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Tahltan Language

CHAPTER ONE: Lesson 2

Task One: Tahltan Consonants

 The second task of lesson one will contribute to:

  • Building a vocabulary by studying the Tałtan consonants in conjunction with an example Tałtan word and it’s meaning.

There are approximately thirty-six consonants in the Tałtan alphabet. Following are examples of each, along with the English equivalent / description, an example word and the meaning. For pronunciation reference click the example Tahltan word.

Letter                     English equivalent / description               Example                              Meaning

b                           Same as b in big                                    bede                                   food

ch                         Same as ch in church                              chime                                 son

ch’                        Same as ch but done with glottal              ch’iyōne                              wolf

d                           Same as d in did                                     de’e                                   give it here

dl                          No English equivalent                              dlū’ān                                flu, he caught

dz                         Same as ds in pads                                 dzā ‘at’ē                             bad, it is

dz                         No English equivalent                              dz                                   mountain

g                           Same as g in good                                  gah                                    beside

gh                         Same as g but a softer sound                   ghah                                 because

h                           Same as h in head                                  hodedē                             she/he talks

j                            Same as j or dg in judge                          ja’at’e                               this is

k                           Same as k in keep                                  kadīnya                              you go get

k’                          Same as k but done with a glottal             k’aji                                  again

kh                         Similar to k but softer in sound                khadi                                 hurry

l                            Same as l in large                                  la’                                      hand

ł                            No English equivalent                             łagu                                   stop it / quit

m                          Same as m in mother                            meneslīn                             I like

n                           Same as n in not                                  nin’ān                                 you put it

nh                          No English equivalent                             ninh’īn                                look!

p                            Same as p in pup                                  espāne                                my friend

s                           Same as s in see                                   soga                                   well  

s                           Same as th in thin or s in sin                  sindah                                sit down!

sh                         Same as sh in shoot                             desh                               (s)he went

t                           Same as t in tell                                    tū                                      water

t’                          Same as t but done with a glottal           ast’e                                   I am feeling

tl                          No English equivalent                             tli’                                     dog

tl’                         No English equivalent                              tl’ā                                   after

ts                         Same as ts in cats                                  tsīni                                  be quiet

ts’                         Same as ts but done with a glottal            ts’ots                                 blow fly

ts                         No English equivalent                              tsē                                     rock

ts                         Same as ts but done with a glottal            tsadi                                 sweetheart

w                         Same as w in wash                               wāshmān                             police

y                          Same as y in yes                                   yēda                                    what/how

yh                        No English equivalent                             tleyh                                   grease

z                            Same as z in zoo                                   in-zike ost’ini                        let me help you

z                          Same as th in then                                zuł                                     empty

Learn the thirty-six consonants and then move on to the next lesson.

The example word ‘espāne’ for the letter ‘p’ is not truly a Tałtan word. Rather, it is modified/adapted version of the English word ‘partner’. The adaptation of this word is the result of apllying Tałtan linguistical rules to English. In the Tałtan language clusters of three consonant are not tolerated in the middle of Tałtan words. Therefore, in the word  'partner' our ancestors removed the 't' from the middle of the word resulting in the the word 'parner'. Secondly, the letter 'r' is non-existant in our language so they removed the 'r' from the middle and the end of the word and they lengthened the first vowel resulting in the adapted version ‘pāne’ which means friend. Then they added first person possessive prefix ‘es’ meaning ‘my’ to the word ’pāne’ and they got the word ‘es-pāne’ meaning ‘my friend’. Adapting words from a foreign language as this example demonstrate is called a ’cognate’ - es-pāne is a cognate derived from English.


Understanding, speaking and eventually teaching Tałtan is depended on a number of important factors which include;

  • learning the newly developed writing system and using the ‘language on a day-to-day basis. Thus, it must be stressed that it is of utmost importance to fully understand the Tałtan Alphabet and writing system (to aid in visualization of new words);
  • use the words and phrases learned on a regular basis;
  • and work with the speakers of the language in the community as much as possible. 

In my experience the speakers of our Indigenous language are always willing to teach a lesson or word when approached.
Good luck and practice hard.

Tałtan Language Program
Tahltan Central Government
PO Box 69
Tatl’ah (Dease), BC VOC 1L0
Phone: (250) 771-32274


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