Chipewyan is a member of the Northern Athabaskan branch of the
Na-Dené language family and is spoken by between 3,000 and 10,000 people
in parts of Canada, particularly in northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan,
north-eastern Alberta, south-eastern North-West Territories,
and the south-western Nunavut.
Chipewyan is also known as Dënesųłıné
(ᑌᓀᓲᒢᕄᓀ), Dëne Yati
(ᑌᓀ ᔭᕱ), Dɛnɛ Yati
(ᑌᓀ ᔭᕠ) or Dene. The name Chipewyan comes
from a Cree term. The language was called Montagnais by French missionaries.
Chipewyan was the first Athabaskan language encountered by Europeans
in Canada in 1686 at the York Factory trading post, and also the first
to be documented. A number vocabulary lists were put together during the
Chipewyan is spoken by people of all ages, including children, and
many Chipewyan people also speak Cree. In some Chipewyan communities,
such as Cold Lake in northern Alberta, only those over 60 still speak
the language well, and efforts are being made to revive the language among
the young people through an immersion programme in local schools.
There are a number of ways to write Chipewyan using the Latin alphabet
and with syllabics which were devised by English and French missionaries
during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.