Web Dictionary Manual

William J. Poser, Ph.D.


  1. Using This Dictionary
  2. Entries
  3. Getting to an Entry
    1. Random Entries
    2. The Indices
    3. The Search Tools
  4. Example Sentence Entries
  5. Verb Structure
  6. Linking to Entries
  7. Technical Details
    1. Audio
    2. Fonts and Encodings
    3. Video
  8. Variation in Form and Spelling
    1. Use of the Wrong Writing System
    2. Differences in How Words Are Pronounced
    3. Hearing Incorrectly
    4. Lack of Standardization of Details of Spelling
  10. Help
  11. Implementation

[Note: For the sake of consistency, the examples in this document are drawn primarily from the Lheidli dialect dictionary. Although the examples will be different in other dialects, the dictionary software works the same way for all dialects.]

Using This Dictionary

When looking up a Carrier word, it is important to recognize that the translation given is only approximate and that in order to fully understand the meaning of a Carrier word you may need to make use of additional information. This is because Carrier and English package meanings in words in very different ways.

One source of differences is in the grammar. Carrier has grammatical categories that do not have any English counterpart. These do not have a straightforward translation. For example, the optative form of the verb has no English equivalent. Optative verb forms are therefore translated as if they were not optatives, with the information that the form is an optative provided separately. In order to understand what an optative verb form means, you need to pay attention to the annotation of the form as optative and to understand how optatives are used in Carrier. The dictionary attempts to facilitate this by providing links to explanations of such grammatical concepts. However, in order to make full use of the dictionary is advisable have the sort of familiarity with the grammar of Carrier provided by a good university-level course.

Another source of differences arises form the fact that Carrier verbs are often more precise than English verbs because they specify exactly how something is done. For example, "he cut it in two" can be expressed in Carrier using verbs that specify whether the cut was across the grain or along the grain, and whether the cut was made with a saw, an axe, or a knife. While we try to give precise translations, it becomes tedious to specify all of this information every time: "he cut it in two across the grain with a saw", "he cut it in two along the grain with a saw", "he cut it in two across the grain with an axe", etc. Furthermore, some bits of information take even more of an explanation.

Rather than including an essay to explain the meaning of every verb form, we rely on the user to pay attention to the information provided about the composition of verb forms, especially what root the verb is based on. In most cases, the entry for a verb contains a link to the entry for the root. If you are not already familiar with it, it is recommended that you have a look at the root entry, which may tell you, for example, that the form you are looking at describes a particular type of cutting or a particular means of locomotion. Similarly, it is advisable to become familiar with non-grammatical prefixes, such as the ones that mean "across the grain" and "along the grain".


Most of the information in the dictionary takes the form of entries, that is, pages with information about a single word or expression. Here is an entry containing just the basic information present in every entry. At the upper left is the Carrier word, spelled three different ways. It is written first in the Carrier Linguistic Committee writing system, then in the Carrier Syllabics, and then in the International Phonetic Alphabet. Next is an abbreviation for the syntactic category, in this case N for "Noun". Then we have a short English translation of the word.

In the lower right corner we have abbreviations for the sources of information about this entry. In this case they are all abbreviations for the names of Carrier speakers, but in some cases they may also refer to documents. Hovering the mouse over an abbreviation produces a tooltip containing the full form.

Entries may contain additional information. This entry includes the scientific name of a tree, an explanation that it is locally called called by a different name than the one biologists use, and two images.

Clicking on an image displays it on its own page in a separate tab or windows. This has the effect of enlarging it unless the resolution of the image is not high enough.

Entries may contain images of phonetic displays, such as sound pressure waveforms and spectrograms. Such images are in most respects like other images but do not appear in the pictorial index and may be styled differently.

Entries may also include more detailed information on the meaning of a word, grammatical notes, and etymologies.

Entries may have audio for the Carrier word or for other relevant sounds.

Example sentences may also have audio associated with them. The headword is highlighted within example sentences.

Word-by-word glosses of example sentences are provided.

Some glosses have tooltips providing further information.

Technical terms and abbreviations used in glosses are links to the grammar sketch.

Tooltips explain various other aspects of the dictionary as well.

Cross-references to other words are links which lead to the page for the other words.

Entries for affixes may contain links to words that contain them.

