This article is about the Salish/Salishan language. For the Tacoma, Washington, neighbourhood, see Salishan, Tacoma, Washington.

The Salishan (also Salish) languages are a group of languages of western Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. They are characterised by agglutinativity and astonishing consonant clusters—for instance the Nuxálk word xłp̓x̣ʷłtłpłłskʷc̓ (IPA: [xɬpʼχʷɬtɬpɬːskʷʦʼ]) meaning 'he had had a bunchberry plant' has 13 consonants in a row with no vowels.
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Pre-contact distribution of Salishan languages (in red)

The terms Salish and Salishan are used interchangeably by Salishan linguists and anthropologists. The name Salish is actually the autonym of Flathead Nation. The name was later extended by linguists to refer to other related languages. Many languages do not have self-designations and instead have specific names for local dialects as the local group was more important culturally than larger tribal relations.

All Salishan languages are endangered—some extremely so with only three or four speakers left. Practically all languages only have speakers who are over sixty years of age, and many languages only have speakers over eighty.

Family division

The Salishan language family consists of twenty-three languages. Below is a list of Salishan languages, dialects, and sub-dialects. This list is a linguistic classification that may not correspond to political divisions. Many Salishan groups consider their variety of speech to be a separate language rather than a dialect.

I. Bella Coola
1. Nuxálk (a.k.a. Bella Coola, Salmon River)
:* Kimsquit
:* Bella Coola
:* Kwatna
:* Tallheo

II. Coast Salish

A. Central Coast Salish (a.k.a. Central Salish)
: 2. Comox
::* Comox (a.k.a. Qʼómox̣ʷs)
::* Sliammon (Homalco-Klahoose-Sliammon) (a.k.a. ʔayʔaǰúθəm)
: 3. Halkomelem
:: Island (a.k.a. Hulʼq̱ʼumiʼnumʼ, həl̕q̓əmín̓əm̓)
::* Cowichan
::* Snuneymuxw/Nanaimo
:: Downriver (a.k.a. Hunqʼumʔiʔnumʔ)
::* Katzie
::* Kwantlen
::* Musqueam
:: Upriver (a.k.a. Upper Sto:lo, Halqʼəméyləm)
::* Chehalis (Canada)
::* Chilliwack
::* Tait
::* Skway
: 4. Lushootseed (a.k.a. Puget Salish, Skagit-Nisqually, DxʷləšÃºcid)
:: Northern
::* Skagit (a.k.a. Skaǰət)
::* Snohomish (a.k.a. Sduhubš)
:: Southern
::* Duwamish-Suquamish (a.k.a. Dxʷduʔabš)
::* Puyallup (a.k.a. Spuyaləpubš)
::* Nisqually (a.k.a. Sqʷaliʔabš)
: 5. Noxws'a7aq (a.k.a. Nooksack ɬə́čələsəm, ɬə́čælosəm) (†)
: 6. Pentlatch (a.k.a. Pənƛ̕áč) (†)
: 7. Sháshíshálh (a.k.a. Sechelt, Seshelt, Shashishalhem, šÃ¡šÃ­šÃ¡ɬəm)
: 8. Sḵwxwú7mesh snichim (a.k.a. Squamish, Sqwxwu7mish, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, sqʷx̣ʷúʔməš)
: i. Straits Salish group (a.k.a. Straits)
:: 9. Klallam (a.k.a. Clallam, Nəxʷsƛ̕áy̓emúcən)
:::* Becher Bay
:::* Eastern
:::* Western
:: 10. Northern Straits (a.k.a. Straits)
:::* Lummi (a.k.a. Xwlemiʼchosen, xʷləmiʔčósən) (†)
:::* Saanich (a.k.a. SENĆOŦEN, sənčáθən, sénəčqən)
:::* Samish (a.k.a. Siʔneməš)
:::* Semaihmoo (a.k.a. Tah-tu-lo) (†)
:::* Sooke (a.k.a. Tʼsou-ke, c̓awk) (†)
:::* Songhees (a.k.a. Lək̓ʷəŋín̓əŋ) (†)
: 11. Twana (a.k.a. Skokomish, Sqʷuqʷúʔbəšq, Tuwáduqutšad) (†)
::* Quilcene
::* Skokomish (a.k.a. Sqʷuqʷúʔbəšq)

B. Tsamosan (a.k.a. Olympic)
: i. Inland
:: 12. Cowlitz (a.k.a. Lower Cowlitz, Sƛ̕púlmš) (†)
:: 13. Upper Chehalis (a.k.a. Q̉ʷay̓áyiɬq̉) (†)
:::* Oakville Chehalis
:::* Satsop
:::* Tenino Chehalis
: ii. Maritime
:: 14. Lower Chehalis (a.k.a. ɬəw̓ál̕məš) (†)
:::* Humptulips
:::* Westport-Shoalwater
:::* Wynoochee
:: 15. Quinault (a.k.a. Kʷínayɬ)
:::* Queets
:::* Quinault

