SENĆOŦEN / Malchosen / Lkwungen / Semiahmoo / T’Sou-ke

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Language Family: Coast Salish

Dialects: SENĆOŦEN, Lekwungen, Malchosen

Language known as: Northern Straits Salish

The First Nations that speak this language do not have a single name for the language. Instead, there is a different name for the language in each dialect: SENĆOŦEN , Malchosen, Lkwungen, Semiahmoo, and T’Sou-ke. Although the First Nations prefer their own names for their language, linguists have called these five dialects "Northern Straits Salish". These five dialects are spoken by the W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) peoples and their closely related neighbours from the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, the Gulf and San Juan Islands, southern Vancouver Island and the southern edge of the Lower Mainland in British Columbia.

State of the Language

SENĆOŦEN is the dialect with the largest number of fluent speakers. The Lkwungen and Malchosen dialects do not currently have any fluent speakers and may be considered "sleeping"1.

First Nation Population Fluent Speakers Understand or Speak Somewhat Learning Speakers
BOḰEĆEN (Pauquachin)23630620
MÁLEXEȽ (Malahat)3297500
SȾÁUTW̱ (Tsawout)274901387
Scia'new (Beecher Bay)unknownunknownunknownunknown
SEMYOME (Semiahmoo)483035
Songhees Nation4905unknownunknownunknown
SXIMEȽEȽ (Esquimalt)628815536
T'Sou-ke Nation72510101
W̱JOȽEȽP (Tsartlip)288111393
W̱SIḴEM (Tseycum)21520310



This dialect has been called: Northern Straits Salish
Population: approx. 31008
Fluent speakers: 208

SENĆOŦEN is one of the dialects of the SENĆOŦEN/Malchosen/Lekwungen/Semiahmoo/T’Sou-ke group of dialects that linguists have called Northern Straits Salish. This dialect has the largest number of fluent speakers from the group and it has been suggested the language now be called SENĆOŦEN9.

There are about 20 fluent speakers of SENĆOŦEN (all over the age of 50) and about 10 people who understand and/or speak the language somewhat8. As of 2008, there are language classes being taught... As of 2008, there is also a FirstVoices archive of 367 words and 536 phrases.


This dialect has been called: Songhees


This dialect has been called: Malahat, Samish
Population: 2585
Fluent speakers: 6 [2004]10

This "Northern Straits" dialect is spoken by the Malahat First Nation. The name "Malchosen" was chosen by the First Nation to distinguish the dialecct from SENĆOŦEN which they report to be "about 80% the same"10.

Footnotes / References
1. Deanna Daniels, personal communication to Towagh Behr, April 16, 2008.
2. Language Data from Saanich Adult Education Centre (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3406
3. Language Data from Malahat First Nation (2012), Language Needs Assessment #2735
4. Language Data from Semiahmoo First Nation (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3328
5. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (2008). First Nation Registered Population.
6. Language Data from Esquimalt Nation (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3252
7. Language Data from T'Sou-ke First Nation (2013), Language Needs Assessment #2975
8. Healing Place for All Nations Society (2006). BCLI Language Project Needs Assessment.
9. Elliott, John (2008, July 7). Interview with John Elliott.
10. Malahat First Nation (2004). BC Language Initiative - funding application.