The Northern Straits Salish Language

Northern Straits Salish is a single language consisting of a number of dialects on Southern Vancouver Island and in Washington State. Ts'ooke, Semiahmoo, and Songish are extinct. Lummi, spoken in Washington State, Saanich and Samish still have a few speakers. The term Northern Straits Salish is used to distinguish this language from Klallam, another Salishan language spoken in the same area which is different enough that it is considered to be a distinct language.

Northern Straits Salish has no generally accepted traditional name, though some speakers now use the term /ɬək'wəŋínəŋ/, which traditionally refers specifically to Songish, for the language as a whole. Since its speakers do not form a political unit, it cannot be given a name on that basis. Some Saanich speakers call their language SENĆOŦEN. SENCOTEN is an adaptation of this to the standard Roman alphabet.

As the name suggests, Straits Salish is a Salishan language.

Tim Montler, a linguist who works on the Saanich dialect, maintains a web site containing a great deal of information. His web site includes his dissertation on the phonology and morphology of Saanich and a word list.


Yinka Déné Language Institute © 2006