Entries may also contain links to external sources of information.

Entries for verbs show the valence prefix and stem and, in most cases, the root from which that stem is derived. If the root is shown, clicking on it jumps to the entry for that root. In the example below the valence is l, the stem is yis, and the root, in red since it is a link over which the pointer is hovering, is also yis.

Getting to an Entry

You can get to an entry by asking to see a random entry, using an index, or asking for a list of Carrier words that match a pattern.

Random Entries

If you just want to browse and see if you can find an interesting word, press the Random Entry button.

The Indices

  1. English
  2. Carrier
  3. English Topical
  4. Carrier Topical
  5. Pictorial
  6. Root Alphabetical
  7. Root by Tag
  8. Number-Restricted Roots
  9. Stem Alphabetical
  10. Stem by Tag
  11. Classificatory Verbs
  12. Absolutive Class
  13. Tense/Mode
  14. Aspect
  15. Prefixes Alphabetical
  16. Prefixes by Position
  17. Scientific Name
  18. Syntactic Category
  19. Loans
  20. Linguistic Features
  21. Stylistic Register
  22. Audio
  23. Audio By Source
  24. Image
  25. Source

There are twenty-five indices to the dictionary entries. All of them may be selected from the drop-down menu at the top of the page.

The four indices that most users are likely to use most often can also be selected by checking a radio button.


This index lists English words and phrases. It is useful if you want to find the Carrier equivalent of an English expression.


This index lists Carrier words and phrases. It is useful if you want to find out what a Carrier expression means.

English Topical

This index lists topics, such as animals and furnishings. It is useful for exploring the vocabulary in a certain area.

The category or categories to which an entry belongs are listed near the end of the page. If you click on a category in this list, the index at the left will be replaced with the index for that category. In the example below, after navigating to the entry for child, the user clicked on the category People. He or she can now use the index for the People category to explore related words.

Carrier Topical

The Carrier topical index is almost the same but within a category lists Carrier words rather than English glosses. Selecting the Birds category in the Carrier Topical index produced a list of Carrier words for birds beginning as shown below.


Like the topical index, this index lists topics and is useful for exploring the vocabulary in a certain area. However, instead of providing a list of English words and expressions for each topic, it presents an array of images. You can look at pictures of birds or tools or kinds of clothing and find out what they are called in Carrier.

Here is the first part of the bird index. The fact that the image of the pair of Mallard ducks in the center appears twice is not an error. It reflects the fact that there are two entries that use the same illustration. Clicking on the two images leads to different entries.

Root Alphabetical

This index lists verb roots in alphabetical order. It provides access to entries for individual verb roots.

Selecting a verb root replaces the index with information about the selected root including a stem set.

Stems are categorized by tense/mood/viewpoint aspect (e.g. Future Negative) and situation aspect. Hovering over a situation aspect abbreviation will normally produce a tooltip containing the corresponding full form. For example, hovering over mom produces a tooltip spelling it out as "momantaneous". Occasionally, you will encounter an abbreviation with no corresponding full form. Such abbreviations are used as temporary markers for stems whose aspectual category is not yet understood. Where it is clear that certain stems form a subset but what distinguishes them from other subsets for the same root is unclear, they may be given a label so as to show that they form a subset, rather than labelled as unclassified.

Clicking on a stem in the last column of a stem set table brings up the entry for that stem in the main window.

Some stem entries provide information about the special circumstances in which they are used. In the example below, this information includes a link to the grammar sketch.

Each verb root entry also contains a link to an index of verb forms based on that root. Clicking on that link replaces the verb root entry with the index of forms. Selecting a verb form in the index brings up the entry for that verb form in the main panel.

Each stem entry contains a similar link, to an index of verb forms based on that stem.

As you can see at the bottom of the entry shown above, root entries often contain links to related roots.

Root by Tag

This index lists verb roots in alphabetical order of their tag, which is a short, approximate meaning. It works just like the alphabetical index of verb roots.

Number-restricted Roots

This index lists just those roots as are restricted to a particular number, e.g. "for one to walk".

Stem Alphabetical

This index lists verb stems in alphabetical order, indicating what tense/mode and aspect the stem is used for and which root it belongs to. Clicking on a stem brings the entry for that stem. Clicking on a root brings up the entry for that root. based on that root. One use of the stem index is for figuring out verb forms that are not listed as such in the dictionary.

