Blackfoot language

Indigenous American language / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Blackfoot language, also called Siksiká (its denomination in ISO 639-3, English: /skˈskə/; Siksiká [sik͡siká], syllabics ᓱᖽᐧᖿ), often anglicised as Siksika, is an Algonquian language spoken by the Blackfoot or Niitsitapi people, who currently live in the northwestern plains of North America. There are four dialects, three of which are spoken in Alberta, Canada, and one of which is spoken in the United States: Siksiká (Blackfoot), to the southeast of Calgary, Alberta; Kainai (Blood, Many Chiefs), spoken in Alberta between Cardston and Lethbridge; Aapátohsipikani (Northern Piegan), to the west of Fort MacLeod which is Brocket (Piikani) and Aamsskáápipikani (Southern Piegan), in northwestern Montana.[2] The name Blackfoot probably comes from the blackened soles of the leather shoes that the people wore.[3]

A sign at the Siksika Health and Wellness Centre in Siksika 146 reads "Oki", a Blackfoot greeting
Quick facts: Siksika, Native to, Region, Ethnicity, N...
Siksiká (ᓱᖽᐧᖿ)
Frances Densmore at a recording session with Blackfoot chief Mountain Chief in 1916
Native toCanada, United States
RegionPiikani Nation, Siksika Nation, and Kainai Nation in southern Alberta; Blackfeet Nation in Montana
Ethnicity15,000 Blackfoot[1]
Native speakers
2,900 (2016)[1]
  • Siksiká (Blackfoot)
  • Kainai (Blood, Many Chiefs)
  • Aapátohsipikani (Northern Piegan)
  • Aamsskáápipikani (Southern Piegan)
Blackfoot Syllabics
Sometimes Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-2bla
ISO 639-3bla
Blackfoot is classified as Definitely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

There is a distinct difference between Old Blackfoot (also called High Blackfoot), the dialect spoken by many older speakers, and New Blackfoot (also called Modern Blackfoot), the dialect spoken by younger speakers.[4] Among the Algonquian languages, Blackfoot is relatively divergent in phonology and lexicon.[5] The language has a fairly small phoneme inventory, consisting of 11 basic consonants and three basic vowels that have contrastive length counterparts. Blackfoot is a pitch accent language.[6][7] Blackfoot language has been declining in the number of native speakers and is classified as either a threatened or endangered language.[8]

Like the other Algonquian languages, Blackfoot is considered to be a polysynthetic language due to its large morpheme inventory and word internal complexity.[9] A majority of Blackfoot morphemes have a one–to–one correspondence between form and meaning, a defining feature of agglutinative languages. However, Blackfoot does display some fusional characteristics as there are morphemes that are polysemous.[10] Both noun and verb stems cannot be used bare but must be inflected.[11] Due to its morphological complexity, Blackfoot has a flexible word order.

The Blackfoot language has experienced a substantial decrease in speakers since the 1960s and is classified as "severely endangered" by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.[12] In Canada, this loss has been attributed largely to residential schools, where Indigenous students were often punished severely for speaking their first languages.[13] Widespread language loss can also be attributed to the Sixties Scoop, through which thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their families, often without parental consent, and relocated by the government into non-Indigenous families.[14] As a result of these losses, the Blackfoot community has launched numerous language revitalization efforts, include the Piikani Traditional Knowledge Services and many more.