Kwak̓wala is a Northern Wakashan language spoken along the Queen Charlotte Strait, north of Vancouver Island in Canada by the Kwakwaka'wakw, ("the people who speak the language Kwak̓wala"). According to the 2010 census, there are 585 speakers of Kwak̓wala, which is also written Kwak'wala, and used to be known as Kwakiutl. Most Kwak̓wala speakers are elderly, however efforts are being made to revitalize the language.
Kwak̓wala was first documented in the 18th century. More extensive documentation was produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially by Franz Boas and George Hunt. Boas and Hunt devised a way of writing Kwak̓wala, however it was difficult to use, as it included many diacritics and other special symbols. A more practical orthography was created by David Grubb, a Kwakwaka'wakw linguist. Today Kwak̓wala is usually written with an orthography developed by the U'mista Cultural Society, an organisation based in Alert Bay, British Columbia that aims to preserve Kwakwaka'wakw cultural heritage.
There are four dialects of Kwak̓wala: Kwak̓wala, ’Nak̓wala, G̱uc̓ala and T̓łat̓łasik̓wala. Some of the Kwakwaka'wakw also speak Liq'wala, which is considered a dialect of Kwak̓wala by some, and as a separate language by others. The standard way of writing Liq'wala differs significantly from the Kwak̓wala orthography.
Download an alphabet chart for Kwak̓wala (Excel)
La̱´maa̱n´s g̱wagwixs´alał lax̱ g̱wix´ida´as´wa̱łsa̱n gukwa̱lutida Da´naxda´x̱w lax̱ Dzawadi, le ḵ̓iḵ̓eḵa̱lasa loła ´yexwa̱x̱sa loł t̓a̱p̓idux̱da hestalisex̱ ´wi´la. We g̱wała̱l´mis ḵ̓otła̱lax̱s hiłila´metł, le gukwilida Dzawadalalistła. Mukwi sasa̱mas. La̱m om dida´la̱msis gukwa̱lut wa´okwa̱x̱s le ´la̱ḵasa t̓łiḵ̓a lax̱is dzuxwa̱msg̱a̱m, ḵu´la t̓a̱p̓idtł. Wa̱yuḵ̓wa̱sida wa´okw he g̱wix´idtłi. La̱m ḵ̓otła̱li Dzawadalalisax̱ ga̱n´s gig̱adex. "Gi´yi", nik x̱an´s gig̱a̱ma´yi. We, la̱m ´yugwa̱x´ida, ol ´yugwa. Ugwaḵ̓a̱la´mida xwak̓wa̱na la yatłudala x̱is dzuxwa̱m lak. Mut̓saḵida xwak̓wa̱na. La̱m ´ma̱nida biba̱gwana̱m x̱a da̱nas kas mugwana̱we´.
Information about the Kwak̓wala Language
Kwak̓wala Tales (in English)
U'mista Cultural Society
Ditidaht, Haisla, Heiltsuk, Kwak̓wala, Liq’wala, Makah, Nuu-Chah-Nulth, Oowekyala
Languages written with the Latin alphabet
Page last modified: 23.04.21
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