The Sounds of
other Salishan languages, has a very large inventory of sounds, half of
which do not occur in English. This makes Halkomelem difficult for English
speakers to learn and also presents difficults in representing Halkomelem
words on the standard keyboard.
The vowel system, containing only 6 vowels,
is relatively simple: high front < i >, non-high front < e >, mid central
(schwa) < u >, high back < oo >, mid back < o >, and low< a >.
* Vowels can be short or long. Long vowels are followed by a colon < V:>.
* Schwa < u > is the most commonly occurring vowel. It is pronounced as
[U] between rounded consonants. In Downriver and Upriver dialects it is
frequently pronounced as [I] between alveolar and palatal sounds.
* The non-high front vowel, represented here as < e >, shows a great deal
of variation, dialect-to-dialect, speaker-to-speaker, and word-to-word.
It is pronounced variously as [e], [E], and [ae].
* < oo > (phonetically [u]), is extremely rare, appearing in only a few
borrowings from English, French, and Chinook Jargon.
* < o > is also rare.
* Vowels do not appear word-initially but may be preceded by a glottal
stop < ' >. * In Island and Downriver Halkomelem, stress usually appears
on the first vowel other than < i > and schwa, if there is one, otherwise
on the first < i >, otherwise on the first schwa.
* In addition, some suffixes draw stress. * Upriver Halkomelem has developed
a pitch-accent system.
* Due to limitations on available characters, stress is not represented
The consonant system is extremely complicated.
There are 36 consonants (see the chart of consonants).
* All of the obstruents (stops and fricatives) are voiceless.
* The stops (except for /tl'/) occur both plain and glottalized.
* Glottalized sounds are produced by making a glottal stop at the same
time as the sound. You may hear a soft little pop accompanying these sounds.
* The dental, lateral, sibilant, and palatal stops < tth, th', tl', c,
c', ch, ch' > are phonetically affricates; these are released with frication.
* Laterals include a lateral fricative < lh > and a lateral affricate
< tl' >.
* Places of articulation for stops are: bilabial < p, p' >, dental < tth,
th' >, alveolar < t, t', tl', c, c' >, palatal < ch, ch' >, velar < k,
k' >, uvular < q, q' >, and glottal < ' >.
* Places of articulation for fricatives are: dental < th >, alveolar <
s, lh >, palatal < sh >, (strongly palatalized) velar < x >, uvular <
xh >, and glottal < h >.
* Velar and uvular stops and fricatives also have labialized counterparts
< kw, kw', qw', qw', xw, xhw >. These are produced with rounded lips.
* Resonants are plain < m, n, l, y, w > or glottalized < m', n', l', y',
* A glottalized resonant is phonetically realized as a sequence of resonant
plus glottal stop [R'] in word final position.
* When a glottalized resonant appears next to a full vowel (any vowel
but schwa), it is realized as [V'R] or [R'V].
* When a glottalized resonant appears next to a schwa, it is realized
as [uR'], ['Ru], or [uR'Ru].
* Halkomelem allows complex sequences of consonants.
There is no standard way of representing
all dialects of the Halkomelem language. The system we use here is a compromise
based on previous orthographies and limitations imposed by the World Wide
Web. (See the chart on Comparing Orthographies.)
In academic publications, linguists tend
to use phonetic symbols to represent Halkomelem. The symbols of the International
Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) are usually adapted for use for northwest languages
(NW), since the IPA lacks unitary symbols for some sounds commonly occurring
in this region. Three Downriver groups, Katzie, Musqueam, and Tsawwassen,
also use phonetic symbols.
Some groups have practical orthographies.
For Island Halkomelem, the Cowichan Tribe have adopted one orthography,
while another orthography (Island) has been adopted by the Chemainus,
Nanaimo, Nanoose, and Penehalut First Nations. Upriver Halkomelem (Sto:lo)
uses a different orthography.
The orthography we have developed here avoids
the use of diacritics or underlining so that it can be used on the web.
Our orthography introduces one new feature, using < xh > for the uvular
fricative. We have followed the Island and Cowichan practice of representing
schwa as < u > (rather than as < e > in Sto:lo).
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience
that the use of this orthography may cause speakers or learners of the
language. We hope that better means of representing symbols will become
available for the web soon. At that time, we will try to update the site
to include renditions of the Halkomelem words in local orthographies.
Halkomelem is a polysynthetic language.
This means that many words of the language are made up of many different
parts, including a root and one or more prefixes and suffixes.
Some of the words referring to plants and
animals are simply roots. For example:
q'am' (IH) 'bulb kelp'
qe:lq (UH) 'wild rose'
xewuq (DH) 'carrot'
Most words are more complex.
* -ulhp is a suffix meaning 'plant or tree' that frequently occurs on
plants. The word without this suffix refers to the product (berry, fruit,
wood) or the plant. For example:
qel'q (IH) 'wild rose' qel'qulhp (IH) 'wild rose bush'
lila' (DH) 'salmonberry' lila'ulhp (DH) 'salmonberry bush'
t'ulum (UH) 'wild cherry bark' t'ulumulhp (UR) 'wild cherry tree'
xhpey' (DH) 'redcedar wood' xhpey'ulhp (DH) 'redcedar tree'
sch'i:ye (UH) 'strawberry' sch'iye:lhp (UH) 'strawberry plant'
* Some words have the suffix -ulhp, but the root to which it is attached
is no longer used as an independent word. For example:
me'xwulhp (IH) 'Labrador tea bush'
qa:nlhp (DH) 'arbutus'
qwa:pulhp (UH) 'devil's club'
* Some words are actually descriptions of some feature or use of the plant
or animal. We try to include literal meanings wherever possible. For example:
tuw'tuw'uluqup (IH) 'bracket fungus' means 'echo', literally 'throw the
voice (-uluqup) back'
tuxhwa'culhp (IH) 'yew tree', literally 'bow tree' (yew was used to make
tuxhwa' 'bow for shooting arrows')
sqw'uqwcus (IH) 'red huckleberry', literally 'beat hand' (the branches
of the huckleberry were hit with the hand or sticks to knock off berries)
t'ec'ulhp (DH) 'spirea/hardhack', literally 'stretcher-stick plant' (the
branches of the spirea were used to make te'c', sticks poked through salmon
to stretch them out for drying or barbecuing).
q'umululp (DH) 'maple', literally 'paddle wood' (maple was used to make
* Some plant names are actually phrases:
s'utl'qul tu kwasun (DH) 'puffball', literally 'dung of star'
slhewuls tu pipuha:m (UH) 'common plantain', literally 'frog's mat' (slhewul
is a traditional mat woven out of cattails or tules)
* Placenames often refer to a location where a plant or animal is especially
plentiful. These placenames are formed with the prefix xw- and/or the
suffix -um. For example:
Qualicum (xwqw'al'uxwum) 'place of the dog salmon', from qw'al'uxw 'dog
Snake Island (xw'ulhquy'um) 'snake place', from 'ulhquy' 'snake' [IH]
Musqueam (xwmuthkwuy'um) 'place of the plant muthkwuy' [DH]
Cheam (xwchi:ya:m) 'strawberry place', from shchi:ye 'strawberry' [UH]
xwsaxwulh 'grassy place', from saxwulh 'grass' [IH]
t'equ'um 'a good place for salal berries', from t'eqe 'salal berry' [DH]
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