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Native toCanada, United States
RegionSouthern British Columbia into Northern Washington
EthnicityDuwamish, Snohomish, Suquamish, Sammamish, Snoqualmie, Puyallup, Sahewamish, Stillaguamish, Skagit, Nisqually
Extinctno fully fluent native speakers as of 2008[1] some second-language speakers
Language codes
lut - Lushootseed
slh - Southern Puget Sound Salish
ska - Skagit (covered by [lut])
sno - Snohomish (covered by [lut])
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Lushootseed (also: xl?ucid, dx?lúcid, Puget Salish, Puget Sound Salish or Skagit-Nisqually) is a language made up of a dialect continuum of several Salish tribes of modern-day Washington state. Lushootseed is one of the Coast Salish languages. The latter is one of two main divisions of the Salishan language family.


Lushootseed has a complex consonantal phonology and 4 vowel phonemes. Along with more common voicing and labialization contrasts, Lushootseed has a plain-glottalic contrast, which is realized as laryngealized with sonorants, ejective with voiceless stops or fricatives.


Lushootseed consonants[3][4]
Labial Alveolar (Alveolo-)
Velar Uvular Glottal
plain sibilant plain labio-velar plain labio-uvular
Stop voiced b d dz d? ?
voiceless p t ts t? k k? q q?
glottalized p' t' ts' t?' k' k'? q' q'? ?
lateral t?'
Fricative ? s ? x? ? h
Approximant plain l j w
laryngealized l? j? w?

The nasals [m], [m?], [n], and [n?] may appear in some speech styles and words as variants of /b/ and /d/.[3]


Lushootseed vowels[4]
Front Central Back
High i~? ?~u
Mid ?
Low a~?


Lushootseed can be considered a relatively agglutinating language, given its high number of morphemes, including a large number of lexical suffixes. Word order is fairly flexible, however, it is generally considered to be verb-subject-object (VSO).[5]

Lushootseed is capable of creating grammatically correct sentences that contain only a verb, with no subject or object. All information beyond the action is to be understood by context. This can be demonstrated in ?uy'dub '[someone] managed to find [someone/something]'.[6] Sentences which contain no verb at all are also common, as Lushootseed has no copula. An example of a sentence like this is stab ti?i? 'What [is] that?'.[7]

Despite its general status as VSO, Lushootseed can be rearranged to be subject-verb-object (SVO) and verb-object-subject (VOS). Doing so does not modify the words themselves, but requires the particle to mark the change. The exact nature of this particle is the subject of some debate.

Prepositions in Lushootseed are almost entirely handled by one word, ?al, which can mean 'on, above, in, beside, around' among a number of potential other meanings. They come before the object they reference, much like in English. Examples of this can be found in the following sentences:

  1. stab ti?i? ?al t? stul?k? 'What is that in the river?'
  2. ?uyayus ti dbad ?al tudi? 'My Father is working over there.'
  3. qabac ?al t? dq?l'q?lub 'On top of the bed.' (this example is interesting as qabac actually means 'on top of a large/bulky object' on its own, but still contains the ?al preposition)

Determiners usually come before a noun they belong to, and have two possible genders "masculine" and "feminine". However, in a sentence reordered to become SVO, such as sqw?bay? ti ?u?alat?b ti?i? wiw'su 'The dog is what the children chased' the determiner for sqw?bay? 'dog' comes after the noun, instead of before it. Gender primarily manifests in the addition of an -s- within the determiner, generally following immediately after the first letter of the word, i.e. ti?i? 'that' becomes tsi?i?, te 'the, a' becomes tse, ti 'this' becomes tsi,

Lushootseed has four subject pronouns: d 'I' (1st-person singular), 'we' (1st-person plural), x? 'you' (2nd-person singular), and l?p 'you folks' (2nd-person plural). It does not generally refer to the third person in any way. The subject pronoun always comes in the second position in the sentence. For example dx?l?bi? x? ?u 'Are you Lummi?' as compared to x?i? d l?dx?l?bi? 'I am not Lummi'. Here, negation takes the first position, the subject pronoun takes the second, and Lummi is pushed to the end of the sentence.[6]

Negation in Lushootseed takes the form of an adverb x?i? 'no, none, nothing' which always comes at the beginning of a sentence that is to be negated. It is constructed in two possible ways, one for negatives of existence, and one for negatives of identity. If taking the form of a negative of identity, a proclitic l?- must be added to the sentences on the next adverb. If there are no further adverbs in the sentence, the proclitic attaches to the head word of the predicate, as in the sentence x?i? x? six? l?bak?? ' Don't get hurt again'.[6]

Related languages and current status

Lushootseed, like its neighbour Twana, is in the Southern Coast Salish subgroup of the Salishan family of languages. The language was spoken by many Puget Sound region peoples, including the Duwamish, Steilacoom, Suquamish, Squaxin Island Tribe, Muckleshoot, Snoqualmie, Nisqually, and Puyallup in the south and the Snohomish, Stillaguamish, Skagit, and Swinomish in the north.

