|Native to||United States|
|Region||Alaska (Copper River region)|
|Ethnicity||500 Ahtna (1995)|
|45 (2015 census)|
|Latin (Ahtna alphabet)|
Official language in
Pre-contact distribution of Ahtna
The Ahtna language consists of four different dialects: Upper, Central, Lower, and Western. Three of the four are still spoken today. Ahtna is closely related to Dena'ina.
The similar name "Atnah" occurs in the journals of Simon Fraser and other early European diarists in what is now British Columbia as a reference to the Tsilhqot'in people, another Northern Athapaskan group.
Eyak-Athabaskan, Athabaskan, Northern Athabaskan.
Ahtna is one of the eleven Athabaskan languages native to Alaska. The Ahtna language comes from the proto-Athabaskan language possibly evolving 5,000 to 10,000 years ago when humans migrated from Eurasia to The New World over the Bering Sea floor (Beringia) when it was dried up and exposed creating a natural land bridge. Many indigenous Native American languages are to have derived from this proto-Athabaskan language, Navajo is one language derived from this early language and consequently Ahtna and Navajo have many similarities. The Ahtna Language has changed very much and very often, it is still changing today. Within the past century more than one hundred words have made their way into the Ahtna vocabulary mostly due to Euro-American influences. Contact with Russians influenced the Ahtna language with many Russian loanwords being introduced. With contact from English speakers, especially recently, English words have also been introduced. Some words are also borrowed from the Alaskan Tlingit and Alutiiq native people.
The Ahtna region consists of the Copper River Basin and the Wrangell Mountains. The Ahtna Region is bordered by the Nutzotin river in the Northeast and the Alaska Range in the North. The Talkeetna Mountains are to the Chugach Mountains are to the South. The Upper Ahtna live on the upper portion of the Copper River, The Middle or Central Ahtna live slightly down river from there, The Lower Ahtna live near the mouth of the Copper River, which opens into the Gulf of Alaska, and the Western Ahtna live to the West of the River.
The Ahtna people live on and near traditional villages. There are eight villages within the Ahtna Region: Cantwell, Chistochina, Chitina, Copper Center, Gakona, Gulkana, Mentasta and Tazlina' They are all recognized federally.
There are 30 elderly speakers out of a population of 500, and the language is facing extinction.
In 2012 a facing-bilingual collection of poetry in Ahtna and English, The Indian Prophet, was published by poet John Smelcer.
As of 2010, a digital archiving project of Ahtna was underway.
There are four main dialect divisions and eight bands (tribal unions):
Athabaskan languages are primarily prefixing. Many prefixes are presented together. There is limited suffixation and often one word has as much meaning as an English language sentence. Verbs are very complex therefore creating many different meanings or analysis of verbs. Some verbs include syntactic principles in addition to and/or replacement of morphological principles when constructing a word.
This consonant chart is in Kari's practical orthography and phonology and is taken from the Ahtna Athabaskan Dictionary.
|Stops||Plain||b [p]||d [t]||dl [tɬ]||dz [ts]||g [k]||gg [q]||' [ʔ]|
|Aspirated||p [pʰ]||t [tʰ]||tl [tɬʰ]||ts [tsʰ]||c [kʰ]||k [qʰ]|
|Ejective||t' [tʼ]||tl' [tɬʼ]||ts' [tsʼ]||c' [kʼ]||k' [qʼ]|
|Fricatives||Voiced||v [v]||l [l]||z [z]||y [ɣ]||gh [ʁ]|
|Voiceless||hw [hʷ]||ł [ɬ]||s [s]||yh [x]||x [χ]||h [h]|
|Nasals||m [m]||n [n]||ng [ŋ]|
This vowel chart is in Kari's practical orthography and phonology and is taken from the Ahtna Athabaskan Dictionary.
|High||ii [iː]||uu [uː]||i [ɪ]||u [ʊ]|
|Mid||oo [oː]||e [ɛ]||o [ɔ]|
|Low||ae [æ]||aa [ɑː]||a [ɐ]|
Because of the different Ahtna dialects, people may say the same words differently.
Possession is indicated by prefixes. s- 'my', u- or yu'- 'his/her', ne- 'our'; as in snaan 'my mother', unaan (or yu'naan) 'his/her mother', nenaan 'our mother'.
Verbs are primarily prefixing. There are often six or more prefixes before the stem and then one or more suffixes. (1a) displays a surface form in Ahtna spelling while (1b) is the verb theme. Three prefixes are present that have to be listed with the stem to make up the form. Anything adjacent in a verb theme can be separated by morphemes in the forms surface. Verb themes display what elements should be listed in a dictionary for a speaker to be able to reconstruct the verb. '#' displays an important word-internal boundary known as a disjunct boundary. '+' indicates a morpheme boundary.
(1) a. Tadeldlo'
'Water is gurgling.' (Surface form)
b. ta # d+ l+ dlok'
into water # qualifier+ classifier+ 'laugh
(Lexical listing: verb theme)
In the Ahtna language the verb typically goes after the noun.
Modifiers usually go after the noun it is modifying in the Ahtna Language. Smelcer (1998) provides this example in his Ahtna Language Dictionary: "as in the word for Raven (the deity, trickster figure), which in Ahtna is called Saghani Ggaay (literally "Little Raven"). Saghani is a noun for the word for the species of raven (Corax corax), while ggaay means "little or small." Thus, the syntax is actually expressed as "Raven little." Consider other words such as nen ten, the word for permafrost (literally "frozen ground"). The word nen means "land or ground"; the modifier ten means "frozen." Thus, the syntax is "Land frozen." Other examples include the word for Denali/Mt. McKinley, which is Dghelaay Ce'e (literally "Big Mountain"). The word dghelaay means "mountain," while ce'e means "big, biggest, or large." Thus, the syntax is "Mountain Biggest." Another example using ce'e is the place name for Lake Susitna, which is Ben Ce'e (literally "Big Lake"). In this case, the noun ben is a general term meaning "lake" modified by the word for "big or large."