Aboriginal Languages Of Canada By Number Of Speakers

Canada is home to a diversity of aboriginal tribes who speak distinct aboriginal languages, greatly enhancing the cultur

Canada is a country with diverse cultural heritage with many languages. The majority of Canadians (over 78% of the population) have English and French as their native languages. However, many argue that these languages are foreign and only came to Canada during its colonization by the European powers. The Indigenous residents of Canada account for less that 2% of its population, and they speak the Indigenous languages. The Indigenous languages in the country are as many as 65 distinct languages which are grouped into 11 language sub-groups. These languages were used by the nomadic tribes which lived in Canada before its colonization. The Indigenous languages are complex and are what is known by linguists as a polysynthetic language where a full English sentence can be translated into one word.

History Of Indigenous Languages In The Region

According to linguists and historians, the use of Indigenous languages date back to thousands of years which make these languages some of the earliest in history. The modern Indigenous languages can be traced to three original languages known as the Eskimo-Aleut, Dene-Caucasian, and Eurasian. The evolution of Indigenous languages in Canada is traced back to the last Ice Age where the residents were migrating inland and establishing communities in Canada, where they developed their unique style of Indigenous language based on the environment where they settled.

Status Of Indigenous Languages In Canada

According to the 2011 national census, more than 213,000 individuals had an Indigenous language as their native language or mother tongue. The Algonquian language group has the largest number of people using the languages. According to the census, of all the people who used Indigenous language as their mother tongues, two-thirds used Indigenous language group. The Indigenous language group consists of Cree, Ojibway, Innu, and the Oji-Cree and is used predominantly in the Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec provinces. Other language families with a large group of users are Athapaskan and the Inuit language groups. In the Athapaskan language group, Dene is the most common language and according to the 2011 census had 11,860 users with more than 70% of them residing in Saskatchewan. In the Inuit language group, the Inuktitut was most prevalent and had users living mainly in Quebec and Nunavut.

Endangered Indigenous Languages

The Indigenous language has seen a dramatic decline in usage and faces a real threat of extinction by assimilation into other languages. The 2011 national census indicated that less than 1% of all Canadians used an Indigenous language as a mother tongue, a figure that is still declining further. The percentage of people fluently using an Indigenous language is less than 1%. The decline is attributed to decreased usage of the language, especially among the young generation. During the colonial period, the usage of these Indigenous languages were discouraged by authorities through laws banning Indigenous language usage in schools where students caught using them were punished. While such laws are no longer in existence, their implications still linger. However, linguists are trying to preserve the language in recent years through documenting its usage and putting learning and teaching programs in the society.

Aboriginal Languages Of Canada By Number Of Speakers

RankAboriginal language dialectsNo. of speakersMother tongueHome language
4Oji-Cree (Anishinini)12,6058,4808,480
5Montagnais-Naskapi (Innu)11,81510,9709,720
6Dene Suline11,1309,7507,490
8Siouan languages (Dakota/Sioux)6,4955,5853,780
12Tłįchǫ or Dogrib2,6452,0151,110
14South Slave2,315600600
18North Slave (Hare)1,235650650
24Kutchin-Gwich’in (Loucheaux)57035525

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