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Athabaskan languages

Group of indigenous languages of North America / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Athabaskan (also spelled Athabascan, Athapaskan or Athapascan, and also known as Dene) is a large family of indigenous languages of North America, located in western North America in three areal language groups: Northern, Pacific Coast and Southern (or Apachean). Kari and Potter (2010:10) place the total territory of the 53 Athabaskan languages at 4,022,000 square kilometres (1,553,000 sq mi).

Quick facts: Athabaskan, Geographic distribution, Linguist...
Western North America
Linguistic classificationDené-Yeniseian?
ISO 639-2 / 5ath
Geographic distribution of the Athabaskan languages

Chipewyan is spoken over the largest area of any North American native language, while Navajo is spoken by the largest number of people of any native language north of Mexico.

Athebaskan is a version of a Cree name for Lake Athabasca (Moose Cree: Āðapāskāw '[where] there are reeds one after another'), in Canada. Cree is one of the Algonquian languages and therefore not itself an Athabaskan language.[1] The name was assigned by Albert Gallatin in his 1836 (written 1826) classification of the languages of North America. He acknowledged that it was his choice to use that name for the language family and its associated peoples: "I have designated them by the arbitrary denomination of Athabascas, which derived from the original name of the lake."[2][full citation needed]

The four spellings, Athabaskan, Athabascan, Athapaskan, and Athapascan, are in approximately equal use. Particular communities may prefer one spelling over another (Krauss 1987). For example, the Tanana Chiefs Conference and Alaska Native Language Center prefer the spelling Athabascan.[3] Ethnologue uses Athapaskan in naming the language family and individual languages.[4]

Although the term Athabaskan is prevalent in linguistics and anthropology, there is an increasing trend among scholars to use the terms Dené and Dené languages, which is how many of the native speakers identify it, and are applying these terms to the entire language family. For example, following a motion by attendees in 2012, the annual Athabaskan Languages Conference changed its name to the Dené Languages Conference.[5]