|Native to||Canada, United States|
|Region||Southern Interior of British Columbia, Central-northern State of Washington|
|Ethnicity||Okanagan, Colville, Lakes, Methow|
2,000 L2 speakers (2007)
figure for US perhaps exaggerated
Okanagan, or Colville-Okanagan, is a Salish language which arose among the indigenous peoples of the southern Interior Plateau region based primarily in the Okanagan River Basin and the Columbia River Basin in precolonial times in Canada and the United States. Following British, American, and Canadian colonization during the 1800s and the subsequent repression of all Salishan languages, the use of Colville-Okanagan declined drastically.
Colville-Okanagan is highly endangered and is rarely learned as either a first or second language. About 150 deeply fluent speakers of Colville-Okanagan Salish remain, the majority of whom live in British Columbia. The language is currently moribund and has no first-language speakers younger than 50 years of age. Colville-Okanagan is the second-most spoken Salish language after Shuswap.
Historically, Colville-Okanagan originated from a language which was spoken in the Columbia River Basin and is now termed Proto Southern Interior Salish. As a result of the initial expansion of Colville-Okanagan prior to European contact, the language developed three separate dialects: Colville, Okanagan, and Lakes. A low degree of dialectic divergence exists in terms of vocabulary and grammar. Variation is primarily confined to pronunciation.
The vast majority of Colville-Okanagan words are from Proto-Salish or Proto-Interior Salish. A number of Colville-Okanagan words are shared with or borrowed from the neighboring Salish, Sahaptian, and Kutenai languages. More recent word borrowings are from English and French. Colville-Okanagan was an exclusively oral form of communication until the late 19th century, when priests and linguists began transcribing the language for word lists, dictionaries, grammars, and translations. Colville-Okanagan is currently written in Latin script using the American Phonetic Alphabet.
In Colville-Okanagan the language itself is known as n̓səl̓xcin̓ or nsyilxcn. Speakers of n̓səl̓xcin̓ occupied the northern portion of the Columbia Basin from the Methow River in the west, to Kootenay Lake in the east, and north along the Columbia River and the Arrow Lakes. In Colville-Okanagan, all nsyilxcn-speaking bands are grouped under the ethnic label syilx. Colville-Okanagan is the heritage language of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, the Westbank First Nation, the Osoyoos Indian Band, the Penticton Indian Band, the Okanagan Indian Band, the Upper Nicola Indian Band, and the Colville, Sanpoil, Okanogan, Lakes, Nespelem, and Methow bands of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
In 2012, the CBC featured a report on a family which is teaching its children n̓səl̓xcin̓ in the home.
Five nonprofit organizations which support Colville-Okanagan language acquisition and revitalization are the Paul Creek Language Association in Keremeos, British Columbia, the En'owkin Centre in Penticton, British Columbia, the Hearts Gathered Waterfall Montessori in Omak, Washington, the Salish School of Spokane in Spokane, Washington, and the Inchelium Language and Culture Association in Inchelium.
Revitalization efforts for Colville-Okanagan in the United States are limited largely to instruction for children . However, concentrated efforts are made on the part of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation to promote language preservation. Among the activities in which the Confederation takes part are allocating funds both local and federal for cultural preservation projects. The Confederated Tribes' goals are to establish three language programs, develop language dictionaries, provide translation services and curriculum, and establish language classes with a regular attendance of 30 or more people. Though the Confederation's efforts are laudable, the limitations of 150 truly native speakers are evident. Language revitalization on the scale the Confederation proposes is limited by the number of native speakers available for those projects.
Despite the confederation's efforts, language revitalization cannot be reproduced on such a large scale in the short run. The Salish School of Spokane in Washington takes a smaller approach towards revitalization. This school caters to the Colville-Okanagan-speaking population in the tribal regions of northeastern Washington. This school's efforts fall under the category of full-immersion school. The Salish School's target demographic is children between the ages of one and 10 years old. This places the Salish School of Spokane in the children revitalization group of schools. The school's programs are designed to spur full native fluency in Okanagan before the age of 10. The school does this by offering classes in Okangan from 9 am to 3:15 pm. According to school expectations and curricula, children are expected to speak Okanagan for the duration of their time in school. In addition, the school is committed to an active learning strategy, that is, children are taught common nursery rhythms (heads, shoulders, knees, and toes) that engage the learner's body.
