Déné syllabics

Carrier syllabics
Type abugida
Languages Carrier (Dakelh)
Creator Adrien-Gabriel Morice
Time period Created in 1885, with its usage beginning to fade in the 1920s
Sister systems Cree syllabary, which also influenced the design of the letters
ISO 15924 ,
Unicode alias
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Carrier or Déné syllabics is a script created by Adrien-Gabriel Morice for the Carrier language. It was inspired by Cree syllabics and is one of the writing systems in the Canadian Aboriginal syllabics Unicode range.


The Dakelh people once enjoyed extensive literacy with the script. It is recorded that it was often used to write messages on trees, and Morice published a newspaper in syllabics which was in print from 1891 to 1894. Some transcriptions of Latin and English have been recorded as well. Its usage began to decline around 1920, when the Carrier language was banned from the local schools. In liturgical publications, such as prayer books, the Carrier language became written in a non-standard form of the Latin alphabet, which used many English sound values, such as ⟨oo⟩ for /u/ and ⟨u⟩ for /ʌ/. The switch was rather abrupt, to the point that parents would write in syllabics and their children would write in the alphabet, and neither could understand the other's writing.

In the 1960s, the Carrier Linguistic Committee in Fort St. James created a standardized form of the Latin alphabet for usage in the Carrier language. This is now the preferred form of writing the language, although Carrier syllabics is still often seen as more authentic to the culture.


Carrier syllabics is designed so that syllables which begin with the same consonant have the same basic form. Depending on the following vowel, this form may be rotated, flipped, or a diacritic may be added in the center. There are special characters for consonants at the end of a syllable.

Carrier syllabics is written from left to right. Morice originally intended to have regular spacing between words; however, in practice the letters were sporadically spaced, and the gaps between them did not often correlate to separate words. There was no formally defined punctuation; Morice used the modern punctuation of the Latin alphabet.

u o ə e i a no vowel
p (b)
t (d)
tʰ (th)
tʼ (tt)
ts (dz)
tsʰ (ts)
tsʼ (tts)
tɬ (dl)
tɬʰ (tlh)
tɬʼ (tl)
ɬ (lh)
tʃ (j)
tʃʰ (ch)
tʃʼ (jj)
ʃ (sh)
j (y)
k (g)
kʰ (kh)
kʼ (kk)
x (gh)
ɣ (r)

Suffix ⟨ᐤ⟩ or ⟨ᐧ⟩ indicates long vowels. There is a final ⟨ᓑ⟩ for /ŋ/, and an initial ⟨ᙇ⟩ for French j. There are no dedicated series for /kʷ kʷʰ kʷʼ xʷ ɣʷ/; presumably the vowelless variants of /k kʰ kʼ x ɣ/ are combined with the /w/ series, since only /k/ occurs finally. A variant of ᔆ is used for the laminal/apical distinction, but it is not supported by Unicode and in any case the rest of the series is missing.

Prefix ⟨ᕯ⟩ marks proper names.

Unicode has interchanged the /tsʰ/ and /tʃʰ/ series compared to Morice (1890): they have /tsʰ/ (ch) and /tʃʰ/ (ts) rather than /tsʰ/ (ts) and /tʃʰ/ (ch) . Some fonts have ᘨ /tɬu/ dlu reversed: the serif should be on the left, as in lu, not the right as in tlu.


Carrier syllabics has been included in Unicode, along with related Canadian Aboriginal scripts, which use the same codes where they share glyphs.

External links

  • History and Description of Déné (Carrier) syllabics
  • Description of the Carrier syllabary, including charts and images
  • Detailed history of the syllabary, with photographs of inscriptions
  • Languagegeek Carrier Keyboard Layouts and Fonts
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