Reading and Writing in the Coeur d’Alene Language

Until very recently, it was very difficult to read or write Coeur d’Alene. Very little of the language had ever been written. What had been written was put down in international phonetic symbols by linguists. As a result, only a person trained in linguistics could decipher the sound or meaning of the symbols.
In 1973, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe began a major program to develop and record the language. The first monumental task was to write a dictionary of the Coeur d’Alene language.As work on the dictionary progressed, it became clear that this huge work would be of little value to most people interested in the language unless the linguistic symbols could be put into a much simpler form.So it was that Lawrence G. Nicodemus, working with Joseph N. Bitar, devised the writing system which was first used in the dictionary and which you will also find in this language course.

The aim of these two men was to devise a writing system which the average person could already begin to read. To do this, they relied on the English alphabet in as far as this was possible. In spelling words, they used only as many letters as were necessary. Because of this new writing system, much of the written Coeur d’Alene which you are about to see will have a note of familiarity to it.

The alphabet listed is in the following order:
Letter  –  Sound Associate  –  Native Word
Further explanation about them is given in the notes which follow the alphabet. There are six sounds in Coeur d’Alene Language which do not have a near equivalent in English and are listed with a *. Place your mouse over the text in to hear the word in the Coeur d’Alene Language.


The Coeur d’Alene Alphabet

a father or (turtle)
b boy (hummingbird)
ch church (chest)
d door (whip)
e vary, at (star)
g gun (cracker)
h hen (fly)
i machine (sugar)
j jar (safety pin)
k kitchen (untamed horse)
kh *** (house)
q *** (hawk)
qh *** (crow)
l lamb (wood)
ł *** (bear)
m man (white fish)
n now (mother)
o or (drink)
p spill (mole)
r (trilled) (flower)
s sun (owl)
sh shell (box)
t star (spider)
u Jupiter
w wagon (whippoorwill)
y yard (rocking chair)
( *** (antelope)
) *** (all)
(glottal) (little box)