The Salish School of Spokane makes a point of not falling into the trap of monopolizing teaching resources. Unlike Walsh's examples of tribes opting to not share materials, the Salish School maintains a variety of audio resources and curricula to advance Okanagan revitalization. Along with these efforts, the school not only provides curriculum, but also helps develop and translate it. The Salish School works alongside organizations such as the Paul Creek Language Association, a nonprofit based in British Columbia, on the N̓səl̓xcin̓ Curriculum Project. The N̓səl̓xcin̓ Project aims to create foundational lesson plans from which teachers of Okanagan can draw. The project is spearheaded by Christopher Parkin, and is translated primarily by the fluent elder Sarah Peterson, with the additional help of Hazel Abrahamson and Herman Edwards. The participation of native speakers ensures clear meaning and high fidelity to the Okanagan language. The project is composed of six textbooks divided into three levels. Each level consists of a language book which contains a number of audio recordings, language, and learning software to ease language teaching. Additionally, each level includes a literature book. The literature book provides the vital function of providing entertainment for language learners when outside of class and also reinforces sentence construction for Okanagan. Most importantly, the curriculum developed by the N̓səl̓xcin̓ Curriculum Project is available in electronic format online free of charge.
To encourage interest in teaching vocations, the En'Owkin places a strong emphasis on its various certification programs. The Certificate of Aboriginal Language Revitalization is offered in the En'Owkin Centre and is taught by linguist Maxine Baptiste. The course does have a fee involved, but the certificate is offered in partnership with the University of Victoria. Additionally, the center also offers a certification to become a Certified Early Childhood Education Assistant which is in partnership with Nicola Valley Institute of Technology. The certificate does not qualify one to teach at the secondary level, but does ensure employability in daycare and pre-K. The strategy behind these two certificates ensures that potential teachers have easy access to college credits from centers of higher learning like the University of Victoria, and potential education assistants can be involved in the education of children, thus establishing fluency in Okanagan early on. Finally, the En'Owkin Centre places a heavy emphasis on its college readiness programs. The importance of these programs lies not only in setting up native students for success, but also incorporating Colville-Okanagan courses into curriculum for young adult to adult students. William Cohen notes in his article, that many native students perform poorly in school and the high school dropout rate for aboriginal high schoolers is very high.
|Letter||Letter Name||IPA||English Explanation||Nsyilxcn Example|
|a||a||/a/||as in the word father||anwí (it is you)|
|c||ci||/t͡ʃ/||as in the word church||cʕas (crash)|
|c̓||c̓a||/t͡ʃʼ/||as in the word cats||c̓ałt (cold)|
|ə||ə||/ə/||as in the word elephant||əcxʷuy (goes)|
|h||ha||/h/||as in the word happy||hiw̓t (rat)|
|i||is||/i/||as in the word see||ixíʔ (that/then)|
|k||kut||/k/||as in the word kite||kilx (hand)|
|k̓||k̓it||/kʼ/||is pronounced as a hard k||k̓ast (bad)|
|kʷ||kʷup||/kʷ/||as in the word queen||kʷint (take)|
|k̓ʷ||k̓ʷap||/kʷʼ/||is pronounced as a hard kʷ||k̓ʷck̓ʷact (strong)|
|l||li||/l/||as in the word love||limt (happy)|
|l̓||əl̓||/lˀ/||pronounced as an abrubtly stopped l||sl̓ax̌t (friend)|
|ł||łu||/ɬ/||pronounced as a slurpy l||łt̓ap (bounce/jump)|
|ƛ̓||ƛ̓i||/t͡ɬʼ/||pronounced as a click tl out of the side of your mouth||ƛ̓lap (stop)|
|m||mi||/m/||as in the word mom||mahúyaʔ (racooon)|
|m̓||əm̓||/mˀ/||pronounced as an abruptly ended m||stim̓ (what)|
|n||nu||/n/||as in the word no||naqs (one)|
|n̓||ən̓||/nˀ/||pronounce as an abruptly stopped n||n̓in̓wiʔs (later)|