Bust of Chief Seattle with accompanying text in Lushootseed: ti ?ig gl al ti?x? sg?a? s?xs?a?lil si?a? d?g?i gl liiiil?x? d?iid cul'ul' c slaxdx? ti g?aalapu

Ethnologue quotes a source published in 1990 (and therefore presumably reflecting the situation in the late 1980s), according to which there were 60 fluent speakers of Lushootseed, evenly divided between the northern and southern dialects.[8] On the other hand, the Ethnologue's list of United States languages also lists, alongside Lushootseed's 60 speakers, 100 speakers for Skagit, 107 for Southern Puget Sound Salish, and 10 for Snohomish (a dialect on the boundary between the northern and southern varieties).[8] Some sources given for these figures, however, go back to the 1970s when the language was less critically endangered. Linguist Marianne Mithun has collected more recent data on the number of speakers of various Native American languages, and could document that by the end of the 1990s there were only a handful of elders left who spoke Lushootseed fluently. The language was extensively documented and studied by linguists with the aid of tribal elder Vi Hilbert, d. 2008, who was the last speaker with a full native command of Lushootseed.[1] There are efforts at reviving the language, and instructional materials have been published.

Language revitalization

As of 2013, the Tulalip Tribes' Lushootseed Language Department teaches classes in Lushootseed,[9][10] and its website offers a Lushootseed "phrase of the week" with audio.[11] The Tulalip Montessori School also teaches Lushootseed to young children.[12]

Wa He Lut Indian School teaches Lushootseed to Native elementary school children in their Native Language and Culture program.

As of 2013, an annual Lushootseed conference is held at Seattle University.[13] A course in Lushootseed language and literature has been offered at Evergreen State College.[14] Lushootseed has also been used as a part of environmental history courses at Pacific Lutheran University.[1] It has been spoken during the annual Tribal Canoe Journey (Tribal Journeys) that take place throughout the Salish Sea.

There are also efforts within the Puyallup Tribe. Their website and social media, aimed at anyone interested in learning the language, are updated often.[15]

In the summer of 2016, the first ever adult immersion program in Lushootseed was offered at the University of Washington's Tacoma campus. It was sponsored by The Puyallup Tribal Language Program in partnership with University of Washington Tacoma and its School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.[16] A similar program is scheduled to be offered in August 2019, with the instructors Danica Sterud Miller, Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington Tacoma, and Zalmai Zahir, a PhD student of theoretical linguistics at the University of Oregon.[17]


Lushootseed consists of two dialect groups which can be further divided into subdialects:


According to work published by Vi Hilbert and other Lushootseed language specialists, Lushootseed uses a morphophonemic writing system meaning that it is a phonemic alphabet which changes to reflect the pronunciation such as when an affix is introduced. The chart below is based on the Lushootseed Dictionary. Typographic variations such as p' and p? do not indicate phonemic distinctions.

Letter Letter Name IPA Notes
? Glottal stop Question mark (?) used alternatively
b' Glottalized b Rare, non-initial
c' Glottalized c
? c-wedge
?' Glottalized c-wedge
d? d-raised-z
? Schwa
g? g-raised-w Labialized counterpart of /?/
i /?~i/
? j-wedge
k' Glottalized k
k? k-raised-w Labialized counterpart of /k/
k'? Glottalized k-raised-w Labialized counterpart of /k'/
l' Strictured l
? Barred-l
?' Glottalized barred-lambda
m' Strictured m Laryngealized bilabial nasal
n' Strictured n Laryngealized alveolar nasal
p' Glottalized p
q' Glottalized q
q? q-raised-w Labialized counterpart of /q/
q'? Glottalized q-raised-w Labialized counterpart of /q'/
? s-wedge
t' Glottalized t
u /?~u/
w /w~?/
w' Strictured w Laryngealized high back rounded glide
x? x-w Labialized counterpart of /x/
x? x-wedge
x Rounded x-wedge Labialized counterpart of /?/
y' Strictured y Laryngealized high front unrounded glide

See the external links below for resources.

Some vocabulary

The Lushootseed language originates from the coastal region of Northwest Washington State and the Southwest coast of Canada. There are words in the Lushootseed language which are related to the environment and the fishing economy that surrounded the Salish tribes. The following tables show different words from different Lushootseed dialects relating to the salmon fishing and coastal economies.

Southern Lushootseed Salmonoid Vocabulary
sdadx a word that covers all Pacific salmon and some species of trout.
sacb Chinook or King
c'uwad Sockeye salmon
skx?ic coho salmon
x?ay' chum salmon
h?du the pink salmon
sk?aw Steelhead
p?dkx?ic coho season
sc?ay'ay' gills
?i?a?a nets
?i?a?alik? net fishing
?alil ti?i? usq?íl spawning season
skt tailfin
t?alt?d fillet knife
sq'lus kippered dried salmon
s?lusqid fish heads
q?lx? dried salmon eggs
bbq? fresh eggs
s?u?b dried chum
sx?uddalid fish with a large amount of body fat
xabus Lightly smoked
Northern Lushootseed Salmonoid Vocabulary
s?uladx? a word that covers all Pacific salmon and some species of trout.
yub Chinook or King
sc?qi? sockeye salmon
x?ay? chum salmon
skx?ic silver salmon
Northern Lushootseed Aquatic Vocabulary
qal'qal?x?i? blackfish - killer whale
xlu? grey whale
sq?a otter
sup?qs seal
sqx? beaver
sqibk octopus
?alk Western pond turtle
waq?waq? frog
skic?i sea urchin
tabac sea cucumber
qla?i? star fish
b?sq? crab
?a?is Rock Cod
p?uay? flounder
k?lapxl? jelly fish
s?axu? clam
tulq? mussel
ux?ux oyster
c?ubc?ub barnacle
sx?a?a? little neck steam clams
xi?qs large native oyster
id?q geoduck
stx?ub butter clam
sxpab cockle clam
hac horse clam
ilpyaqid / pu?ps periwinkle
sawy? any seashell
?uks large chiton
x?ald small chiton


