The Shuswap language, known to its speakers as Secwepemctsín [ʃəxwəpməxtʃín], is the traditional language of the Shuswap people (Secwépmec, [ʃəˈxwεpməx] or [səˈxwεpməx]) of British Columbia. An endangered language, Shuswap is spoken mainly in the southern interior of British Columbia between the Fraser River and the Rocky Mountains. There are however over 1600 remaining speakers in Canada according to the most recent census in 2006.
Shuswap is the northernmost of the Interior Salish languages, which are spoken in Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Two eastern and five western dialects of Shuswap are recognized: Kinbasket and Shuswap Lake (eastern); Canim Lake, Chu Chua, Deadman's Creek-Kamloops, Fraser River, and Pavilion-Bonaparte (western). The other northern Interior Salish languages are St'at'imcets and Nlaka'pamux.
|Mid||e (ɛ)||ə||o (ɔ)|
|Close||i (i/e)||u (u/o)|
|Plosives||Plain||p||t||c||k||k° [kʷ]||q||q° [qʷ]|
|Glottalized||p’||t’ [tɬ’]||c’||k’||k°’ [kʷ’]||q’||q°’ [qʷ’]||ʔ|
|Fricatives||λ [tɬ]||s||x||x° [xʷ]||χ||χ° [χʷ]||h|
|Plain||m||n l||y||γ [ɰ]||ʕ||ʕ° [ʕʷ]||w|
|Glottalized||m’||n’ l’||y’||γ’ [ɰ’]||ʕ’||ʕ°’ [ʕʷ’]||w’|
The notational generally used in literature on Shuswap appears in the above table. The IPA transcription, where different, appears to the right.
A Shuswap word consists of a stem, to which can be added various affixes. Very few words contain two roots. Any stressed root can have an unstressed alternative, where the vowel is replaced by [ə].
Most roots have the form CVC or CC (the latter only if unstressed). Other roots are CVCC or CCVC.
Suffixes begin either with a stressed vowel (dropped in forms where the root is stressed) or a consonant. Prefixes generally have the form C- or CC-.
Stress in Shuswap is not very prominent, and occurs only in longer words. Since [u] and [i] are always stressed and [ə] never is, stress is usually fairly simple to predict.
Although Kiupers (1974) does not specify, in many cases the glottalized or rounded version of a consonant seems to represent an allophonic variation. For example, consonants which have a rounded form are rounded before and after [u]. However, glottalization can be contrastive (the root q’ey-, "set up a structure," versus q’ey’-, "write") or allophonic (the root q’ey- appears with a glottalized final consonant in s-t-q‘ey’-qn, "shed"). Consonant reduplication can also have an effect on glottalization.
There are a number of ways in which sounds are affected by their environments. Resonants in the vocalic position are preceded by an automatic schwa, for example the word /st’mkelt/ ("daughter"), pronounced [stɬ’əmkelt]. The darkening of vowels, as described below, is another case.
The distribution of vowels is quite complex. The vowels have the following main variants:
a and ʌ are unchanged. The environment around uvulars and velars produces a different set of variants, including occasional slight diphthongs. Additionally, some roots cause darkened vowels to appear in suffixes; one example is the prefix -ekst ("hand, arm"), which is darkened in x°əl’-akst. The darkened vowels are as follows:
Most nouns contain suffixes. Suffixes are also used to indicate transitive, intransitive, and imperative verbs. Below are a few examples taken from the extensive collection of Shuswap suffixes:
In addition, there are several types of complex reduplication, involving patterns such as 11V12, 112V23, and 1123V34 (where 1 represents C1, etc.).
Not all types of reduplication are productive and functional. Total reduplication indicates plurality and consonant reduplication is diminuitive, but most other reduplications are difficult to explain.
In addition to reduplication, root morphemes can be modified by interior glottalization, such that a root CVC appears as CʔVC. Although the process is not productive, many recorded forms refer to a state, for example [pʔeγ] (cooled off) from [peγns] (he cools it off). Consonant reduplication can proceed as usual with interior glottalization.
Sentences with predicate first:
Sentences with subject first (rare):
|x-pət-min’||covering around something|
|x-ptək-ew’s||to cross a road|
|tətʔiʔk°-m||to glow / be red hot|
|tik°-n’k-tn||a fungus that was used in making fire|
|q°el||to speak, talk|
|c-q°l-nt-es||to call, summon|
|x-yew-m||to fetch water|
|x-yew’-mn||fishing spot, bucket|
|s-q°ex-t||wild man, bugbear|
|t-q°əx-q°əx-n’t-es||to frighten people by spooky behavior|
|q°ex-s-n-s||to tell somebody about mysterious sight or experience|