|p||pi||/p/||as in the word pop||pn̓kin̓ (when)|
|p̓||p̓a||/pʼ/||pronounced as a popped p||p̓um (brown)|
|q||qi||/q/||pronounced as a k deep in the back of your throat||qáqnaʔ (grandma)|
|q̓||q̓u||/qʼ/||pronounced as a hard q||q̓aʔxán (shoe)|
|qʷ||qʷa||/qʷ/||pronounced as a q with rounded lips||qʷacqn (hat)|
|q̓ʷ||q̓ʷʕay||/qʷʼ/||pronounced as a hard q with rounded lips||q̓ʷmqin (antler)|
|r||ri||/r/||pronounced rolled on your tongue||yirncút (make itself round)|
|s||sas||/s/||as in the word sister||síyaʔ (saskatoon/sarvis/June berry)|
|t||ti||/t/||as in the word top||tum̓ (mother)|
|t̓||t̓a||/tʼ/||pronounced as a hard t||t̓ínaʔ (ear)|
|u||u||/u/||as in the word soon||uł (and)|
|w||wa||/w/||as in the word walk||wikn (I saw it)|
|w̓||əw̓s||/wˀ/||pronounced as an abruptly ended w||sw̓aw̓ásaʔ (auntie)|
|x||xu||/x/||pronounced as a soft h in the back of the throat||xixəw̓tm (girl)|
|x̌||x̌a||/χ/||pronounced as a guttural h deep in the back of the throat||x̌ast (good)|
|xʷ||xʷi||/xʷ/||pronounced as an h in the back of the throat but with rounded lips||xʷuy (go)|
|x̌ʷ||x̌ʷay||/χʷ/||pronounced as a guttural h in the back of the throat but with rounded lips||x̌ʷus (foam)|
|y||yi||/j/||as in the word yellow||yus (dark/purple)|
|y̓||y̓u||/jˀ/||pronounced as an abruptly ended y||c̓sy̓aqn (head)|
|ʕ||ʕay||/ʕ/||pronounced as a short a deep in the back of the throat||ʕaymt (angry)|
|ʕ̓||ʕ̓aw||/ʕˀ/||pronounced as an abruptly ended ʕ||ʕ̓ac̓nt (look)|
|ʕʷ||?||/ʕʷ/||pronounced as a nasally ow in the back of the throat||kaʕʷm (pray)|
|ʔ||ʔət||/ʔ/||is a breath stop in the back of the throat as in the word uh-oh||ʔaʔúsaʔ (egg)|
Consonant inventory of Okanagan:
The vowels found in Lakes are: [i], [a], [u], [ə], and [o]. The [ə] is the single unstressed variant of the full vowels in Okanagan while the [o] vowel is found only in borrowed words. Stress will fall only on the full vowels [i], [a], and [u] in Okanagan.
The morphology of Okanagan is fairly complex. It is a head-marking language that relies mostly on grammatical information being placed directly on the predicate by means of affixes and clitics. The combination of derivational and inflectional suffixes and prefixes that are added onto the stem words make for a compact language.
Okanagan demonstrates great flexibility when dealing with persons, number, and gender. The language encodes the person via a series of prefixes and suffixes, and uses its number system in tandem with pluralized pronominals to communicate the number of actors within a sentence. For example:
k- kaˀ- kaˀɬis
num.classifier plural.redup three
"There are three people" 
In this example the /k/ classification designates that the word contains a numeral classifier.
Additionally, Okanagan relies heavily on the use of suffixes to designate gender. Okanagan handles gender in much the same way, by attaching both determiner and ‘man' to the sentence, the gender of an object or subject can be communicated:
wikən iˀ sqəltmixw
wik- -ən iˀ sqəltmixw
saw 1sg det man "I saw the man"
In this example, there is a combination of 2nd singular marker with ‘wife.' ‘She' is encoded into the meaning of the word via the inclusion of the gender suffix at the end of the sentence.
Person markers within Okanagan are attached to verbs, nouns, or adjectives. The marker used depending on transitivity of verbs and other conditions outlined below. The person maker used largely depends on the case being used in the sentence.
Absolutive markers within Okanagan can only be used if the predicate of the sentence is intransitive. For example, [Kən c'k-am] (I count) is perfectly viable in Okanagan, but *[Kən c'k-ən-t] *(I count it)is not because the verb 'count' is transitive. Person markers never occur without an accompanying intransitive verb.
Simple possessives within Okanagan are predominantly a result of prefixation and circumfixation on a verb. However, Okanagan uses simple possessives as aspect forms on the verb in very complex ways. This practice is predominantly seen in Southern interior Salish languages.
