For instance, in the Tanana language, the letter “d” represents the sound /tʰ/, while “ts” represents the sound /t͡s/. The letter “a” represents the vowel sound /a/, while “e” represents the vowel sound /ɛ/. There are some special instructions for pronouncing certain letters, but these can vary depending on the specific language.

Number of fluent speakers

The exact number of fluent speakers of Northern Athabaskan Languages is difficult to determine.

According to the Alaska Native Language Center, as of 2010, there were approximately 200 speakers of Dena’ina, 1 speaker of Deg Xinag, 300 speakers of Gwich’in, 20 speakers of Han, 50 speakers of Holikachuk, 300 speakers of Koyukon, 10 speakers of Upper Kuskokwim, and 200 speakers of Tanana.

Here are some words in the Tanana language and their English translations:

  • Degh: Water
  • Gheen: Earth
  • Nee’: Moose
  • Tr’eeg: Caribou
  • Tl’oo: Fish

Online Translation Tools and Dictionaries

There are several online translation tools and dictionaries for the  Northern Athabaskan Languages.

Tanacross Online Dictionary – The Tanacross Learner’s Dictionary is intended as a reference for anyone wanting to learn the spoken language. Words are organized by English headword.

Beginning Tanacross (PDF file)

Gwich’in Language AppGwich’in Alpha offers language learning, practice, games and quizzes in many everyday categories such as food, actions, commands, family, land and environment and people.

Alaskan Native Languages Apps, Fonts, and Keyboards  

Dena’ina Qenaga Du’ixange’

Gwich’in Language Dictionary



Article Index:

Bear River Indians

The Bear River Indians belongs to the Athapascan linguistic family, and were most closely connected with the Mattole, Sinkyone, and Nongatl tribes to the south and east.