C. Tillamook
: 16. Tillamook (a.k.a. Hutyéyu) (†)
:: Siletz
::* Siletz
:: Tillamook
::* Garibaldi-Nestucca
::* Nehalem

III. Interior Salish

A. Northern
: 17. Shuswap (a.k.a. Secwepemctsín, səxwəpməxcín)
:: Eastern
::* Kinbasket
::* Shuswap Lake
:: Western
::* Canim Lake
::* Chu Chua
::* Deadman's Creek-Kamloops
::* Fraser River
::* Pavilion-Bonaparte
: 18. Stʼatʼimcets (a.k.a. Lillooet, Lilloet, St'át'imcets)
::* Lillooet-Fountain
::* Mount Currie-Douglas
: 19. Thompson River Salish (a.k.a. Nlakaʼpamux, Ntlakapmuk, nɬeʔkepmxcín, Thompson River, Thompson Salish, Thompson, known in frontier times as the Hakamaugh, Klackarpun, Couteau or Knife Indians)
::* Lytton
::* Nicola Valley
::* Spuzzum-Boston Bar
::* Thompson Canyon

B. Southern
: 20. Coeur d’Alene (a.k.a. Snchitsuʼumshtsn, snčícuʔumšcn)
: 21. Columbian (a.k.a. Columbia, Nxaʔamxcín)
::* Chelan
::* Entiat
::* Moses-Columbia
::* Wenatchee (a.k.a. Pesquous)
: 22. Colville-Okanagan (a.k.a. Okanagan, Nsilxcín, Nsíylxcən, ta nukunaqínxcən)
:: Northern
::* Quilchena & Spaxomin [1]
::* Head of the Lakes
::* Penticton
::* Similkameen
::* Vernon
:: Southern
::* Lakes-Colville-Inchelium
::* Methow
::* San Poil-Nespelem
::* Southern Okanogan
: 23. Spokane-Kalispel-Flathead (a.k.a. Kalispel)
::* Flathead (a.k.a. Séliš)
::* Kalispel (a.k.a. Qalispé)
:::* Chewelah
:::* Kalispel
:::* Pend d’Oreile
::* Spokane (a.k.a. Npoqínišcn)
Pentlatch, Nooksack, Twana, Lower Chehalis, Upper Chehalis, Cowlitz, and Tillamook are now extinct. Additionally, the Lummi, Semiahmoo, Songhees, and Sooke dialects of Northern Straits are also extinct.

Genetic relations

No relationship to any other language is well established. The most plausible connection is with the language isolate Kutenai (Kootenai), which is generally considered not unlikely but not solidly established.

Edward Sapir suggested that the Salishan languages may be related to the Wakashan and Chimakuan languages in a hypothetical Mosan family. This proposal persists primarily due to Sapir's stature. There is little evidence for it and no progress has been made in reconstructing such a family.

The Salishan languages, principally Chehalis, contributed greatly to the vocabulary of the Chinook Jargon.

Family features

External links


  • Bibliography of the Salishan Languages. Gardners Books, 2007. ISBN 9781430469278
  • Boas, Franz, et al. Folk-Tales of Salishan and Sahaptin Tribes. Memoirs of the American Folk-lore Society, 11. Lancaster, Pa: American Folk-Lore Society, 1917.
  • Czaykowska-Higgins, Ewa; & Kinkade, M. Dale (Eds.). (1997). Salish languages and linguistics: Theoretical and descriptive perspectives. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-015492-7.
  • Flathead Culture Committee. Common Names of the Flathead Language. St. Ignatius, Mont: The Committee, 1981.
  • Kroeber, Paul D. (1999). The Salish language family: Reconstructing syntax. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press in cooperation with the American Indian Studies Research Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington.
  • Kuipers, Aert H. Salish Etymological Dictionary. Missoula, MT: Linguistics Laboratory, University of Montana, 2002. ISBN 1879763168
  • Liedtke, Stefan. Wakashan, Salishan and Penutian and Wider Connections Cognate Sets. Linguistic data on diskette series, no. 09. M unchen: Lincom Europa,z\v1995, 1995''.
  • Pilling, James Constantine. Bibliography of the Salishan Languages. Washington: G.P.O., 1893.
  • Thompson, Laurence C. (1973). The northwest. In T. A. Sebeok (Ed.), Linguistics in North America (pp. 979-1045). Current trends in linguistics (Vol. 10). The Hague: Mouton.
  • Thompson, Laurence C. (1979). Salishan and the northwest. In L. Campbell & M. Mithun (Eds.), The languages of native America: Historical and comparative assessment (pp. 692-765). Austin: University of Texas Press.
Salishan is a diverse but impoverished neighbourhood of Tacoma, Washington, originally created as World War II housing project. It is located on Tacoma's eastside.


