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Kutenai language

Native to Canada, United States
Region British Columbia, Montana, Idaho
Ethnicity Ktunaxa
Native speakers
110  (2011)[1]
Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-2 kut
ISO 639-3 kut
Glottolog kute1249[2]
Kutenai language

The Kutenai language (), also Kootenai, Kootenay and Ktunaxa, is named after and is spoken by some of the Kutenai Native American/First Nations people who are indigenous to the area of North America that is now Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia.[3]


  • Classification 1
  • Current status 2
  • History of description 3
  • Sounds 4
    • Consonant phonemes 4.1
    • Vowel phonemes 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8
    • Ktunaxa language learning resources 8.1


Kutenai is [4] Another typological analysis investigates the lexical category of preverbs in Kutenai. This lexical category is distinctive of neighboring Algonquian languages which are located just on the other side of the Kootenay mountains, neighboring the Kutenai linguistic area.[5] Another typological relationship Kutenai could have is the presence of its obviation system.[6]

Current status

The 2002 US Census counted 6 Kutenai speakers in the United States and the 2011 Canadian Census counted 100 speakers.[1]

As of 2012, an active revitalization effort has taken hold in Canada,[3] using modern technologies and the FirstVoices website.[7][8]

History of description

The first grammar of Kutenai, by Roman Catholic missionary Philippo Canestrelli, was published in 1894 in Latin.[9]

Paul L. Garvin did various descriptive work describing the phonemics, morphology, and syllabification in Ktunaxa. He also has two sources of transcriptions of speakers talking.[10][11]

In 1991 Lawrence Richard Morgan wrote a description of the Kutenai Language as his PhD dissertation through the grammatical particle, morpheme, and affix with their respective environments and their varying forms.[12]


Consonant phonemes

Kutenai has no phonemic distinction between [4]
Labial Dental Lateral Palatal Velar Uvular Laryngeal Labiovelar
Stops p [p] t [t̪] k [k] q [q] ʔ [ʔ]
Affricate ȼ [ts]
Ejectives [pʼ] [tʼ] [kʼ] [qʼ]
Ejective Affricate ȼʼ [tsʼ]
Fricatives s [s] [ɬ] x [χ] h [h]
Nasals m [m] n [n]
Syllabic Nasals [m̩] [n̩]
Approximants y [j] w [w]

Vowel phonemes

Vowels in Ktunaxa are also contrastive in regards to length. An example of a minimal pair are the words for 'really, just about, nearly' [tuχa] and 'really, real, sure' [tuːχa].
Front Back
High i [i] u [u]
Low a [a]

See also


  1. ^ a b Kutenai at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kutenai". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b "Canada: The Ktunaxa - Living the Language". Al Jazeera English. 2012-05-02. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Morgan 1991
  5. ^ Dryer 2002
  6. ^ Dryer 2007
  7. ^ "FirstVoices: Ktunaxa Community Portal". Retrieved 2012-07-08. 
  8. ^ "British Columbia aboriginal communities using technology to bring endangered languages back from the brink -". The Star (Toronto). 2012-05-04. Retrieved 2012-07-08. 
  9. ^ Canestrelli, Philippo (1894). Grammar of the Kutenai Language. Retrieved 2010-11-15. 
  10. ^ Garvin 1948
  11. ^ Garvin 1953
  12. ^ Morgan


  • Campbell, Lyle (1997) American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Dryer, Matthew S (2002) A Comparison of Preverbs in Kutenai and Algonquian. In Proceedings of the Thirtieth Algonquian Conference, edited by David Pentland, pp. 63–94. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba.
  • Dryer, Matthew S. (2007) Kutenai, Algonquian, and the Pacific Northwest from an areal perspective. In Proceedings of the Thirty-Eighth Algonquian Conference, edited by H. C. Wolfart, pp. 155–206. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba.
  • Dryer, Matthew S (1991). "Proceedings of the Hokan-Penutian Workshop". American Indian Languages Conferences. Occasional papers in linguistics. Volume 16.  
  • Mithun, Marianne (2000) The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7
  • Morgan, Lawrence Richard (1991) A Description of the Kutenai Language. University of California, Berkeley. Unpublished.

External links

  • First Nations Languages of British Columbia Ktunaxa page
  • Ktunaxa language at
  • Resources in and about the Kutenai language at

Ktunaxa language learning resources

  • FirstVoices: Ktunaxa Community Portal online spoken dictionary, phrasebook, and language learning games
  • First Voices Language Tutor online course
  • wupnik' natanik, "new + times = technology"
  • Ktunaxa app, for iPhone
  • Kootenai Culture Committee of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Ksanka ʼA·kłukaqwum = Kootenai Dictionary. Elmo, Mont: Kootenai Culture Committee, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, 1999.
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