Thompson language

Last updated
Native to Canada, United States
Region British Columbia, Washington
Ethnicity3,105 Nlaka'pamux
Native speakers
130 (2014 FPCC) [1]
Duployan shorthand (historical)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 thp
Glottolog thom1243 [2]

The Thompson language, properly known as Nlaka'pamuctsin also known as the Nlaka'pamux ('Nthlakampx') language, is an Interior Salishan language spoken in the Fraser Canyon, Thompson Canyon, Nicola Country of the Canadian province of British Columbia, and also (historically) in the North Cascades region of Whatcom and Chelan counties of the state of Washington in the United States. A dialect distinctive to the Nicola Valley is called Scw'exmx, which is the name of the subgroup of the Nlaka'pamux who live there.

Nlakapamux ethnic group

The Nlaka'pamux or Nlakapamuk, also previously known as the Thompson, Thompson River Salish, Thompson Salish, Thompson River Indians or Thompson River people, and historically as the Klackarpun, Haukamaugh, Knife Indians and Couteau Indians, are an indigenous First Nations people of the Interior Salish language group in southern British Columbia. Their traditional territory includes parts of the North Cascades region of Washington.

Salishan languages group of languages spoken in the United States and Canada

The Salishan languages are a group of languages of the Pacific Northwest in North America. They are characterised by agglutinativity and syllabic consonants. For instance the Nuxalk word clhp’xwlhtlhplhhskwts’, meaning "he had had [in his possession] a bunchberry plant", has thirteen obstruent consonants in a row with no phonetic or phonemic vowels. The Salishan languages are a geographically continuous block, with the exception of the Nuxalk, in the Central Coast of British Columbia, and the extinct Tillamook language, to the south on the central coast of Oregon.

Fraser Canyon canyon in British Columbia

The Fraser Canyon is a major landform of the Fraser River where it descends rapidly through narrow rock gorges in the Coast Mountains en route from the Interior Plateau of British Columbia to the Fraser Valley. Colloquially, the term "Fraser Canyon" is often used to include the Thompson Canyon from Lytton to Ashcroft, since they form the same highway route which most people are familiar with, although it is actually reckoned to begin above Williams Lake, British Columbia at Soda Creek Canyon near the town of the same name.



Nlaka'pamuctsin is a consonant-heavy language. The consonants can be divided into two subgroups: obstruents, which restrict airflow, and sonorants or resonants, which do not. [3] The sonorants are often syllabic consonants, which can form syllables on their own without vowels.

Consonant speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract

In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are, pronounced with the lips;, pronounced with the front of the tongue;, pronounced with the back of the tongue;, pronounced in the throat; and, pronounced by forcing air through a narrow channel (fricatives); and and, which have air flowing through the nose (nasals). Contrasting with consonants are vowels.

A syllabic consonant or vocalic consonant is a consonant that forms a syllable on its own, like the m, n and l in the English words rhythm, button and bottle, or is the nucleus of a syllable, like the r sound in the American pronunciation of work. To represent it, the understroke diacritic in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is used, ⟨U+0329 ̩COMBINING VERTICAL LINE BELOW⟩. It may be instead represented by an overstroke, ⟨U+030D ̍COMBINING VERTICAL LINE ABOVE⟩ if the symbol that it modifies has a descender, such as in.

A vowel is a syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech sounds, the other being the consonant. Vowels vary in quality, in loudness and also in quantity (length). They are usually voiced, and are closely involved in prosodic variation such as tone, intonation and stress.


Labial Dental Lateral Post-dental Alveopalatal (Pre)-Velar Rounded (Pre-)VelarPost-velarRounded Post-velar Laryngeal
Obstruents Stops, Glottalized Ejective (tʼ)tɬʼtsʼwwʔ
Stops, Plainptɬtskkwqqw
Spirants ʃsxxwχχwh


Front Central Back
nor. ret. nor. ret.
Close i ~ i̠u
Mid eə ~ ə̠o
Open a

Stress is used with an acute accent; á. [4] [5]

Morphology and syntax

Conventional wisdom about Salishan languages has long maintained an absence of lexical categories in that family. Many researchers believe there is a lack of contrast between parts of speech like nouns and verbs in Nlaka'pamuctsin, based on a lack of clear morphological differences. [6] [7] Instead, linguists discuss morphology and syntax in Salishan based on a framework of predicates and particles. [7] However, recent work suggests a changing understanding of Salishan grammar. Now, most Salishanists believe that functional categories are not prescriptive of lexical categories, and that morphological evidence does not prove that the latter categories do not exist, only that the distinction is more subtle in some languages than in others. [8] [9]

In traditional grammar, a part of speech is a category of words that have similar grammatical properties. Words that are assigned to the same part of speech generally display similar syntactic behavior—they play similar roles within the grammatical structure of sentences—and sometimes similar morphology in that they undergo inflection for similar properties.