Stem by Tag

This index works just like the alphabetical index of stems but is arranged by tag rather than by the form of the stem.

Classificatory Verbs

The top-level index lists the classificatory verb categories. Clicking on one of these produces a list of verb forms based on the root for chosen category.

Absolutive Class

The top-level index lists the absolutive categories.

Selecting one of these categories produces a list of verb forms belonging to the chosen category.


Verbs are classified according to their tense/mode/negation category. The top-level index contains eight entries, for Imperfective, Perfective, Future, and Optative, each Affirmative and Negative.

Selecting a category produces a list of verb forms sorted alphabetically by English gloss.


The top-level index lists situation aspect categories.

Selecting a category produces a list of verb forms sorted alphabetically by English gloss.

Prefixes Alphabetical

This index is used to find verb forms containing a particular prefix. The top-level index lists the prefixes in alphabetical order, separately for each position.

Clicking on an entry in the top-level index produces a list of all of the verb forms containing that prefix.

Prefixes By Position

The index of prefixes by position is the same as the alphabetical index of prefixes but arranged in order of position.

Scientific Name

This index lists the Latin scientific names of living things, so it reaches only the subset of nouns that designate living things.

Syntactic Category

The top-level index lists syntactic categories.

Selecting a category produces an alphabetical list of the Carrier words belonging to that category.


This index lists words borrowed from other languages. The top-level index lists the languages from which words have been borrowed. Clicking on a language produces a list of the words borrowed from that language.

Linguistic Features

This index lists words with various interesting or relatively rare features. The top-level index lists features.

Selecting a feature produces list of entries with that feature.

Styistic Register

This index lists words belonging to special stylistic registers: babytalk, old-fashioned, vulgar, and so forth. The top-level index lists registers.

Selecting a register produces an index of entries belonging to it.


This index lists the Carrier words for which an audio recording is available.

Audio By Source

This index lists, for each speaker, the Carrier words for which an audio recording is available. It is useful if you want to listen to a particular person.


This index lists the Carrier words for which an image is available.


This index lists, for each source of information, the Carrier words about which that source provided information.

The Search Tools

Two search tools are provided that allow the user to search for Carrier words or English glosses that match a pattern.

The Carrier Search Tool

The Carrier search tool consists of an entry box together with two buttons. After entering the search text in the entry box, click the botton on the right to carry out the search. The button on the left adds an underscore to the preceding letter. You can use it to search for strings including the fronted consonants written s̲, z̲, t̲s̲, d̲z̲ and t̲s̲'. In the illustration below the search string z̲ai was entered by typing z, clicking the button on the left to add the underscore, then typing a and i.

The search tool generates a list of all of the entries matching the pattern that you enter. The pattern may be a simple string, in which case the matches will consists of all entries that contain that string. In the first image below, we have searched for the string ghun anywhere in the word. You can anchor the string at the beginning of the word by inserting a caret as in the middle image or at the end of the word by inserting a dollar sign, as in the last image.

Anchoring the string at both ends, with a caret at the beginning and a dollar sign at the end, narrows the match to ghun.

If you use a caret to anchor the search pattern to the beginning of the word, you will not find entries that begin with a hyphen unless you make the hyphen part of the search string. In the first illustration below, the search yields the words beginning with dag. In the second, it yields the words beginning with -dag.

To find the words that begin with dag whether or not they are listed with an initial hyphen, you can use the question mark to make the hyphen optional.

Patterns can be more complex. Here, for example, is a search for the string gan "close" to the beginning of the word. The pattern matches words containing gan separated from the beginning of the word by an optional hyphen followed by up to four additionl letters.

The patterns used are Javascript regular expressions, which you can learn more about from a variety of sources, such as this one.

One use of the question mark is when you are not sure which sound you have heard. For example, if you aren't sure whether an s was fronted, make the underscore optional. (This works because in Unicode the underscore is a separate character that follows the s, even though it ends up drawn under it.) In the example below we have searched for words containing the string yus with or without an underscore on the s.

As we have mentioned, by default patterns are not anchored at either end: you must use the caret and dollar-sign to anchor them if you wish to. An alternative is to select the anchor checkbox. When this is checked, patterns are automatically anchored at both ends.

