Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Preserving Endangered Languages in Alaska

The Alaska Native Language Center in an attempt to preserve indigenous languages has created this striking map of language groups. Some of the languages represented on this map are spoken by fewer than 10 people, others are no longer spoken.

The map is an update of a 1974 map by Michael Krauss that was a result of a linguistic survey focused on variations in pronunciations. Krauss gathered much of his language information from patients at the Alaska Native Service Hospital. There is a detailed history of this and previous Russian and American maps on the Resources pages from the Center's website.  There is also a detailed discussion of the sometimes controversial choices made for language names and spellings. Interestingly many of the language names translate to mean either "people of this region" or "real", "true" or "genuine" person.

The Resources pages also provide guidance in giving your dog a traditional Native Alaskan name. Some examples:

maguyuk  'howler'
pakak  'one that gets into everything'
pamiiruq  'wags his tail'
pukiq  'smart'
qannik  'snowflake'
qimukti  'puller'
tupit  'tattoo lines on face'
pukulria  'bone chewer'
yakone'  'red aurora'
shtiya  'my strength' 

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