Thompson language

The Thompson language, properly known as Nlaka'pamuctsin also known as the Nlaka'pamux ('Nthlakampx') language, is an Interior Salishan language spoken in the Fraser Canyon, Thompson Canyon, Nicola Country of the Canadian province of British Columbia, and also (historically) in the North Cascades region of Whatcom and Chelan counties of the state of Washington in the United States. A dialect distinctive to the Nicola Valley is called Scw'exmx, which is the name of the subgroup of the Nlaka'pamux who live there.

Native toCanada, United States
RegionBritish Columbia, Washington
Ethnicity3,105 Nlaka'pamux
Native speakers
130 (2014 FPCC)[1]
Duployan shorthand (historical)
Language codes
ISO 639-3thp


Nlaka'pamuctsin is a consonant-heavy language. The consonants can be divided into two subgroups: obstruents, which restrict airflow, and sonorants or resonants, which do not.[3] The sonorants are often syllabic consonants, which can form syllables on their own without vowels.


LabialDentalLateralPost-dentalAlveopalatal(Pre)-VelarRounded (Pre-)VelarPost-velarRounded Post-velarLaryngeal
ObstruentsStops, Glottalized Ejective(tʼ)tɬʼtsʼwwʔ
Stops, Plainptɬtskkwqqw


Front Central Back
nor. ret. nor. ret.
Close i ~ i̠ u
Mid e ə ~ ə̠ o
Open a

Stress is used with an acute accent; á.[4][5]

Morphology and syntax

Conventional wisdom about Salishan languages has long maintained an absence of lexical categories in that family. Many researchers believe there is a lack of contrast between parts of speech like nouns and verbs in Nlaka'pamuctsin, based on a lack of clear morphological differences.[6][7] Instead, linguists discuss morphology and syntax in Salishan based on a framework of predicates and particles.[7] However, recent work suggests a changing understanding of Salishan grammar. Now, most Salishanists believe that functional categories are not prescriptive of lexical categories, and that morphological evidence does not prove that the latter categories do not exist, only that the distinction is more subtle in some languages than in others.[8][9]

Lexical suffixes

One morphological feature of Nlaka'pamuctsin is lexical suffixes.[7] These are words that add nuance to predicates and can be affixed to the ends of root words to add their general meaning to that word.[3] Thompson and Thompson assert that as a result of English language influence, speakers are using these more complex predicates less and less in favor of simpler predicates with complements and adjuncts, resulting in “a general decline in the exploitation of the rich synthetic resources of the language.”[3]

SuffixSuffix Meaning Root Root MeaningSuffixed FormHeader text
꞊uyəm’xwearth, land, place; in vicinity; (earth) oven; baked goods /q’íx̣-t strong, secure/q’íx̣꞊ym’xwfirm, hard ground
√c’əɬ cold/c’ɬ꞊úym’xwit is a cold country
kw[ʔá]l’ turn green/kwa[ʔ]l’꞊úym’xwthe grass turns green
√c’áp ferment n/c’áp꞊ym’xw sour-dough, yeast bread
꞊ekst hand, arm √kiyèʔ ahead, in front, principal, the eldest s/kiyèʔ꞊qín'꞊kst thumb
꞊qin head
꞊xn foot, leg s/kiyèʔ꞊qín'꞊xn big toe
√k'əm focal area n/k'm꞊énk꞊xn sole of foot
꞊ene(ʔ)k belly, under side

See also


  1. Thompson at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Thompson". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Thompson, Lawrence C.; Thompson, M. Terry (1992). The Thompson Language. University of Montana Press.
  4. Koch, Karsten A. (2011). "A Phonetic Study of Intonation and Focus in Nłeʔkepmxcin (Thompson River Salish)". Prosodic Categories: Production, Perception and Comprehension. Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. pp. 111–143. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-0137-3_6. ISBN 978-94-007-0136-6.
  5. "Nłeʔkepmxcin - Nlha7kápmx Thompson". Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  6. Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 117.
  7. Mithun, Marianne (1999). The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 64.
  8. Haag, Marcia (October 1998). "Word-Level Evidence for Lexical Categories in Salishan Languages". International Journal of American Linguistics. 64 (4): 379–393. doi:10.1086/466367.
  9. Koch, Karsten; Matthewson, Lisa (2009). "The Lexical category debate in Salish and its relevance for Tagalog". Theoretical Linguistics. 35 (1): 125–137. doi:10.1515/thli.2009.007.

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