Another option available for Carrier searches is fuzzy matching. Fuzzy matching attempts to compensate for the inability of some users to spell correctly or to hear some Carrier sounds correctly. It is useful for language learners, casual users, and speakers who are not well acquainted with the writing system. For example, since language learners often cannot distinguish the ejectives from the unaspirated series, if the user enters d it searches for both d and t'. Since language learners are frequently unable to tell if a word begins with a glottal stop, and even fluent speakers fail to write such glottal stop, if fuzzy matching is enabled and the anchoring option is chosen, if the pattern begins with a vowel, an optional glottal stop is prefixed to the pattern. With fuzzy matching enabled, the pattern kladak matches lhat'ak and tl'adak, and, with the expression anchored at both ends, uguz matches 'uk'uz.

Fuzzy matching is turned off by default. However, the state of the fuzzy matching checkbox is recorded each time you carry out a search, so if the last time you search in a session you use fuzzy matching, the next time you use the dictionary on the same machine, it will be set to use fuzzy matching.

The English Search Tool

The English search tool selects the entries whose English glosses match a a pattern. Except for what it matches, it works just like the Carrier search tool.

In the illustration below the user has searched for glosses containing the strings cry or crie and selected the last of the search results.

Example Sentence Entries

Example sentences are typically presented as examples of particular words, as part of the entry for that word. It is also possible to search the example sentences directly. The result is a list of example sentence numbers in the index panel. Selecting an example sentence number causes the sentence to be displayed in the main panel. The same two search boxes as used for words are used to search the example sentences. To search the example sentences, check the Search Examples box underneath.

There are a number of reasons you might want to search the example sentences:

If the checkbutton for example sentence searches is checked, pressing the Random Entry button produces a random example sentence rather than a random word.

Verb Structure

If the necessary information is present in the database, entries for verbs include detailed information about the structure of the verb in the form of a chart showing which morphemes occur in which positions in that verb form.

The top row shows the phonological form of the morphemes. The next row provides abbreviated characterizations of the different positions. The row below that contains position numbers. Finally, the last row identifies the zones into which the verb is divided. Hovering over an abbreviation in the second row brings up a more informative tooltip. In the illustration below, holding the pointer over the slot labelled Sₒ produces a tooltip, displaced downward and to the right, identifying this as the position occupied by the outer subject markers, which mark first person plural and third person duo-plural subjects.

Many verb structure charts have additional rows at the top containing information about the morphophonemic rules that have applied. The part with a red background identifies the positions involved in the rule.

Some entries have several annotation rows each showing the range of positions involved in a different rule.

Hovering over the red region produces a tooltip explaining the rule. Here is the explanation of the rule in the top row:

Here is the explanation of the rule in the second row.

And here is the explanation of the rule in the third row.

Linking to Entries

Dictionary entries are independent web pages so it is possible to link to them. You can, for example, send a link to an entry to a friend, or post a link on a web page. To obtain the URL to which to link, you need to be aware that entries are normally displayed within something called a frame. To get the URL, right-click on the entry and select the menu entry This frame. In the submenu that appears, if you want to see the URL yourself, select View frame info.

This will bring up a page containing information about the entry page.

The URL that you want is the one near the top labelled "current address". In the example below, it is:


If you just want to bookmark the entry, in the submenu select Bookmark This Frame.

Technical Details


The dictionary uses HTML5 to play audio. The audio files are WAV files containing a single channel of uncompressed 16-bit linear PCM audio at a sampling rate of 44,100 samples per second.

This provides the highest audio quality and is supported by the widest range of browsers. However, Internet Explorer does not support HTML5 audio at all in versions prior to 9, and Internet Explorer 9 only supports HTML5 audio for mp3 files. As a result, if you are using Internet Explorer, you will not be able to play the audio files in this dictionary. Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and Safari should all work. If you do not have one of these, Firefox and Chrome can be downloaded free of charge.

Google Chromehttps://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/browser/
Mozilla Firefoxhttp://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/

Fonts and Encodings

All text in the dictionary is in UTF-8 Unicode.