The stem: kilx 'hand'
|3rd SG||iʔ kilxs||iʔ⟩kilx⟨s||circumfix||his/her⟩hand⟨|
|1st PL||iʔ kilxtət||iʔ⟩kilx⟨tət||circumfix||Our⟩hand⟨|
|2nd PL||iʔ kilxəmp||iʔ⟩kilx⟨əmp||circumfix||Your.PL⟩hand⟨|
|3rd PL||iʔ kilxsəlx||iʔ⟩kilx⟨səlx||circumfix||Their⟩hand⟨|
Where prefixation occurs with -in / an in the 1st and 2nd person singular, /n/ may undergo deletion as below:
isxʷuytn in-s-xʷuy-tan 1sgposs-nom -go- inst "They are my tracks."
akɬtkɬmilxʷ an- kɬ- tkɬmilxʷ 2sgposs-to be-woman "She is your wife to be."
anik'mən an-nik'mən 2sgposs-knife "your knife" 
In the case of verbs, Okanagan morphology handles transitivity in various ways. The first is a set of rules for verbs that only have a single direct object, transitive verbs. For the ergative case there are two variants of person markers a stressed and an unstressed.
Stressed and Unstressed
The stem: c'k-ən-t is the equivalent of the transitive verb 'count.'
|1st SG||c̓kəntin||c'k-ən-t-ín||I count it|
|2nd SG||c̓kəntixʷ||c'k-ən-t-íxw||You count it|
|3rd SG||c̓kəntis||c'k-ən-t-ís||S/he counts it|
|1st PL||c̓kəntim||c'k-ən-t-ím||We count it|
|2nd PL||c̓kəntip||c'k-ən-t-íp||You (PL) count it|
|3rd PL||c̓kəntisəlx||c'k-ən-t-ísəlx||They count it|
wikn̓t (see it) is an example of a strong -nt- transitive past/present verb, with 'XX' identifying non-occurring combinations and '--' identifying semantic combinations which require the reflexive suffix -cut-
|2||kʷuʔ wikn̓txʷ||--||wikn̓txʷ||kʷuʔ wikn̓txʷ||XX||wikn̓txʷəl̓x|
|3||kʷuʔ wiks||wikn̓ts||wiks||kʷuʔ wikn̓tm̓||wikłəm̓s||wiksəl̓x|
|2||kʷuʔ wikn̓tp||XX||wikn̓tp||kʷuʔ wikn̓tp||--||wikn̓tpəl̓x|
|3||kʷuʔ wiksəl̓x||wikn̓tsəl̓x||wiksəl̓x||kʷuʔ wikn̓tm̓əl̓x||wikłəm̓səl̓x||wikn̓tm̓əl̓x|
There are two sets of verb affixes each containing two members that dictate the composition of a verb. The first set is composed of the affixes –nt-, and -ɬt-. The second set is composed of –st- and x(i)t- where ‘i' is a stressed vowel.
The major difference between two sets is how they incorporate affixes to remain grammatically correct. In the case of the –nt-, -ɬt- group, all particles and suffixes joining onto the stem and suffix of the verb will be identical for both. The –nt- affix connects to the stem of a transitive verb via suffixation. The suffix –nt- can only make reference to two persons: an actor and a primary goal.
q̓y̓əntin q'y'-ənt-in (I write something)
The -ɬt- affix is the ditransitive counterpart of –nt- and works in much the same. The difference between the two is that it refers to three persons: an actor, and two other actors or goals. Furthermore, -ɬt- is further differentiated from its ditransitive cousin -x(i)t- because it does not require a clitic to be a part of the verb.
In contrast to this group, -st- and –x(i)t- operate by unique rules. The –st- affix, much like its counterpart must be added to a verb stem by means of suffixation, it is also transitive, and refers to an actor and a primary goal, but it implies a reference to a third person, or a secondary goal without explicitly stating it.
q̓y̓əstin q'y'-əst-in. (I write it [for myself])
The -x(i)t- ditransitive affix shares all of the features of -ɬt- with the sole exception that it requires a clitic to be attached to front of the verb stem. The reason for the clitic in Okanagan is to add emphasis or focus on the second object, whereas -ɬt- makes no distinction.
Each clause in Okanagan can be divided into two parts: inflected predicates which are required for every sentence, and optional arguments. Okanagan allows a maximum of two arguments per sentence construction. These are marked by pronominal markers on the predicate. Each argument is introduced to the sentence via an initial determiner; the only exception to initial determiners is in the case of proper names which do not need determiners to introduce them. Predicates may be of any lexical category. There may be additional arguments added to a sentence in Okanagan via complementizers. Okanagan is unique among the majority of Salish languages for the inclusion of the complementizer.
