Alaskan Native Languages


Twenty different Alaskan Native languages were spoken in Alaska when it became a state in 1959. One language, Eyak, is now extinct, with the last speaker dying in 2008.

Though not included as a modern Alaska Native language, Tsetsaut was still spoken in the region of the Portland Canal in southern Alaska at the time of Alaska's purchase by the United States in 1867. The last speaker likely died in the 1930s or 1940's.

Some authors also considered the Salcha-Goodpaster dialect of Lower Tanana to be a distinct language, known as Middle Tanana, but the last speaker died in 1993.

Most of these languages belong to one of two large language families

Eskimo-Aleut and Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit both belong to the Na-Dene language family.

The Tsimshian language arrived in Alaska only recently in 1887, moving under the leadership of Anglican missionary William Duncan.

The Tsimshian language spoken in Alaska is one four Tsimsihanic languages, the other three are spoken in Canada.

The Haida language, once thought to be related to Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit, is a language isolate, not demonstrably related to any other language.

Alaskan Language Family Trees

Inuit-Yupik-Unangan (Eskimo-Aleut)
  • Unangan (Aleut)
  • Alutiiq (Sugpiaq)
  • Central Alaskan Yup'ik (with Cup'ik and Cup'ig)
  • St. Lawrence Island Yupik
  • Inupiaq
Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit (Na-Dene)
  • Tlingit
  • Eyak
  • Athabaskan
    • Ahtna
    • Dena'ina
    • Deg Xinag
    • Holikachuk
    • Upper Kuskokwim
    • Koyukon
    • Lower Tanana
    • Tanacross
    • Upper Tanana
    • Gwich'in
    • Hän
  • Haida
  • Tsimsihan
 

Article Index:

The Inupiat languages (Alaskan Inuit)

The Inupiat languages are also  known as Inupiatun, Inupiaq, Iñupiaq, Inyupiaq, Inyupiat, Inyupeat, Inyupik,  Inupik, Inupiaq, or Alaskan Inuit. They are a group of dialects of the Inuit languages, spoken by the Inupiat people in northern and northwestern Alaska.

Eskimo–Aleut languages

Eskimo–Aleut or Eskaleut is a language family native to Alaska, the Canadian Arctic (Nunavut and Inuvialuit Settlement Region), Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, Greenland, and the Chukchi Peninsula on the eastern tip of Siberia.

It is also known as Eskaleutian, Eskaleutic, or Inuit–Yupik-Unangan.

Unangan (Aleut) Language

The Unangan (Aleut) Language  is the heritage language of the Aleut (Unangax̂) people living in the Aleutian Islands, Pribilof Islands, and Commander Islands.

The Iñupiaq name for the bumble bee flower has been lost
The Twelve Months of the Year in Inupiaq