Most of the Carrier text is in the Carrier Linguistic Committee writing system, which presents minimal problems. The only non-ASCII characters in the standard CLC system are s,z,d and t with underscore, used to write the sounds spelled , , t̲s̲, d̲z̲, and t̲s̲'. These are represented in Unicode as the base letter followed by U+0332 Combining Low Line. The CLC system is sometimes extended to mark tone, in which case an acute accent may appear on a vowel, e.g. .

The headword for each entry is written in the Carrier Syllabics and in the International Phonetic Alphabet as well as in the Carrier Linguistic Committee writing system. Both of these require characters that are not present in all fonts. It is possible that you will need to install additional fonts in order to see syllabic or IPA text correctly. In the table below, the first row contains syllabic and IPA text, the second row images illustrating what that text should look like.


A good syllabics font available at no cost is Oskidakelh.

There is also a small amount of text in other languages for which other fonts may be required.


If video won't play or if it plays but you get no sound, the problem is probably due to a limitation on which video formats your browser supports, what video formats your operating system supports, and which codecs you have installed. It is very unlikely to be a problem with the dictionary. Try using a different browser. If that doesn't work, your options are to try a different operating system or to see if the necessary codec is missing and install it if you can.

Variation in Form and Spelling

You may encounter words that are not spelled as you would expect them to be and you may encounter difficulty looking up a word because the way you spell it is not the way it is spelled in the dictionary. Problems such as these result from several causes:

Use of the Wrong Writing System

The main writing system used in this dictionary is the Carrier Linguistic Committee writing system. This is the writing system designed in the 1960s in Fort Saint James by a group of Nak'azdli people together with missionary linguists Dick and Shirley Walker. It is the writing system used by most people who can read and write Carrier and is used in most recent publications. Entries give the headword in the Carrier Syllabics and the International Phonetic Alphabet as well, but the search box and the various indices use only the CLC system. In order to use the dictionary, you need to be familiar with this writing system.

The only other writing system that has been extensively used by Carrier people is the Carrier Syllabics, which looks like this: ᑕᗸᒡ and cannot be confused with the CLC system. A textbook of this writing system is available here.

You may, howevever, encounter words written in a third writing system that was used by Father Adrien-Gabriel Morice in his scholarly publications and in the 1938 third edition of the Carrier Prayerbook. This writing system is based on the Roman alphabet but uses some additional letters along with diacritics such as accents and subscript dots. For example, the word dakelh "Carrier person" is written takʰeɬ, the word dune "man, person" is written tené, and the word t'es "charcoal" is written ṭés.

Few if any Carrier people ever wrote in this system, but some elders learned to read the Prayerbook in it. Words written in this writing system turn up frequently in writing by historians, anthropologists, journalists and so forth because they get much of their knowledge of Carrier language and culture from the writings of Father Morice. To make matters worse, they or their printers often leave out details such as accents and subscript dots. If you need to work with such materials, an explanation of this writing system is available here.

Differences in How Words Are Pronounced

People do not all pronounce words the same way, even when they come from the same community. For example, in the Nak'albun (Stuart Lake) dialect, there are quite a few verb stems that are pronounced with an e by some people but with an i by other people. Some people say nutisbilh for "I am going to go swimming", others nutisbelh.

A more systematic example occurs in Lheidli T'enneh. Within Lheidli T'enneh, there are two sub-dialects. Some of the differences betwee them are in how individual words are pronounced. For example, some people say lhi for "dog" but others say tli. There is one difference, though, that is systematic and affects many words.

There is a prefix whose basic form is wh that is used to mark things that area "areal", "spatial", or periods of time. For example, to say that I am painting most things, the word meaning "I am painting" is dustl'us. However, if I am painting a house, which is "areal", the correct word for "I am painting" is whudustl'us, as in Hubukoo whudustl'us "I am ainting their house." whudustl'us consists of the basic verb dustl'us plus the prefix wh. The vowel u is inserted bewteeen wh and dustl'us to break up the sequence of consonants.

The prefix wh changes form depending on what it is attached to. For example, before the vowel oo, it becomes h. "I am going to buy" is ootaskulh for most things, but "I am going to buy a house" is Koo hootaskulh. The verb is hootaskulh rather than whootaskulh because of the rule that says that wh changes into h before the vowel oo.

