Tlingit language is spoken by the Tlingit people in South-East Alaska and Western Canada. It falls under the De-Ne language family. Tlingit is pronounced as “KLIN-kit”. The name was derived from the name “Lingit”, which means ‘people’. The Tlingit Indians live in reserves. Each Tlingit tribe in Canada is referred to as a band and it has its own independent leadership. Even though the tribes are politically independent, they are still Canadian citizens and are subject to Canadian laws. The Tlingits who live in the United States do not live in reserves, they live in native villages instead. Most Tlingit people speak English nowadays.
Tlingit is related to the Athabaskan languages and Eyek. Approximately 400 people still speak this language. 3 different orthographies have been used for Tlingit. This includes the Revised Popular Orthography, which was used in the 1970s in native language Alaskan publications. The Canadian Orthography was developed in the 1980s by the Yukon Native Language Center for the Tlingits in Canada. The Email Orthography was developed as a result of people attempting to use Tlingit online, in emails and on websites. Alternate names for the Tlingit language includes Kolosh, Kolosch and Thlinget. Russian Orthodox missionaries developed a writing system for Tlingit, using the Cyrillic alphabet.
The Tlingit history is not very well known because there were no written records until the 18th century. Tlingit has 5 dialects, which are mutually intelligible. Yakutat is the the northern most dialect. It is mainly spoken in the region south of Lituya Bay. The Transitional dialect is mainly spoken in St. Petersburg, Kake, Wrangell and the surrounding regions. The Inland Tlingit dialect is spoken in Atlin Lake and Teslin Lake in Canada. The southern dialects are spoken in the area south of the Alaska-Canada border and the southern part of Prince of Wales Islands. The Tongas dialect is now extinct. It was once spoken in the south of Ketchikan. There are currently about 700 speakers of Tlingit, most of whom are elderly people. Several language revitalization efforts have been put in place in South East Alaska to help in the revival and preservation of the language.