Okanagan has one oblique marker that serves adapts it to several different functions depending upon the context in which it is used. The oblique marker ‘t' can be used to mark the object of an intransitive verb, as in the case below.
kən ˀiɬən t sɬiqw I eat obl meat I ate (some)meat 
‘t' may also mark the agent in a passive construction, and it may be used to mark the ergative agent of transitive verbs. Finally, the oblique ‘t' may be used to mark functions including time and instrument:
kən txam t sx̌əx̌c'iˀ I comb obl stick "I combed my hair with a stick" 
‘t' may also coincide with the determiner ‘iʔ' in the case of instrumentals and passive agents:
tʕapəntís [iʔ [t swlwlmínk] ]. shoot-DIR-3SG.ERG DET OBL gun He shot it with a gun.
Mike cúmqs-nt-m [iʔ [t tkɬmílxʷ] ]. Mike kiss-DIR-PASS DET OBL woman Mike was kissed by the woman.
There are a number of complements available to Okanagan to clarify its predicates among these are positional complements, which merely indicate the place of a predicate. In addition to positional complements, there are a variety of marked complements, complements used in Okanagan that express further meaning through a series of particles.
The first of the marked complements is the prefix /yi/. For the most part, /yi/ is an optional complement that is used in definite cases with the exception of cases when a proper noun is used. In such cases, the /yi/ prefix is not allowed. When /yi/ is used it refers to a definite referent.
wikən yiʔ sqilxʷ " I saw the/those people." The sequential complements are composed of the particles /ɬ/ and /ɬa/. /ɬa/ conveys temporal sequence while /ɬ/ represents a subordinate element.
way̓ x̌ast ɬ kʷ cxʷuy̓ "It's good if/that you come."
way̓ x̌ast ɬa kʷ cxʷuy̓ "It will be good when/after you come."
Okanagan also contains a number of locational complements which refer to when or where something happened. It is a point of reference. The /l/ and the variant /lə/particles are used to tie a predicate to a time or place. xʷuy̓ lə sənkʷəkʷəʔac. "He went in the night"
Ablative complements in Okanagan come in the form of the /tl/ particle. Along with directional complements, /k̓/ and /k̓l/, Okanagan speakers can indicate motion. The ablative complement /tl/ only serves to indicate ‘moving away from.' For instance, in the sentence below, the ablative is ‘from (across the ocean).'
Kʷ scutxx tl sk̓ʷətikənx "Were you saying [that he is] from Seattle?"
The directional complement's two particles represent both direction towards something, and direction towards a specific location. /k/ signifies movement towards something:
k̓ incitxʷ "to my house" (not towards it)
The /k̓l/ particle modifies this sentence so that it specifies the house as the location to which the subject must move. k̓əl incitxʷ "To my house" (there specifically)
Verbs may react in a number of different ways when a suffix is attached to the root stem of the word. Below are a number of ways in which intransitive roots are modified.
-t can indicate a natural characteristic of the root c̓ik̓ "burn" c̓ik̓t "burned"
-lx indicates the subject is engaged in an activity qiclx "run"
-ils expresses state of mind. nk̓wpils "lonely"
-p expresses lack of a subject's control kmap "darkening"
-n involves action upon an object by a subject kʷuʔ caʔntis "he hit me"
-s involve action or state resulting from an activity. kʷu cˀaistixʷ
-cut indicates when the action of a subject is directed toward oneself. tarqncut "kick oneself"
Transitive stems without person markings indicate imperatives nlk̓ipnt "open it"
Intransitives can express an imperative via the –x suffix: xʷuyx "go"
The Okanagan system relies heavily on its affixes to demonstrate tense, space, and time. Below are demonstrated various affixes that attach to roots to encode meaning. Of the following two examples, they are only possible in the –n transitive paradigm.
ks- unrealized action
ikstxt̓ám "I'm going to look after him"
səc- past perfect ˁi-səc-txt'-am "I've been looking after him."
The following examples are for intransitives.
-k Unrealized: expresses an intentional future action or state. (I am going to…) Kn kʷal̓t " I'm warm"
-aʔx Continuative: Action or state that is in progress kn scpútaʔx "I am celebrating"
ɬ- Movement back
c- Movement toward speaker
kɬ- down, and under 
tl̓ from, source.
k̓l to, at, goal, recipient, dative.
k̓ for, benefative.
l on, locative.
nˁəɬ with, comitative.
ˁit with, by, instrumental 
|Okanagan language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|