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 TreesInuit-Yupik-Unangan (Eskimo-Aleut)
- Unangan (Aleut)
- Alutiiq (Sugpiaq)
- Central Alaskan Yup'ik (with Cup'ik and Cup'ig)
- St. Lawrence Island Yupik
Ahtna or Ahtena is the Na-Dené language of the Ahtna ethnic group of the Copper River area of Alaska. The language is also known as Copper River or Mednovskiy.
The 31 Northern Athabaskan languages are spoken throughout the interior of Alaska.
The differences among Athabaskan languages may be compared to differences among Indo-European languages. Thus, Koyukon and Dena’ina are about as different as French and Spanish, while Koyukon and Gwich’in are as different as English and Italian.
The Deg Hit’an (also known as Deg Hitan, Degexit’an, and Kaiyuhkhotana) are a group of Northern Athabascan peoples in Alaska. Their native language is called Deg Xinag.