Southeast Alaska Languages
The Eyak language is indigenous to the Copper River Delta and was once spoken in Yakutat and Icy Bay. The Eyak language became known around the world as the face of language extinction after the passing of Marie Smith Jones in 2008, the last full-blooded Eyak and native speaker of the language. However, in 2010, the Anchorage Daily News published a story reporting that Guillaume Leduey, a French teenager, had learned to speak Eyak through materials he obtained from the Alaska Native Language Center. The Eyak Preservation Council is working to revive the language, and the organization has produced a comprehensive learner’s website.
|Eyak (no audio)||English|
|iishuh||Hello (to one person)|
|lAXiishuh||Hello (to several people)|
|ilah qe'xleh||I love you|
Tlingit (Lingít Yoo Xʼatángi)
Tlingit is spoken in Southeast Alaska from Yakutat to Ketchikan and by Inland Tlingit speakers in Canada. There are 200 first-language speakers today. There are five major dialects: Northern Tlingit, Transitional Tlingit (spoken in Petersburg, Wrangell and Kake), Southern Tlingit, Inland Tlingit (spoken in Canada), and an extinct Tongass dialect (formerly spoken south of Ketchikan).
Tlingit has a very rich phonological system with many ejective consonants. There are four sounds unique to Tlingit not shared with any other documented language on earth. Verbs, like many Na-Dene languages, can be extremely variant, while nouns are more predictable, often being derived from verbs. Tlingit courses are taught at the University of Alaska Southeast and the University of Alaska Anchorage. Sealaska Heritage Institute has also produced Native language curriculum and educational resources for learning Tlingit.
|Tlingit (Yakutat dialect)||Click to Listen||English|
|Wáa sá si yatee?||How are you?|
|Ax̱ toowu yak'éi||I feel good|
|Yak'éi i x̱wsateení||It's good to see you|
|Ix̱six̱án||I love you|
|K'idéin natá||Sleep well|
|Gunalchéesh haat yigoodí||Thank you for coming|
Haida (Xaat Kíl)
Haida is the language spoken in the communities of Hydaburg, Craig, Kasaan and Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska. The Haida language does not have any demonstrable genetic relationship to any other language. There are only four remaining speakers in Alaska, and about 20 speakers on Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. There are two dialects: Northern and Southern. Alaskan Haida speak a subdialect of the Northern dialect called Kaigani Haida.
Northern Haida has a feature exclusive to just a few languages in the world, known as radical consonants. These consonants are articulated with the base of the tongue in the throat. Haida is taught at the University of Alaska Southeast and is supported by resources from the Sealaska Heritage Institute.
|Haida (no audio)||English|
|Sán uu dáng ghiidang?||Hello, how are you?|
|Díi 'láagang||I'm fine|
|Hóws dáng hl khíngsaang||I will see you again (farewell phrase)|
|Díi gwíihl stíihl||Return to me (leave response)|
Tsimshian is spoken in the community of Metlakatla on Annette Island, south of Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska. The Tsimshian community settled on Annette Island in 1887, led by missionary William Duncan. There are seven first-language speakers of Tsimshian in Alaska today. There are two main dialects: Coastal and Southern Tsimshian; Alaska speakers speak Coast Tsimshian (or Sm’algax).
Tsimshian is taught at the University of Alaska Southeast and supported by resources from the Sealaska Heritage Institute.
|Tsimshian||Click to Listen||English|
|Ndeeya wila waan?||How are you?|
|Nt'oyaxsn||Thank you (said to one person)|
|Si'pn nuut nuun||I love you|
|Aam di wila waalu||I am good|
|Aam dsh nuun||Good, and you?|
|Luk'wil aam wila waalu||I am very good|
|Ama g̲unɫaak||Good morning|
|Ama sah gya'wn||Good day today|
|Ama huup'l||Good evening|
|Ndm al gyik niidzn||Until we meet again (said to one person)|
|Gilks amaniisgn||Take care of yourself (said to one person)|
*Images courtesy of the Alaska Native Language Archive