English - Tlingit Dictionary:
Nouns

How To Use the Naish-Story
Tlingit Writing System

The Tlingit Language Workshop uses the writing system developed by Constance Naish and Gillian Story. Sheldon Jackson College, The University of Alaska at College, and Alaska Methodist University have all agreed to use this writing system for Tlingit.

Although it looks strange at first, it is a good writing system for a number of reasons: 1) each Tlingit sound has its own letter or special combination of letters; 2) each letter or combination of letters always stands for the same sound; 3) you can write Tlingit using a regular typewriter; 4) you can write all dialects equally well-even if some words in this book are not the way you say them, you can pronounce them according to your dialect, and when it is your turn to spell them, spell them the way they sound in your dialect.

The following chart shows the 50 sounds of the Tlingit language as written in the Naish-Story system:

Tlingit Language Sounds
d
dl
dz
j
g
gw
g
gw
t
tl
ts
ch
k
kw
k
kw
t'
tl'
ts'
ch'
k'
k'w
k'
k'w
 
l
s
sh
x
xw
x
xw
 
l'
s'
 
x'
x'w
x'
x'w
h
.
n
w
y
     
   
aa
       
   
ee
       
   
ei
       
   
oo
       

Some of these letters look like English; some of them do not. Where the sounds of the Tlingit are the same as or similar to English, the letters look like English to avoid confusion. Where the Tlingit sounds are unlike anything in English, each Tlingit sound has its own letter unlike any letter in English. People are often puzzled or frightened at first by these strange letters and ask why we use them.

For example, notice that two rows going across have letters including a ' and that two columns going down have an underlining. It is necessary to underline because Tlingit has 10 sounds far back in the throat that English does not have. Say the Tlingit words for "hill" and "wolf." You will notice that gooch, meaning "wolf" is made farther back in your throat than gooch, meaning "hill." It is important to include the underlining when you spell gooch because otherwise it becomes gooch, which is a different word. The Tlingit alphabet has underlined letters because the Tlingit language has those sounds made back in the throat. The writing system tries to show the Tlingit sound system by making special Tlingit letters for sounds the English language doesnt have.

People also ask why we write the ' after so many letters. Again, it is to show special Tlingit sounds. For example, say the Tlingit for "his uncle" and "his forehead." You will notice that the second k in the Tlingit word "his forehead" has a catch-in-the -breath, or is made with the Adam's apple bobbing. The ' is used in those sounds made with the Adam's apple bobbing . So, we write "his uncle" as du kak, and "his forehead" is spelled du kak'. Other examples are "eagle" as ch'ak' and "king salmon" as t'. If you do not use the ' , you have the word t, which means "sleep."

Some letters look like English, but have Tlingit sounds. For example the l as in Raven as yil is a Tlingit l and not an English l. Also the x is Tlingit and not English. For example, tx is " rope". Notice also that xt'aa "broom" is different from the h in ht' as "house".

Now that you know thy there are many new letters in the Tlingit writing system, you are ready for this list of examples. Two examples are given for most of the letters.

HOW TO USE THIS CHART:
F I R S T --Read the English word.
T H E N --Translate the word into Tlingit.
L A S T --Study how the Tlingit is spelled.

For example: read the English "mouth." Translate it into Tlingit. Because it is a common word, you will be able to say it in Tlingit. Then, notice the spelling: x'. Because you know the sound of the word already, you can now study how to spell the two sounds in the word x'. Whenever you want to spell a word that has the same sound as the first letter of x', you spell it x'. Likewise, whenever you see that letter, just think back to the Tlingit word for "mouth." At first you will have to check back to the chart very often, but soon you will be able to read very fast, and after that you will begin to spell without too much trouble.

THE MAIN RULE IS: Go Slow; don't be afraid of strange letters; and don't be afraid of big words. Go letter by letter. Go Slow.

If you see a new word like yoo x'atnk, stop and look at it letter by letter. It is impossible to learn to read by stabbing in the dark. Instead, take the first letter: y as in yeil -"raven"; oo as in doosh - "cat"; x' as in x' - "mouth", and so forth. Soon you will have the whole word.

Vowel
Tlingit Word
English Meaning
Extra Example of Vowels in English Words
ts
thread
was, about, America
aa
danaa
money
Saab
t
stone
ten
i
kakin
wool, yarn
vein
ht
house
hit
e
hen
water
heel
 
sek
belt
seek
gt
dime
put, pull
o
wo
father-in-law
moon

In addition to these common vowels, there is one more vowel limited, as far as we know, to the single but common word "h h", used frequently at potlatches.

