The Language Department strives to build awareness of our culture and history throughout our traditional territory, promote fluency of our hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language, and encourage our people to live xʷməθkʷəy̓əm culture every day.

What We Do

In accordance with the strategic objectives set out by Chief and Council, we provide services and coordinate resources to develop educational tools and learning environments whereby Musqueam community members will have increased accessibility to learn their ancestral language. We collaborate with a variety of Departments within the Musqueam Administrative system and with external educational and cultural partner institutes to:

    • Conduct research to develop hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language resources
    • Provide language displays and translations to promote greater public awareness of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm language and culture
    • Explore and create new avenues to broaden educational opportunities for hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language education


hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ Orthography and Pronunciation Guide

This is a guide that instructs readers how to write and pronounce hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ sounds.

Upper-case letters are not used in the orthographic system.

hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ has 36 consonants, 22 of which are not found in English! Some, like t̕ᶿ, are very special sounds as they appear in only a handful of languages around the world.

Since the majority of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ sounds are different from those of English, the English alphabet (orthography) is not an adequate nor a straightforward system for writing hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ words.  Instead, Musqueam uses the North American Phonetic Alphabet (NAPA), where each sound is represented by a single distinct symbol.  This is a significant advantage for learning how to read, as the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ alphabet creates consistency of interpretation and predictability of pronunciation.  Though they may appear foreign at first, symbols like “ə,” called “schwa,” are found in the pronunciation guides of most English dictionaries.  Other symbols are used in the alphabets of many Native languages of North America, as well as in several languages from countries around the world.

Symbol & Pronunciation
i        the “i” in pizza
e       the “e” in bet
a       the “a” in father
u       the “u” in flute
ə        the “u” in but

When vowels are followed by a colon “:”, this means the vowel is lengthened.

Some sounds that are the same in both hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and English are: h, k, l, m, n, p, s, t, w, and y.

Symbol & Pronunciation
c        “ts” sound as in cats
č        “ch” sound as in cheese
ɬ         Place your tongue as though you were going to pronounce an “l” sound and then simply blow a steady stream of air                 past the sides of your tongue where it rests against the inside surface of your molars.
ƛ̓        This sound starts like a t̕ and then releases into the ɬ sound described above.
q        Similar to “k” only with your tongue pulled farther back.
š        “sh” sound as in shirt
θ        Called theta, it makes a “th” sound as in think
t̕ᶿ        This sound starts like a t̕ and then releases into the theta θ sound.
x        Like the “h” in huge.
χ        This is a sort of raspy sound made at the back of the mouth.
ʔ        The stop you hear in the middle of the word uh-oh

What does that little comma above or next to a letter mean?
Some hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ consonants, such as c̓, k̓, ƛ̓, p̓, q̓, or t̕, are categorized as glottalized or ejective stops. They are distinguished from their non-glottalized counterparts by an audible popping sound upon their release.

l, m, n, w, and y represent the group of consonants known as resonants, characterized as such because of the reverberating or “resonant” quality of their sound. Their glottalized counterparts l̕, m̓, n̓, w̓, and y̓, like the glottalized stops, are also represented with an apostrophe, but are distinguished from the stops by the creaky quality of their sound which is achieved by constricting the vocal cords during the articulation of a particular resonant.

What does that little “w” (ʷ) next to a letter mean?
The little ʷ next to a letter means that the particular sound is made with your lips rounded. So the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ word kʷe:l sounds very similar to the English word quell.


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