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, northeastern Alberta, southeastern Northwest Territories, and the southwestern Nunavut.
Chipewyan is also known as Dënesųłıné (ᑌᓀᓱᐠᑦᕄᓀ), Dɛnɛsųłıné (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 18th century.
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.
Noutaounynan ca tayen ouascoupetz, kit-ichenicassóuin sakitaganiouísít; pita ki-ouitapimacou agoué kit-outénats. Pita kikitouin toutaganiouisit. Assitz, ego ouascouptz. Mirinan oucachigatz nimilchiminan, ouechté teouch. Gayez chouerimeouinan ki maratirinisitâ agoué, ouechté ni chouerimananet, cakichiouahiamitz. Gayeu ega pemitaouinan machicaoueintan espich nekirak inaganiouiacou; miatau canoueriminan capech. Pita.
Information about the Chipewyan language