Documenting Tlingit in Hawai’i

Commonly spelled as Tlingit to indicate the delightful voiceless alveolar lateral fricative at the beginning of the word, Lingít is a language traditionally spoken along the coast of what is now the southeast corner of Alaska as well as slightly inland in British Columbia and the Yukon. Although the Ethnologue lists the speaking population at 1430 (tli) based on censuses in 2000/2001, Wikipedia asserts fewer than 140 native speakers.

Because the university system in Alaska lacks a linguistics program, Tlingit James A. Crippen enrolled in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. On his student page, he includes links to a number of Lingít-related resources he has created, including a work-in-progress compilation on grammar (250 pages and counting) and the first in a series of kinship diagrams to lay out the complex array of terms Lingít employs for family members. He also has a Swadesh list for Lingít (though he says it is not a good way to list the language) and a short paper on non-traditional place names.

The Ethnologue entry notes that there is a growing interest in Lingít. Alaskool, the resource for Alaska’s first people, has an online dictionary for Lingít. The Sealaska Heritage Institute has a link-filled page named Lingít Yoo X’atángi for additional resources, including flashcards, hangman and a 2004-2009 calendar with traditional names. In addition to the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s short-term classes and retreats, Lingít can be learned at the University of Alaska Southeast, which offers a minor in Tlingit.

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