Fun Words in Lingít (Tlingit)

Last summer I wrote a post about the Tlingit language (Lingít), my interest in it, and my hope for its resurgence. In the fall while in France, I mentioned the Sealaska Heritage Foundation's creation of a new online flash application for learning the Tlingit alphabet. Then just a few months ago I discovered there is a Tlingit dictionary available for PDF download. There's also a dictionary in Haida (X̱aad kíl) as well, one of Southeast Alaska's other Native languages. Using these sorts of resources, I've learned a few more words in Lingít than I've ever known before. Now I'd like to share some fun ones with you, and be sure to go back to the alphabet flash application whenever you need pronunciation help.

carving of ch'áak' on the outside of the Center
aáa - yes
ch'áak' - eagle
hít - house
ḵa - and
kéet - killer whale
keitl - dog
kootéeyaa - totem pole (gyáa'aang in Haida)
laax̱ - red cedar
naaxein - Chilkat blanket
náxw - halibut hook
s'igeidí - beaver
shákw - strawberry
taan - sea lion
tléik' - no
Waashdan Ḵwáan - Americans
x̱áat - salmon (general)
xíxch' - frog
xóots - grizzly bear
yéil - raven

kéet
Most of these words apply in some way to my current work at Ketchikan's Totem Heritage Center, a wonderful museum holding the largest collection of 19th century totem poles in the world. For example, I now know the Tlingit words for all the animals on our five main standing poles: ch'áak', s'igeidí, taan, xíxch', xóots, and kéet. Granted, three of the five are Haida poles, but I think I had better focus on a single language. Trying to understand all of Lingít's unique sounds is a lot of work, and mastering the language would likely take a lifetime of practice. Still, I feel good to have learned a few words so far, and I hope to share them with visitors, increasing their knowledge of this wonderful language.

Comments