Tlingit Consonants in Alphabetical Order
Consonant
Tlingit Word
English Meaning
ch
chl
storehouse
 
gooch
hill
ch'
ch'ak'
eagle
d
dosh
cat
dl
dleit
white; snow
 
ax keidl
my dog
dz
ax xodzi
my brown bear
 
dzeit
ladder, bridge
g
gooch
hill
g
gooch
wolf
gw
gwil
bag; sack
gw
jigwinaa
hand towel
h
hen
water
j
ax jn
my hand
 
jigwinaa
hand towel
k
ket
killer whale
k'
k'nts
potato
 
du kak'
his forehead
k
ka
man
 
du waak
his eye
k'
k'ateil
pitcher; jug
kw
nadakw
table
 
sakwnin
bread, flour
k'w
k'wt'
egg
 
tssk'w (dzk'w)
moose; owl
kw
nakw
devilfish
 
tlikw
berry
k'w
k'wtl
pot
 
lik'w
red snapper
l
yil
raven
l'
yil'
elderberry
 
l'e
blanket
n
naw
liquor
s
sek
belt
s'
s'eek
black bear
 
s'eek (s'eik)
smoke
sh
shl
spoon
t
t
stone
t'
t'
king salmon
 
st'
glacier
tl
tlik'
no
 
keitl
dog
tl'
tl'eik
finger
ts
xots
brown bear
ts'
ts'tskw
small bird
w
wasos
cow
 
wa.
you
 
sew
rain
x
xots
brown bear
 
kox
rice
 
tx
dog flea
x'
tx'
rope
 
x'x'
book; paper
x
xat
salmon; fish
 
ax hdi
my house
x'
du x'
his mouth
xw
gaxw
duck
x'w
gax'w
spawned herring eggs
 
x'ishx'w
gray jay; camprobber
xw
du hnxw
his older brother
x'w
x'wat'
trout
y
yil
raven
 
tay
garden
 
wa.
you
.
(this letter is the pause that comes in the middle of some words
 
 
kanas.aat
spider

One other mark needs comment: that is the sloping upward line above the words (vowel). Tlingit words have either high or low pitch accent. The voice goes either up or down on each word. When it goes up, we write a line sloping upward; when your voice goes down, we do not write a mark. For example: x'at (salmon) and xaat (root).

Notice that the possessive suffix i is always the opposite of the pitch of the word: if the word is high, the ending is low, and vice versa:

Pitch Contrast
ax xadi (my salmon)
as xaad (tree root)
ax keidl (my dog)
ax doshi (my cat)
Other Pitch Contrast Examples
sha (women)
shaa (mountain)
x' ay (yellow cedar)
xaay (steambath house)

HAPPY READING & WRITING!

Practice Reading
ts (thread)
sha (women)
gn (firewood)
kast (barrel)
yn (hemlock)
danaa (money)
kagn (light)
naa (tribe)
at dan (he is drinking)
sak (hooligan, candlefish)
sh (head)
dsh (polliwog)
sha (women)
dosh (cat)
gn (firewood)
gk (ear)
gan (outside)
gok (go ahead)
t (thing)
n (shoot it)
aat (aunt)
onaa (rifle)
at dan (he is drinking)
Dei Sh (Haines)
danaa (money)
Dei Shwu h. (He is in Haines.)
t (rock)
dei (road)
wa. (you)
seit (necklace)
tatg (yesterday)
yin (sea cucumber)
ds (moon)
ket (killer whale)

More Practice Words
jnwoo
wanado
dahon
i sht
i snee
i ydee
du sh
hs
Daa sy? Aado (Aad) sy?
aan
shaawt
(it)
a (lake)
aaa (yes)
jinkaat
uhan
kasnist
neigon
keijn
shayeit
du jn
dike
Du toow sigo
du se
du esh
i yet
Wa s i yate?
kt
i gk
i l
yaa nagt
yaa nank
yaa a nasnk
Dei Sho yei yatee.
Haa tuwa sigo
i tuwa g sigo?
yil
chl
gwil
gooch
ga
gx
k'nts'
du kak'
du waak
k'ach'
k'ateil
k'wt
k'wtl
lik'w
ltaa
yil
l'e
xots
kox
tx'
x'x'
xat
du x'


g
ax'w

x'eishx'w
x'waat'
shl
jigwinaa
ka
gooch
t'
hoch
w!
     

There is a final footnote to the writing system used by the Tlingit Language Workshop. Those of you who have learned the Naish-Story writing system will have noticed a few small changes in this introduction. Of the fifty letters in the writing system, we have changed three.

We have changed them in order to make the writing system easier to learn. We have been teachiing the wirting system for a couple of years, and have discovered the major difficulties in learning to read and write Tlingit.

In order to make the system easier to learn, we have REGULARIZED it even more than it was.

Most of the books printed in the original writing system are out of print. Some of you may have the Noun Dictionary, The Gospel of John, and other books produced by Naish-Story.

In the chart below, we give the new system, and in parentheses () the original Naish-Story values. Notice that now all of short vowels are one letter, and all of the long vowels two letters.

Original Naish-Story Values New Vowel Writing System Original Naish-Story Values
(u)
aa
(a)
 
ee
 
 
ei
 
(o)
oo
 
   
o
 

In addition, we have dropped the final h letter. The h is very useful in the original system, but is difficult because it is often hard to know how to divide words in Tlingit.

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