LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN THE GULF OF GEORGIA AREA
Halq'eméylem translates literally as "the language of Leq'ámél (Nicomen)."1. Halq'eméylem consists of three dialects,"Upriver", "Downriver" and "Island". Each dialect has different sounds and a few different words. The Upriver dialect (pronounced Halq'eméylem) is spoken by the Stó:lo people living upriver from Sumas. The Downriver dialect (pronounced Hun'qumi'num') is spoken by the Stó:lo people living downriver from Matsqui. The Island dialect (Hul'q'umín'um') is spoken by the Nanoose, Nanaimo, Chemainus, Cowichan, and the Malahat peoples of Vancouver Island.2.
Stó:lo culture is part of the larger group of cultures often referred to as "Central Coast Salish". Central Coast Salish people speak several different languages, but are closely connected through marriage ties, shared stories, beliefs, customs, and traditions. There are ten different languages spoken among the Central Coast Salish cultures, all of which belong to the Central Coast branch of the Salishan language family.3. The Central Coast Salish languages other than Halq'eméylem (Halkomelem) include Éy7á7juuthem (Comox Salish), Shashishalhem (Sechelt), Snichim (Squamish), Pentlatch (now extinct), Lekw'iní?nen / Sencoten / Xwlemichosen (three dialects' names for Northern Straits Salish), Dxwlesucid (Lushootseed), Tuwa'duxqucid (Twana), Lhéchelesem (Nooksack), and Nexwstl'ay'em'u'cen(Klallam).4.
In addition to the ten Central Coast Salish languages, there are 13 other languages in the Salishan language family. These languages are identified as members of the Salishan Family because they provide evidence that they are derived from a common source, "Proto-Salish." The lower Fraser River is roughly the center of the whole Salishan territory. Some linguists believe that the this area was the original Salishan homeland, where Proto-Salish was spoken. Given the thousands of years it takes for 33 separate languages to develop from one "Proto-Salish" on the Fraser River, we can say the Stó:lo do indeed have very deep roots in the history and culture of this area..5.
Note 1. Duff, 1952 p. 11.
Note 2. Halq'eméylem is spoken fluently by very few people today. Conscious efforts by the government and missionaries to assimilate Stó:lo people during the past century forced many children to stop speaking it while they attended residential school. Although several efforts have been made at language revival, there is a crisis in language today, with the real possibility of the upriver dialect of Halq'eméylem becoming extinct within a generation. The work of linguist Brent Galloway presents some grammar and vocabulary of Halq'eméylem: Tó:lméls ye Siyelyólexwa: Wisdom of the Elders (Sardis: Coqualeetza Culture and Education Center, 1980); A Grammar of Upriver Halkomelem (Berkeley: University of California Publications in Linguistics 96, 1993).
Note 3. A language family is a groups of languages that share a common origin.
Note 4. The names from these languages have been given, where possible, in the orthography used by the speakers of those languages. The names in brackets are the simplified English names for these languages. Éy7á7juuthem (Comox Salish) is found in Dorothy Kennedy and Randy Bouchard Sliammon Life, Sliammon Lands (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1983); Shashishalhem (Sechelt) in Ronald Beaumont She shashishalhem The Sechelt Language (Penticton: Theytus Books, 1985); Snichim (Squamish) in Aert Kuipers The Squamish Language: Grammar, Texts, Dictionary, Janua Lingaurum Series Practica 73, 1967; Lekw'iní?nen in Timothy Montler "Languages and Dialects in Straits Salishan", Papers for the 31st International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, 1996; Sencoten in Dave Elliott, Saltwater People, (Saanich: School District 63, 1983); Xwlemichosen from Timothy Montler, linguist University of Texas, personal communication 1996; Dxwlsucid (Lushootseed) in Dawn Bates, Thom Hess, Vi Hilbert Lushootseed Dictionary, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994); Tuwa'duxqucid (Twana) in William Elmendorf The Structure of Twana Culture (1960) (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1992); Lhéchelesem (Nooksack) from Brent Galloway, linguist University of Regina, personal communication; and Nexwstl'ay'em'u'cen (Klallam) in Timothy Montler "Languages and Dialects in Straits Salishan", Papers for the 31st International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, Vancouver 1996.
Note 5. Laurence Thompson and M. Dale Kinkade, "Languages", in Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast, (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990), Pp. 30-51.