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Pacific Northwest, abbreviated PNW, or PacNW is a region in the northwest of North America. There are several partially overlapping definitions but the term Pacific Northwest should not be confused with the Northwest Territory (aka the Great Northwest) or the
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"In God We Trust"   (since 1956)
"E Pluribus Unum"   ("From Many, One"; Latin, traditional)
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agglutination is the morphological process of adding affixes to the base of a word. Languages that use agglutination widely are called agglutinative languages. These languages are often contrasted with fusional languages and isolating languages.
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consonant is a sound in spoken language that is characterized by a closure or stricture of the vocal tract sufficient to cause audible turbulence. The word consonant
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Nuxálk (also Bella Coola) is a Salishan language spoken in the vicinity of the Canadian town Bella Coola, British Columbia by approximately 20-30 elders. Until recently, the language was also called Bella Coola, but the native designation Nuxálk
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Autonym may refer to
  • an endonym, the self-assigned name of an ethnic group
  • autonym (botany), an automatically created infraspecific name

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Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation are the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai and Pend d'Oreilles Tribes. There is also the Chinook tribe. The Flatheads lived between the Cascade Mountains and Rocky Mountains.
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An endangered language is a language with so few surviving speakers that it is in danger of falling out of use. If it loses all of its native speakers, it becomes an extinct language.
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A dialect (from the Greek word διάλεκτος, dialektos) is a variety of a language characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers.
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Nuxálk (also Bella Coola) is a Salishan language spoken in the vicinity of the Canadian town Bella Coola, British Columbia by approximately 20-30 elders. Until recently, the language was also called Bella Coola, but the native designation Nuxálk
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Coast Salish refers to a cultural or ethnographic designation of a subgroup of the First Nations or Native American cultures in British Columbia and Washington who speak one of the Coast Salish languages or
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Halkomelem (also Halq'eméylem, Hul'qumi'num', and Hǝn'q'ǝmin'ǝm') is a Coast Salishan language of the First Nations around the Fraser River and the southern end of Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
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The Snuneymuxw First Nation (pronounced [snʊˈneɪməxʷ]) is the band government of the Snuneymux of west-central Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
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The Katzie Nation are based in Pitt Meadows B.C. and on Barnston Island and at Yorkson Creek in Langley, British Columbia. They traditionally speak the Upriver dialect of Halkomelem, one of the Salishan family of languages of the Coast Salish peoples.
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Kwantlen generally refers to one of the following:
  • Kwantlen First Nation, a First Nation in British Columbia
  • Kwantlen Student Association, a students' union representing students at Kwantlen University College

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The Musqueam Indian Band is a First Nations government in the Canadian province of British Columbia, and is the only Indian band whose reserve lies within the boundaries of the City of Vancouver.
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Tait may refer to:
  • Tait (surname), a Scottish surname
  • Tait (band), a Christian band started by Michael Tait of dc Talk and Chad Chapin
  • Michael Tait, member of Christian rock group dc Talk and founder of the band Tait

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Lushootseed (also xʷəlšucid, dxʷləšÃºcid, Puget Salish, Puget Sound Salish, Skagit-Nisqually) is the language or dialect continuum of several Salish Native American groups of modern-day Washington state.
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Skagit (pronounced /ˈskæʤɪt/, or approximately "skajit") refers to two groups of Native American people living in the state of Washington, the Upper Skagit and the Lower Skagit.
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Snohomish is the name of a tribe of Native Americans who reside around the Puget Sound area of Washington, north of Seattle. The Snohomish language belongs to the Salishan family.
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Puyallup are a Native American tribe from western Washington state, U.S.A. They settled onto reservation lands in what is today Tacoma, Washington, in late 1854, after signing the Treaty of Medicine Creek.
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Nisqually may refer to:
  • Nisqually River, located in Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
  • Nisqually (tribe), a Native American tribe
  • Nisqually, a computer puzzle game named after the Nisqually earthquake
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The Noxws'a7aq language, also known as the Nooksack language, is a Coast Salish language spoken by the Noxws'a7aq people of northwestern Washington state in the United States, centred in Whatcom County.
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The Pentlatch or Puntlatch language is a Salishan language that was spoken on Canada's Vancouver Island in a small area between Comox and Campbell River, British Columbia. Pentlatch became extinct in the 1940s.
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The Sháshíshálh language, also called Shashishalhem and the Sechelt language, is a Coast Salish language spoken by the Shishalh (Sechelt) people of southwestern British Columbia, Canada, centred on their reserve communities in the Sechelt Peninsula area of the
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Klallam or Clallam (native name: Nəxʷsƛ̕ay̕əmúcən) is a nearly extinct Straits Salishan language that was traditionally spoken by the Klallam peoples at Becher Bay on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and
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North Straits Salish is a Salishan language which includes the dialects of Lummi, Samish, Saanich, Semiahmoo, Songish, and Sooke. Although they are mutually intelligible, each dialect is traditionally referred to as if they were separate
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