Nooksack language

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RegionWhatcom County, Washington
Ethnicity1,600 Nooksack people (1997)[1]
Extinct1988, with the death of Sindick Jimmy[1]
Revival1 fluent L2 speaker in 2020 [2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3nok
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The Nooksack language (Lhéchalosem, or Lhéchelesem) is a Salishan language spoken by the Nooksack people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. It comes from the area now known as northwestern Washington state in the United States, centered in Whatcom County.

The Nooksack language has one fluent speaker as of 2020.[2]

Nooksack is most closely related to Squamish, Sháshíshálhem (Sechelt) and Halkomelem, which are all spoken in nearby parts of British Columbia, Canada. Some researchers have questioned whether the Nooksack language is simply a divergent dialect of Halkomelem, but research has proved that Nooksack is in fact a distinct language.[4]

Usage and revitalization efforts[edit]

In the 1970s, the Salishan linguist Brent Galloway worked closely with the last remaining native speaker, Sindick Jimmy, who died in 1988. He was compiling a dictionary of the language, and his book, Nooksack place names: geography, culture, and language, appeared in 2011. The Nooksack tribe has offered classes in the language.[5] As of 2020, one fluent speaker remained, a Nooksack tribal member who has been part of the Lhéchalosem Teacher Training Language Immersion Project.[2][5]

Students will spend mornings in language immersion, and afternoons working on special projects, focusing on the language use in one aspect of local native culture such as fishing or crafts. After two years, the students will obtain a certificate similar to an Associate Degree, and after four years they will be fully qualified language teachers, with the equivalent of a Bachelor of Arts. The aim is to revive the use of the Lhéchalosem language in all aspects of daily life. The program has an annual budget of $110,000, with 60 percent funded by the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) and 40 percent funded by the Nooksack Tribe.[6]



The following table includes all the vowel sounds found in the Nooksack language.

Front Central Back
Close i
Mid ɵ, ə o
Open æ a


The following table includes all the consonant sounds found in the Nooksack language.

Bilabial Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
central lateral plain rounded plain rounded
Stop plain p t k q ʔ
ejective kʷʼ qʷʼ
Affricate plain t͡s t͡ʃ
ejective t͡sʼ t͡ɬʼ t͡ʃʼ
Fricative plain s ɬ ʃ x χ χʷ h
ejective ɬʼ
Nasal m n
Approximant plain l j w


(di)graph sound (di)graph sound
a æ qw
ch qw' qʷʼ
ch' tʃʼ s s
e ə sh ʃ
h h t t
i i t'
k k ts t͡s
kw ts' t͡sʼ
kw' kʷʼ tl' t͡ɬʼ
l l u ɵ
lh ɬ w w
lh' ɬʼ x x
m m xw
n n χ
o o x̱w χʷ
p p y j
p' y'
q q ʔ ʔ

In addition, the diacritic "ː" indicates that the preceding sound is long (e.g. , ). An acute accent (´) is placed on the accented syllable.


  1. ^ a b Nooksack at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ a b c Hu, Jane C (2020-02-01). "One woman took a stand against tribal disenrollment and paid for it". High Country News. Retrieved 2020-02-11.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Nooksack". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Galloway, Brent D. (1984). "A Look at Nooksack Phonology". Anthropological Linguistics. 26 (1): 13–41. JSTOR 30027696.
  5. ^ a b "Nooksack program revives a nearly extinct language". Canku Ota. 2002-02-23. Archived from the original on 2014-11-27. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  6. ^ Adkinson, Brita. "Revitalization project hopes to revive Nooksack language". Foothills Gazette. Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 2013-09-15.

External links[edit]