  1. ^ a b c Brown, Drew (2003). "History professor helps keep local Native American language alive". Scene - Life of the Mind, Pacific Lutheran University. Retrieved .
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Lushootseed-Puget". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b Bates, Dawn; Hess, Thom; Vi, Hilbert (1994). Lushootseed Dictionary. University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295973234. Retrieved 2017.
  4. ^ a b Beck, David. "Words and prosodic phrasing in Lushootseed narrative*" (PDF). University of Toronto. Retrieved 2017.
  5. ^ Bates, Dawn E., 1959- (1994). Lushootseed dictionary. Hess, Thom, 1936-2009., Hilbert, Vi., Hess, Thom, 1936-2009. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0295973234. OCLC 29877333.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ a b c Hess, Thom, 1936-2009. (1995). Lushootseed reader with introductory grammar. [Place of publication not identified]: Tulalip Tribes. ISBN 1879763117. OCLC 79169469.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Hess, Thom; Hilbert, Vi (1995). Lushootseed Grammar Book 1. Lushootseed Press. pp. 2-4.
  8. ^ a b "Lushootseed". Ethnologue.
  9. ^ "Tulalip Lushootseed". Tualip Tribes. Retrieved .
  10. ^ Fiege, Gale (2013-03-31). "For students, Tulalip Tribes' native language a connection to the past". Everett, WA. Archived from the original on 2013-06-30. Retrieved .
  11. ^ "Lushootseed". Tulalip Tribes. Retrieved .
  12. ^ Gauld, Ben (June 24, 2015). "Voices of Youth Keep Lushootseed Language Alive". 94.9 FM - Seattle News & Information. Retrieved .
  13. ^ "dx?lucid, Lushootseed Research". Retrieved .
  14. ^ Lushootseed_Syllabus_06.pdf (PDF), retrieved
  15. ^ "ha sl?x?il txl glapu. sx?id x? si?i?ab. - Puyallup Tribal Language".
  16. ^ UWT to offer Lushootseed immersion program this summer Archived 2016-04-17 at the Wayback Machine, Puyallup Tribal News, April 7, 2016 (retrieved April 25, 2016)
  17. ^ "LUSHOOTSEED LANGUAGE INSTITUTE". University of Washington Tacoma.
  18. ^ Eijk, Jan Van. The Lillooet Language: Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, UBC Press, 1985, p.xxiv.

Language learning materials

  • Bates, D., Hess, T., & Hilbert, V. (1994). Lushootseed dictionary. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295973234
  • Beck, David. "Transitivity and causation in Lushootseed morphology." Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle 13 (1996): 11-20.
  • Browner, Tara (2009). Music of the First Nations: Tradition and Innovation in Native North America. University of Illinois Press. pp. 35-36.
  • Indiana University, Bloomington (1996). Lushootseed texts: an introduction to Puget Salish narrative aesthetics. Studies in the anthropology of North American Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press in cooperation with the American Indian Studies Research Institute, Indiana University, Bloomington. ISBN 0803212623.
  • Chamberlain, Rebecca, Lushootseed Language & Literature: Program reader. (Lushootseed language, cultural, and storytelling traditions.)
  • Hess, Thom (1995). Lushootseed reader. University of Montana occasional papers in linguistics. S.l.: Tulalip Tribes. ISBN 1879763141.
  • Hess, Thom and Vi Hilbert. Lushootseed Book 1; The language of the Skagit, Nisqually, and other tribes of Puget Sound. An Introduction. Lushootseed Press 1995
  • Hess, Thom and Vi Hilbert. Lushootseed Book 2 (Advanced Lushootseed). Lushootseed Press, 1995
  • Hess, Thom (1995). Lushootseed Reader with Introductory Grammar. Missoula: University of Montana. ISBN 1879763117.
  • Hilbert, Vi. Haboo: Native American Stories from Puget Sound. Seattle: University of Washington, 1985
  • Hilbert, Vi, Crisca Bierwest, Thom Hess. Way of the Lushootseed People; Ceremonies & Traditions of North Puget Sound's First People. Third Edition, Lushootseed Press, 2001
  • dx?le?ucid x?gdg?at?d tulal taqblu; Some Lushootseed Vocabulary from taqblu. Lushootseed Press, 1993

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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