Indigenous Peoples and Language of Alaska

July 13, 2011

 

Alaka Indigenous Peoples Language Map

 

A new edition of the groundbreaking map showing the traditional indigenous language regions of Alaska–and related languages of neighboring areas of Canada and Russia–is now available. It is the first revision in nearly 30 years and was generated with geographic information system (GIS) technology. The map is the joint product of researchers at UAF’s Alaska Native Language Center and UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research. This work updates the map originally compiled in 1974 by Michael Krauss, then director of the language center, and last updated in 1982.

Alaska has 20 indigenous languages. The colors of the map reflect their classification into language families, based on the similarity of sounds systems and the ability of speakers from different regions to understand each other. Most of Alaska’s indigenous languages are in either the Inuit-Yupik-Aleut or Athasbascan-Tlingit-Eyak language families. But one, Haida, can’t be traced to any other language in the world.

The researchers worked closely with Alaska Native groups to update the map. Changes in the new edition include different names for some languages, reflecting current usage, and use of both English and indigenous names for nearly 300 places and waterways. Researchers who compiled the revised map include Jim Kerr, ISER’s former systems analyst; Gary Holton, professor of linguistics at the Alaska Native Language Center; and Colin West, formerly with ISER but now at the University of North Carolina.

The full-size map is 34″ by 44″ and can be ordered from the Alaska Native Language Center for $15. A smaller version can be downloaded from the same site. An interactive map will also be available online by Aug. 1 at www.alaskool.org, which is maintained by ISER and is one of the largest online collections of materials on Alaska Native peoples, languages and history. For questions about the map, please get in touch with Gary Holton at (907) 474-6585 or gmholton@alaska.edu.

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