Overview of the Eyak Language

Eyak is not an Athabaskan language, but a coordinate sub-branch to Athabaskan as a whole in the Athabaskan-Eyak branch of the Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit language family. Eyak was spoken in the 19th century from Yakutat along the southcentral Alaska coast to Eyak at the Copper River delta, but by the 20th century only at Eyak. It is now represented by about 50 people but no surviving fluent speakers. With the passing of Marie Smith Jones (pictured above with linguist Michael Krauss) on January 21, 2008 Eyak became the first Alaska Native language to become extinct in recent history.

The name Eyak itself is not an Eyak word but instead derives from the Chugach Eskimo name (Igya'aq) of the Eyak village site near the mouth of Eyak River (Krauss 2006:199). The Chugach word Igya'aq is a general term referring to 'the outlet of a lake into a river.'

Comprehensive documentation of Eyak has been carried out since the 1960s by Michael Krauss, including his edition of traditional stories, historic accounts, and poetic compositions by Anna Nelson Harry.

In the early part of the 21st century there was a growing interest in Eyak langauge revitalization. More information on these efforts can be found at the Eyak Language Project.


Eyak Language Project.



Key Documents

Several key Eyak language documents are being retranscribed in digital format as part the NSF-funded project Completion of Eyak Grammar, Dictionary, Texts, PI Michael Krauss.

Grammar

  • Eyak Grammar [draft] (Item EY961K2009)
    Since 2007 Michael Krauss has been compiling a comprehensive reference grammar of Eyak, greatly expanding on his 1965 article, Eyak: a Preliminary Sketch.

Dictionary

  • Eyak Dictionary (Item EY961K1970b)
    This massive 1970 dictionary is currently being converted to digital format. As of November 2011 approximately one third of the dictionary has been converted. PDF files can be downloaded as item EY961K2011.

Texts




Austerlitz Eyak Recordings, 1961

Robert Austerlitz (b. 1923, d. 1994) did field work in Situk and Cordova for approximately one month in 1961. At least eight recordings, made on 3 inch reels, survive from this time.


ANLC2003  
Title: [Duplicate of Yakutat and Cordova I, Tlingit and Eyak recordings by Robert Austerlitz]
Contributor(s):  Austerlitz, Robert (recorder);  Smith, Marie (speaker);

ANLC6357  
Title: Austerlitz Eyak Recording EY2
Contributor(s):  Austerlitz, Robert (interviewer);  Smith, Marie (speaker);  Nacktan, Lena Saska (speaker);

ANLC6358  
Title: Austerlitz Eyak Recording EY3
Contributor(s):  Austerlitz, Robert (interviewer);  Nacktan, Lena Saska (speaker);

ANLC6359  
Title: Austerlitz Eyak Recording EY4
Contributor(s):  Austerlitz, Robert (interviewer);  Nacktan, Lena Saska (speaker);

ANLC6360  
Title: Austerlitz Eyak Recording EY5
Contributor(s):  Austerlitz, Robert (interviewer);  Smith, Marie (speaker);

ANLC6361  
Title: Austerlitz Eyak Recording EY6
Contributor(s):  Austerlitz, Robert (interviewer);

ANLC6362  
Title: Austerlitz Eyak Recording EY7
Contributor(s):  Austerlitz, Robert (interviewer);  Smith, Marie (speaker);  Nacktan, Lena Saska (speaker);

ANLC6363  
Title: Austerlitz Eyak Recording EY8
Contributor(s):  Austerlitz, Robert (interviewer);  Smith, Marie (speaker);  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);

ANLC6364  
Title: Austerlitz Eyak Recording EY9
Contributor(s):  Austerlitz, Robert (interviewer);

Krauss Eyak Recordings, 1963-1975


ANLC0082  
Title: [Interview with Anna Nelson Harry]
Contributor(s):  Krauss, Michael E. (interviewer);  Leer, Jeff (interviewer);  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);

ANLC0084  
Title: [Eyak Texts Told by Anna Nelson Harry]
Contributor(s):  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);  Krauss, Michael E. (recorder);

ANLC0085  
Title: [Eyak Material Recorded by Anna Harry]
Contributor(s):  Harry, Anna Nelson (interviewer);

ANLC0086  
Title: [Eyak Texts, Anne Nelson Harry]
Contributor(s):  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);

ANLC0087  
Title: [Eyak Texts, Anne Nelson Henry]
Contributor(s):  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);

ANLC0088  
Title: [Eyak Texts, Anne Nelson Harry]
Contributor(s):  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);

ANLC0089  
Title: [Anna Nelson Harry, Giant Rat]
Contributor(s):  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);

ANLC0090  
Title: [Eyak Stories, Anna Nelson Harry]
Contributor(s):  Leer, Jeff (interviewer);  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);

ANLC0092  
Title: [Eyak Language Stories by Anna Nelson Harry; EY:5]
Contributor(s):  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);  Krauss, Michael E. (recorder);

ANLC0510  
Title: [Eyak conversation between Marie Smith and Michael Krauss]
Contributor(s):  Smith, Marie (speaker);  Krauss, Michael E. (speaker);  Spann, Laura Bliss (recorder);

ANLC3999  
Title: [Raven stories]
Contributor(s):  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);  Krauss, Michael E. (recorder);

Song and Legends: Alaska Native Oral Literature Project

Karen McPherson recorded Anna Nelson Harry in 1975 as part of the Alaska Native Language Oral Literature. Two recordings are available.


ANLC0093  
Title: [Alaska Native Oral Literature Project, Anna Nelson Harry]
Contributor(s):  McPherson, Karen (interviewer);  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);

ANLC0094  
Title: [Alaska Native Oral Literature Project, Anna Nelson Harry]
Contributor(s):  McPherson, Karen (interviewer);  Harry, Anna Nelson (speaker);

Video

  • Parlez-vouz Eyak? [YouTube]
  • More than Words..., a film by Laura Bliss Spann







NSF Support for digitization, enhancement, and completion of Eyak language reference materials is provided by a grant from the US National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs, Arctic Social Sciences Division (#1003160, PI Michael Krauss).

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