The Haisla language, X̄a’islak̓ala or X̌àh̓isl̩ak̓ala, is a First Nations language spoken by the Haisla people of the North Coast region of the Canadian province of British Columbia, who are based in the village of Kitaamat 10 km from the town of Kitimat at the head of the Douglas Channel, a 120 km fjord that serves as a waterway for the Haisla as well as for the aluminum smelter and accompanying port of the town of Kitimat. The Haisla and their language, along with that of the neighbouring Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv peoples, were in the past incorrectly called “Northern Kwakiutl”.
The name Haisla is derived from the Haisla word x̣àʼisla or x̣àʼisəla, meaning ‘dwellers downriver’.
Haisla is a Northern Wakashan language spoken by several hundred people. Haisla is geographically the northernmost Wakashan language. Its nearest Wakashan neighbor is Oowekyala.
Haisla is closely related to the other North Wakashan languages, Oowekyala, Heiltsuk, Kwak’wala, and to a lesser extent Nuuchahnulth (Nootka), Nitinat, and Makah. Typical of languages spoken on the Northwest Coast, these languages consist of multiple consonants with limited allophonic variation. The phonological inventory is familiar to other Northern Wakashan languages.
Haisla has a wide range of consonants, with the plain plosives being either voiced or voiceless. Similar to the other Wakashan languages, Haisla does not have large vowel systems. The vowels seen in the language are /i/, /a/, /u/, /o/, /e/ and /ə/. /ə/ also exists in Kwakwala, and absent from Southern Wakashan languages. The two languages are also characterized by their open /i u/.
Dorsals can either be front /k ɡ x/ or back, /q ɢ χ/, and can also be rounded. Plosives can be further altered by aspiration, glottalization, and voicing. Resonants also experience further augmentation through glottalization. Fricatives and plain plosives are generally aspirated within Northern Wakashan languages, whereas the voiced plosives can be either phonetically voiced or voiceless un-aspirated.
Voicing and glottalization are active components, seen in consonant mutations, while aspiration is not. Aspirated plosives, alongside fricatives, have All aspirated and glottalized plosives in Haisla are voiceless. All fricatives are voiceless as well.
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