In linguistics, morphology is the study of words, how they are formed, and their relationship to other words in the same language. It analyzes the structure of words and parts of words, such as stems, root words, prefixes, and suffixes. Morphology also looks at parts of speech, intonation and stress, and the ways context can change a word's pronunciation and meaning. Morphology differs from morphological typology, which is the classification of languages based on their use of words, and lexicology, which is the study of words and how they make up a language's vocabulary.

In linguistics, syntax is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of sentences in a given language, usually including word order. The term syntax is also used to refer to the study of such principles and processes. The goal of many syntacticians is to discover the syntactic rules common to all languages.

Lexical suffixes

One morphological feature of Nlaka'pamuctsin is lexical suffixes. [7] These are words that add nuance to predicates and can be affixed to the ends of root words to add their general meaning to that word. [3] Thompson and Thompson assert that as a result of English language influence, speakers are using these more complex predicates less and less in favor of simpler predicates with complements and adjuncts, resulting in “a general decline in the exploitation of the rich synthetic resources of the language.” [3]

A root is a word that does not have a prefix in front of the word or a suffix at the end of the word. The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family, which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents. Content words in nearly all languages contain, and may consist only of root morphemes. However, sometimes the term "root" is also used to describe the word minus its inflectional endings, but with its lexical endings in place. For example, chatters has the inflectional root or lemma chatter, but the lexical root chat. Inflectional roots are often called stems, and a root in the stricter sense may be thought of as a monomorphemic stem.

SuffixSuffix MeaningRootRoot MeaningSuffixed FormHeader text
꞊uyəm’xwearth, land, place; in vicinity; (earth) oven; baked goods/q’íx̣-tstrong, secure/q’íx̣꞊ym’xwfirm, hard ground
√c’əɬcold/c’ɬ꞊úym’xwit is a cold country
kw[ʔá]l’turn green/kwa[ʔ]l’꞊úym’xwthe grass turns green
√c’ápfermentn/c’áp꞊ym’xwsour-dough, yeast bread
꞊eksthand, arm√kiyèʔahead, in front, principal, the eldests/kiyèʔ꞊qín'꞊kstthumb
꞊xnfoot, legs/kiyèʔ꞊qín'꞊xnbig toe
√k'əmfocal arean/k'm꞊énk꞊xnsole of foot
꞊ene(ʔ)kbelly, under side

See also

Related Research Articles

In linguistics, an affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word or word form. Affixes may be derivational, like English -ness and pre-, or inflectional, like English plural -s and past tense -ed. They are bound morphemes by definition; prefixes and suffixes may be separable affixes. Affixation is the linguistic process that speakers use to form different words by adding morphemes at the beginning (prefixation), the middle (infixation) or the end (suffixation) of words.

Salishan oral narratives consist of the body of traditional narratives of the speakers of the Salishan languages, who inhabit British Columbia, Canada and in Washington, Idaho and Montana in the United States. Each of the many peoples in these groups have their own stories and each storyteller may interpret them in their own ways, but many of the stories of the Salish peoples are similar and share themes and characters, and share their historical origins in the proto-Salishan culture long ago. The earliest descriptions of the oral traditions of Salishan peoples were the collections of Nuxalk mythology by anthropologist Franz Boas collected in the water

Nuxalk, also known as Bella Coola, is a Salishan language spoken by the Nuxalk people. Today it is "an endangered language with fewer than 10 fluent speakers" in the vicinity of the Canadian town of Bella Coola, British Columbia. While the language is still sometimes called Bella Coola by linguists, the native name Nuxalk is preferred by some, notably by the Nuxalk Nation government.

Klallam language language

Klallam,Clallam, Na'klallam or S'klallam, now extinct, was a Straits Salishan language that was traditionally spoken by the Klallam peoples at Becher Bay on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

Lillooet, also known as St’át’imcets, is the language of the St’át’imc, a Salishan language of the Interior branch spoken in southern British Columbia, Canada, around the middle Fraser and Lillooet Rivers. The language of the Lower Lillooet people uses the name Ucwalmícwts, because St’át’imcets means "the language of the people of Sat̓", i.e. the Upper Lillooet of the Fraser River.