Another situation in which wh changes form is when it precedes k, g, or k'. In this case, wh becomes h and the w moves over onto the following consonant. That is, k becomes kw, g becomes gw, and k' becomes kw'. For some speakers, the vowel inserted to break up the sequence of h followed by kw, gw, or kw' is u, but for others it is oo. For example, "I want" for most things is ka'nusz̲un, but if what I want is a house, I have to add the wh prefix. For some people the resulting form is hukwa'nusz̲un, but for others it is hookwa'nusz̲un.

If you hear a word of this type with oo and don't find it in the dictionary, try looking it up with u instead of oo. If you hear a word of this type with u and don't find it, try looking it up with oo instead of u.

Hearing Incorrectly

People may spell words differently because one or the other (or both) does not hear the word correctly. This is especially true of people who are just learning the language and do not speak it fluently: some sounds are hard for them to recognize. However, even fluent speakers may have difficulty hearing some subtle things, or they may not pay attention to them and bother to write them down. Here is a list of things that people tend to have trouble with.

The difference between plain s, z, ts, dz, and ts' and their fronted counterparts , , t̲s̲, d̲z̲, and t̲s̲' is very difficult for leanguage learners to hear. Many fluent speakers do not have this distinction or find it difficult to bring to consciousness. As a result, the same word may be written with or without the underscores that indicate fronting.
Glottal Stop
Language learners find it difficult to hear whether or not a glottal stop is present, especialy at the beginning of a word. Fluent speakers can hear glottal stops but often do not write them because their spelling habits are influenced by those of English.
Final H
In English the h-sound occurs only at the beginning of syllables, never at the end. (There are some words in which h is written, such as oh, but there is no h-sound in such words.) Speakers of English therefore tend to find it very difficult to hear whether a syllable ends in h and will often fail to write syllable-final hs. Fluent speakers are usually pretty good about this.
Glottalized Consonants
Beginning language learners and others not yet familiar with the sounds of Carrier often have a hard time hearing the different between the glottalized consonants t', k', kw', ts', t̲s̲', and ch', and their non-glottalized counterparts d, g, gw, dz, d̲z̲, j, and t,k, kw, ts, t̲s̲, ch. Even people with a better knowledge of the language sometimes have trouble with this distinction.
LH and TL'
Beginning language learners and others not yet familiar with the sounds of Carrier often have a hard time hearing lh and tl'. They tend to hear them and spell them as gl or kl. (This is why, for example, Carrier tatl'ah is pronounced and written Takla in Takla Lake.) If you see something written kl you can be sure it is a mistake for lh or tl' because no Carrier words have syllables beginning kl. Similarly, if you see something written gl, you should be very suspicious, because Carrier has no words with syllables beginning gl other than a few loans from French and English, such as luglos "bell".

Lack of Standardization of Details of Spelling

Certain details of spelling have not been standardized, so even people who are quite familiar with the CLC writing system may spell certain things differently.

The vowel u sounds a lot like a when it is followed by ' or h. Some people interpret this vowel as an a, other people as an u. For example, you will see the word "you guys are eating" spelled both 'uhyi and 'ahyi.

Sequences of vowels like a-oo and a-o often sound rather like aw, so you may see the same word written with either aw or aoo, or with either aw or ao. For example, some people will write "how many" daoonelt̲s̲uk, others dawnelt̲s̲uk.

There is a diphthong ui used in some dialects but not others, which is not taken into account in the original Carrier Linguistic Committee writing system. Examples of Lheidli dialect words that contain this sound are khui "winter" and ntsui "it is bad". You will sometimes see this sound spelled ai or i instead.


Clicking on Comments at the upper right opens a comment form in a new tab or window. After filling out the form, clicking Submit sends the form by email.


Clicking on the question-mark icon at the upper right opens the manual in a separate tab or window. Within the manual, clicking on an entry in the table of contents takes you to the relevant section. Clicking on a section header takes you back to the table of contents.


The dictionary is generated by software from the same database as underlies the printed dictionary. The entry page contains a time stamp as well as statistics about the dictionary.

The dictionary itself makes use only of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. It therefore requires no special facilities on the server and no software at the user end other than a web browser. It has been tested in Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari on desktop and laptop computers and on the iPhone.

Revised Saturday 2014-12-21.