Hän language

The Hän language (also known as Dawson, Han-Kutchin, Moosehide; ISO 639-3 haa) is a Northern Athabaskan language spoken by the Hän Hwëch'in (translated to people who live along the river, sometimes anglicized as Hankutchin). Athabascan refers to the interrelated complexity of languages spoken in Canada and Alaska each with their own dialect: the village of Eagle, Alaska in the United States and the town of Dawson City, Yukon Territory in Canada, though there are also Hän speakers in the nearby city of Fairbanks, Alaska.[4][5] Furthermore, there was a decline in speakers in Dawson City as a result of the influx of gold miners in the mid-19th century.[5]

Häł gołan
Native toCanada, United States
RegionYukon, Alaska
EthnicityHän people
Native speakers
20 (1997–2007)[1]
Latin (Dené alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3haa

Hän is in the Northern Athabaskan subgrouping of the Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit language family. It is most closely related to Gwich'in and Upper Tanana.[5]



The consonants of Hän in the standard orthography are listed below (with IPA notation in brackets):[5]

Labial Inter-
Alveolar Post-
Retroflex Velar Glottal
central lateral
Nasal []nh
[m]m [n]n
Stop [pʰ](p) [tʰ]t [kʰ]k
[p]b [t]d [k]g [ʔ]ʼ
[]t’ []k’
[ᵐb]mb [ⁿd]nd
Affricate [tθʰ]tth [tsʰ]ts [tɬʰ]tl [tʃʰ]ch [ʈʂʰ]tr
[]ddh [ts]dz []dl []j [ʈʂ]dr
[tθʼ]tth’ [tsʼ]ts’ [tɬʼ]tl’ [tʃʼ]ch’ [ʈʂʼ]tr’
Fricative [θ]th [s]s [ɬ]ł [ʃ]sh [ʂ]sr [x]kh [h]h
[ð]dh [z]z [ɮ]l [ʒ]zh [ʐ]zr [ɣ]gh
Approximant []yh [ɻ̥]rh []wh
[l]l [j]y [ɻ]r [w]w
Front Central Back
Short Long Short Long Short Long
Close i [i] ii [] u [u] uu []
Close-mid e [e] ee [] o [o] oo []
Mid ë [ə] ëë [əː]
Open a [a] aa [] ä [ɑ] ää [ɑː]
Diphthongs aw au]  ay [ai]   äw [ɑu]   ew [eu]   ey [ei]   iw [iu]   oy [oi]


There are about a dozen people, all elderly, who speak Han as their native language,[6] though there is a growing second-language speaker community. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in (formerly known as the Dawson First Nation) in the Yukon Territory support the revitalization of Hän, and there are current efforts to revive the language locally. There is an effort to promote traditional skills and finding a balance between the way of the newcomer's which further promotes the development and revitalization of the language.[4] Since 1991, the Robert Service School in Dawson City has hosted the Hän Language program, and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in supports adult language classes and bi-annual cultural gatherings.[5]There are many other resources used to learn Hän, particularly online ones such as, FirstVoices and Yukon Native Learning Centre. These online learning language tools teach the tradition, culture, history, and the language of Hän.

Further reading

  • Manker, Jonathan, and Tsuu T’ina Nation (2013). The Syntax of Sluicing in Hän. Dene Languages Conference, Calgary Alberta.
  • Manker, Jonathan (2014). Tone Specification and the Tone-Bearing Unit (TBU) in Hän Athabascan. WSLCA 19 St. John's, Newfoundland.


  1. Hän at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/04/21/305688602/alaska-oks-bill-making-native-languages-official
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Han". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. "Hän language, alphabet and pronunciation". www.omniglot.com. Retrieved 2017-08-22.
  5. "Yukon Native Language Centre". ynlc.ca. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  6. "Hän". Ethnologue: Languages of the World.


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