Na-Dene Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Na-Dene Languages


a family of American Indian languages in Alaska, Canada, and the western and southern USA, including (1) Haida (Queen Charlotte Islands and southern Alaska) and the Dene-Tlingit languages—Tlingit, or Koluschan (Alaska and British Columbia); and (2) the Eyak-Athapaskan language group, which consists of Eyak (Alaska) and the Athapaskan languages.

The Na-Dene languages have a rich system of consonants, including glottalized, lateral fricative, and uvular consonants. The well-developed system of affricates in some Na-Dene languages includes the dental affricates tθ, ţθ, and , and also lateral affricates. Tlingit and some of the Athapaskan languages (Apache, Kutchin, Sarsi, Chipewyan) have phonological tones. The Na-Dene languages are agglutinative, with analytical elements (for example, in the expression of case relations), partly with internal inflection (in the verb in Haida and several Athapaskan languages). The inclusion within the verbal word (in some languages) of lexical or incompletely grammaticized morphemes together with the root can be interpreted as incorporation. The word preserves clear traces of a change from a combination of words to a morphological whole. A system of noun classes expressed by verbal prefixes (such as a classification of objects primarily on the basis of form and external similarity) is well developed in some languages, among them Haida.


Boas, F. Handbook of American Indian Languages, part 1. Washington, 1911.
Pinnow, H. J. Grundzüge einer historischen Lautlehre des Tlingit. Wiesbaden, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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