Eyak Falls Silent

With the passing of Chief Marie Smith Jones on January 21, Eyak (eya) lost its last native speaker. Spoken in south-central Alaska, Eyak is its own branch of the Athabascan-Eyak language family, comprising about 20 Native languages in Alaska. She had worked extensively with Michael Krauss, a professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and founder/long-time director of the Alaska Native Language Center.

More about the family tree of Eyak can be found at Alaska Native Languages, which provides detailed information about Alaska language relationships. Eyak stories and recordings are available through the ANLC. Documentation including a glossary in extensive PDF files can be downloaded from Alaska Native Languages — Eyak.

News of Chief Jones’s passing was carried in BBC News, Alaska Public Radio Network, and WTOP News, among others, which provided much of the information for this blog entry.

Note about Krauss’s Native Peoples and Languages of Alaska map: In Talking Alaska, Gary Holton details how the Alaska language map (also found at Wikipedia) needs to be revised due to pejorative names and geographical problems.

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