Babine-Witsuwit'en language

Babine–Witsuwit'en or Nadot’en-Wets’uwet’en is an Athabaskan language spoken in the Central Interior of British Columbia. Its closest relative is Carrier. Because of this linguistic relationship together with political and cultural ties, Babine–Witsuwit'en is often referred to as Northern Carrier or Western Carrier. Specialist opinion is, however, that it should be considered a separate, though related, language (Kari 1975, Story 1984, Kari and Hargus 1989).

A term used briefly in the 1990s is Bulkley Valley – Lakes District Language, abbreviated BVLD. Ethnologue uses the bare name Babine for the language as a whole, not just for the Babine dialect.

As its name suggests, Babine–Witsuwit'en consists of two main dialects, Babine (Nedut’en) and Witsuwit'en. Babine is spoken around Babine Lake, Trembleur Lake, and Takla Lake. Witsuwit'en is spoken in the Bulkley Valley, around Broman Lake, and in the vicinity of Skins Lake. The two dialects are very similar and are distinguished primarily by the fact that in Babine but not in Witsuwit'en the Athabaskan front velar series have become palatal affricates.

Like most languages native to British Columbia, Babine–Witsuwit'en is an endangered language. It is spoken by a minority of the population, primarily elders. There are 161 fluent and 159 partial speakers of the Babine dialect and 131 fluent and 61 partial speakers of the Witsuwit'en dialect. At most, a handful of children are still speaking the language.

Babine-Witsuwit'en is classified as Northern Athabaskan, in the same linguistic subgrouping as Dakelh and Chilcotin (though the latter is far more distinctly separate from Babine-Witsuwit'en).

Several non-specialist sources (the First Peoples' Heritage Language and Culture Council, the British Columbia Ministry of Education, and the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology) classify Witsuwit'en as one language and Babine as a distinct language, either on its own or together with Carrier proper under the name Dakelh. Experts on the languages reject this classification. All agree that the differences between Babine and Witsuwit'en are small and that the major split is between Babine and Witsuwit'en on the one hand and Carrier proper on the other hand. The distinction is because speakers of Babine and of Carrier proper call themselves and their language Dakelh but that speakers of Witsuwit'en do not.

This page was last edited on 28 August 2017, at 13:12.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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