The language of the Dene Sųłiné or Dene yatié is spoken by the people of Łue Chok Tué. It is referred to by linguists as an Athabascan language and is related to many other languages of North America. These languages are spread over northern and western Canada, Alaska, along the west coast of Oregon & California and into southwestern United States.
The Dene Sųłiné occupy a large triangular shaped region with the northeast corner at Tadoule Lake, Manitoba westward to the south shores of Great Slave Lake and south to Łue Chok Tué in Alberta. There are about eight or nine dialects with the greatest distinction being between the ‘t’ and ‘k’ dialects. The majority of speakers speak the ‘t’ dialect as do the people of Łue Chok Tué.
The language spoken at Łue Chok Tué is considered as perhaps the most conservative dialect of Dene Sųłiné. These speakers continue to maintain many of the speech sounds and generally use longer more conservative forms of the language. However, the number of speakers at Łue Chok Tué has declined rapidly over the past 50 years and the youngest speakers are now 50 years and over. As of this writing in 2006,there are probably about 150 speakers left. This First Voices on-line archive project is one of many ways the language is being documented in an effort to preserve this valuable indigenous knowledge.
Dene Speech Sounds
The Dene language has a large inventory of speech sounds with 34 consonants and 20 vowels including high tone and nasal vowels. Because it is also a tone language, some words can sound very similar but depending on whether the vowel is pronounced as a high tone or not the meaning of the word changes.
In regards to the written history of Dene Sųłiné, there are a few writing systems that have been used. An Oblate priest, Fr. Laurent LeGoff, was an early missionary who lived among the Dene of Łue Chok Tué and developed a writing system which was used to publish religious materials. He also wrote a bilingual French-Dene grammar. The religious material is still in use by some of the older speakers who can read this writing system.
Another missionary, Leon Bud Elford of the Northern Evangelical Mission, also developed a writing system and published some materials in the Dene language. His data collection was done here at Łue Chok Tué in the 60’s and 70’s.
The most recent writing system in use at Łue Chok Tué is the one that will be used on this site. It was developed by Valerie Wood and Sally Rice as part of the work of the Daghida Project and differs slightly from the writing system which is used in Saskatchewan and is probably most consistent with the one used in N.W.T. Not many people are literate in the Dene language at Łue Chok Tué and literacy development is still in progress.
The acquisition of new keyboard technology and fonts will enhance this area of language preservation work.
NEWS & UPDATES:
Ernest Ennow passed away May, 2008 after a lengthy battle with cancer. The community has indeed experienced a great loss with his passing. Ernest was always involved and dedicated to the work of Dene language preservation.
Questions regarding the information on this site may be directed to Valerie Wood.
This information has been updated July 8, 2008.Note: Once you have downloaded the keyboards, you will also need to access fonts from www.languagegeek.com You may choose from a number of Aboriginal fonts on this site. Aboriginal Sans is recommended but there are a couple of others that work.