Danezaa language

Native to Canada
Region British Columbia
Ethnicity Danezaa
Native speakers
370  (2011 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 bea
Glottolog beav1236[2]

Danezaa (ᑕᓀᖚ Dane-zaa, Dunneza) or Dane-zaa Záágéʔ ("people-regular language"), also known as Tsattine or traditionally as Beaver, is an Athabascan language of western Canada. About half of the Danezaa people speak the language.

Dane-zaa Záágéʔ is closely related to the languages spoken by our neighboring Athabaskan groups, such as Dene Dháh (Alberta Slavey), Sekani, Tsuut'ina (Sarcee), Dene Sųłiné (Chipewyan), and Dene Zā́gé' (Kaska).


The dialects of Dane-z̲aa language are two main group. Dialects that developed high tone from stem-final glottalic consonants are called high-marked and dialects that developed low tone low-marked. From north to south are as follows:[3]

Use and number of speakers

A 1991 estimate gave 300 total speakers out of a population of 600 Danezaa people.[4] As of 2007, Dane-zaa Záágéʔ was spoken "in eastern British Columbia (in the communities of Doig River (Hanás̱ Saahgéʔ), Blueberry, Halfway River, Hudson Hope, and Prophet River) and in northwestern Alberta (in the communities of Horse Lakes, Clear Hills, Boyer River (Rocky Lane), Rock Lane, and Child Lake (Eleske) Reserves)."[5] A 2011 CD by Gary Oker features traditional Beaver language chanting with world beat and country music.[6]

Language Loss

English is now the first language of most Dane-zaa children, and of many adults in the Dane-zaa communities. Dane-zaa Záágéʔ was the primary language until the grandparents and parents started to send their children to school in the 1950s. English only became dominant in the 1980s. Because the language is orally based, Dane-zaa Záágéʔ becomes increasingly endangered as the fluent speakers pass away.



Dunneza has 35 consonants:

  Bilabial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar
/ Palatal
Velar Glottal
central lateral
Nasal m   n        
Plosive unaspirated p   t     k  
ejective         ʔ
Affricate unaspirated   ts̪ ts    
aspirated   ts̪ʰ tsʰ tɬʰ tʃʰ    
ejective   ts̪ʼ tsʼ tɬʼ tʃʼ    
Fricative voiceless   s ɬ ʃ (x) h
voiced   z ɮ ʒ ɣ  
Approximant         j w  


Dunneza has 10 phonemic vowels.

  Front Central Back
Close full i   u
reduced ɪ   ʊ
Mid oral e   o
nasal   õ
Open reduced   ɜ  
full   a  

Two vowels contrast oral and nasal qualities.


  1. ^ Danezaa at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Beaver". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Julia Colleen Miller 2013. The phonetics of tone in two dialects of Dane-z̲aa (Athabaskan).
  4. ^ "Ethnologue report for language code: bea". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  5. ^ "Beaver". MultiTree. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 
  6. ^ "Local Aboriginal Artist Performing at CD Release Celebration (Gary Oker)". Aboriginal Business Centre. 2011-03-15. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 


  • Randoja, Tiina (1990) The Phonology and Morphology of Halfway River Beaver. Unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, University of Ottawa.
  • Story, Gillian. (1989). Problems of Phonemic Representation in Beaver. In E.-D. Cook & K. Rice (Eds.), Athapaskan Linguistics: Current Perspectives on a Language Family (pp. 63–98). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Bibliography of Materials on the Beaver Language

External links

  • Beaver page on First Nations Languages of British Columbia site, with bibliography
  • Beaver Indian Language (Dunneza, Tsattine)
  • FirstVoices Tsaaʔ Dane - Beaver People Community Portal
  • Beaver Language, DoBeS
  • OLAC resources in and about the Beaver language
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