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THE DOGRIB LANGUAGE

The Dogrib language is the only Aboriginal language of the Northwest Territories that is spoken only in the NWT - it is not indigenous to any other area of Canada. It is rooted in the communities of Dene text image 1, and Dene text image 2. Within the traditional geographic area defined by these communities (with the possible exception of Detah, which is in close proximity to Yellowknife), Dogrib culture and language is predominant and is likely to be predominate well into the future.

According to the Canada Census, there were slightly over 2000 mother tongue speakers of the Dogrib language in 1996, most of whom still live within their traditional land use area. Dogrib is the strongest of the Dene languages in the NWT – 72% of the people who learned Dogrib as a first language still speak it at home. Although Dogrib could still be considered an "enduring" language, particularly in the smaller communities – it does show early signs of decline.

In Part 2 of the Language Report (1992), the following age-related data from the study is presented.

  • Over 90% of the study respondents over the age of 45 were rated as very fluent in Dogrib.
  • Approximately 87% of the respondents between the ages of 25 to 44 were considered very fluent.
  • Almost 60% of the respondents between the ages of 5 to 24 were also very fluent in Dogrib.

These statistics indicate that there is a decline in language fluency occurring in the grandchildren of the present generations. However, it also indicates that the majority of young people are still very fluent in their traditional language.

Dogrib has many strengths and opportunities to build on.

  • It is the only indigenous Aboriginal language within its traditional area.
  • Dogrib people are, by far, the majority within the language area.
  • The elders and cultural traditions continue to play a strong role in the community.
  • Through land claims, community empowerment, and self-government initiatives, Dogrib people themselves will have considerable control over their collective destiny. They will be able to enact policies, initiate programs, and provide incentives to support language retention.

chart - Dogrib Language Fluency


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