Kutenai language small language of Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia

The Kutenai language, also Kootenai, Kootenay, Ktunaxa, and Ksanka, is the native language of the Kutenai people of Montana and Idaho in the United States and British Columbia in Canada. It is typically considered a language isolate, unrelated to the Salishan family of languages spoken by neighboring tribes on the coast and in the interior Plateau. The Kutenai also speak ʾa·qanⱡiⱡⱡitnam, Ktunaxa Sign Language.

Camchin, also spelled Kumsheen, is an anglicization of the ancient name for the locality and aboriginal village once located on the site of today's Village of Lytton, British Columbia, Canada, whose name in the Nlaka'pamux language is ƛ'q'əmcín It also refers to the main Indian Reserve community of the Lytton First Nation adjacent to the Village of Lytton and is found in the form Kumsheen in local business and school names.

The Nicola people are a First Nations political and cultural alliance in the Nicola Country region of the Southern Interior of the Canadian province of British Columbia. They are mostly located in the Nicola River valley around the area of Merritt and are an alliance of Scw'exmx, the local branch of the Nlaka'pamux (Thompson) people, and the Spaxomin, the local branch of the Syilx or Okanagan people.

Saanich is the language of the First Nations Saanich people. Saanich is a member of a dialect continuum called Northern Straits which is a Coast Salishan language. North Straits varieties are closely related to the Klallam language.

North Straits Salish is a Salish language which includes the dialects of

The Interior Salish languages are one of the two main branches of the Salishan language family, the other being Coast Salish. It can be further divided into Northern and Southern subbranches. The first Salishan people encountered by American explorers were the Flathead people, among the most easterly of the group.

Okanagan, or Colville-Okanagan, is a Salish language which arose among the indigenous peoples of the southern Interior Plateau region based primarily in the Okanagan River Basin and the Columbia River Basin in precolonial times in Canada and the United States. Following British, American, and Canadian colonization during the 1800s and the subsequent repression of all Salishan languages, the use of Colville-Okanagan declined drastically.

The Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council, formerly the Fraser Thompson Indian Services Society, is a First Nations government Tribal Council comprising bands in the Fraser Canyon and Thompson Canyon areas of the Canadian province of British Columbia. It is one of three tribal councils of the Nlaka'pamux people, the others being the Nicola Tribal Association and the Fraser Canyon Indian Administration. The Lytton First Nation, which is the government of the largest Nlaka'pamux community, does not belong to any of the three.

The Fraser Canyon Indian Administration is a First Nations tribal council government composed of five bands in the Fraser Canyon and Thompson Canyon areas of the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Nicomen First Nation is a Nlaka'pamux First Nations government located near Lytton, British Columbia. It is a member of the Fraser Canyon Indian Administration as well as of the Nicola Tribal Association, which are two of three tribal councils of the Nlaka'pamux people. The third is the Nlaka'pamux Nation Tribal Council.

Squamish is a Coast Salish language spoken by the Squamish people of the Pacific Northwest. It is spoken in the area that is now called southwestern British Columbia, Canada, centred on their reserve communities in Squamish, North Vancouver, and West Vancouver. An archaic historical rendering of the native Sḵwx̱wú7mesh is Sko-ko-mish but this should not be confused with the name of the Skokomish people of Washington state. Squamish is most closely related to the Sechelt, Halkomelem, and Nooksack languages.

Salish-Spokane-Kalispel language language

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Thompson River is the largest tributary of the Fraser River, flowing through the south-central portion of British Columbia, Canada.


  1. Thompson at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Thompson". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 3 Thompson, Lawrence C.; Thompson, M. Terry (1992). The Thompson Language. University of Montana Press.
  4. Koch, Karsten A. (2011). "A Phonetic Study of Intonation and Focus in Nłeʔkepmxcin (Thompson River Salish)". Prosodic Categories: Production, Perception and Comprehension. Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. pp. 111–143. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-0137-3_6. ISBN   978-94-007-0136-6.
  5. "Nłeʔkepmxcin - Nlha7kápmx Thompson" . Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  6. Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 117.
  7. 1 2 3 Mithun, Marianne (1999). The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 64.
  8. Haag, Marcia (October 1998). "Word-Level Evidence for Lexical Categories in Salishan Languages". International Journal of American Linguistics. 64 (4): 379–393. doi:10.1086/466367.
  9. Koch, Karsten; Matthewson, Lisa (2009). "The Lexical category debate in Salish and its relevance for Tagalog". Theoretical Linguistics. 35 (1): 125–137. doi:10.1515/thli.2009.007.