Introduction to Hul’q’umi’num’

This site provides an introduction to Hul’q’umi’num’ – a traditonal Salish language (and group of dialects). There are vocabulary lessons with recordings of Salish Elders speaking the terms.

“Welcome to Hul’q’umi’num’.

The language is a Coast Salish language known in the linguistic literature as Halkomelem. For speakers on Vancouver Island, it is Hul’q’umi’num’, as written in these lessons.

We can think of a language as a speech community: a community of speakers whose ways of speaking are similar enough that they understand one another. Within that larger community, we have smaller groupings or dialects. The Hul’q’umi’num’ language is spoken on Vancouver Island from Malahat in the south to Nanoose Bay in the north, with some dialect differences. Gerdts (1977) suggests there may be three Island dialects: Nanaimo, Chemainus, and Cowichan. In a larger context, we can say that the language is also spoken on the mainland, because the lower Fraser River dialects (e.g., Musqueam) and the upper Fraser River dialects of Halkomelem (or Halq’eméylem) are similar to Hul’q’umi’num’ on Vancouver Island. While linguists view Hul’q’umi’num’, Musqueam, and Halq’eméylem as dialects of a common language, we think it is also appropriate to speak of each of them as a separate language, which is closely related to the other two. Hul’q’umi’num’ is widely recognized as a language of culture and ceremony and widely used beyond its traditional territory.”

– Tom Hukari