|NWT Literacy Council||L a n g u a g e s o f t h e L a n d|
THE CHIPEWYAN LANGUAGE
The Chipewyan language is a traditional language in the Northwest Territories and in the northern parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. According to the 1996 Census, there are 1,305 people in Canada who list Chipewyan as their mother tongue. Of these, 515 live in the Northwest Territories. The majority of the NWT Chipewyan speakers live in the communities of (Fort Resolution), and (Fort Smith), which are relatively isolated from one another. Chipewyan is indigenous to all three of these communities.
The two main dialects of Chipewyan are the "k" and "t" dialects. is connected through the "k" dialect to the Chipewyan people of northern Saskatchewan. The communities of and tend to use the "t" dialect, which is more common in northern Alberta.
It is difficult to determine how many Chipewyan people (or people of Chipewyan heritage) actually live in Canada or the NWT because the Canada Census does not record this information.
According to the 1996 Canada Census, only 44% (or approximately four out of ten) people in the NWT who learned Chipewyan as their mother tongue now use it as the main language at home. This means that the number of children hearing and learning the Chipewyan language at home is less than half of the previous generation. Use of the language is obviously declining fairly rapidly.
This trend was also identified in Part 2 of the Language Report (1992). This study involved Chipewyan respondents from the communities of . According to this study:
Clearly, there has been a dramatic shift in Chipewyan language fluency within the three living generations grandparents to grandchildren.
Two issues that must be addressed in relation to retention and revitalization of the Chipewyan language are:
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