Guide to the Inupiaq Language Collection

Abstract

All materials in the Inupiaq collection are either written in or about the Inupiaq language.  The earliest documents date from the late 1700s and early 1800s.  Materials prior to the 1970s largely relate to ethnographic accounts, wordlists, and, especially in the 1900s, religious texts.  The bulk of the collection dates from the 1970s and includes a large number of educational materials such as literacy manuals and children’s primers and stories in the various Inupiaq dialects.  Also significant are the materials relating to the lexical and phonological work of Lawrence D. Kaplan and Edna MacLean.  Traditional texts are also well represented.  Some of the collection consists of photocopied material representing original material held by other repositories, and certain reproduction and use restriction apply.


INFORMATION FOR RESEARCHERS:

Access:  Collection access is permitted during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 4:30, and further by appointment throughout the year. 

Preferred Citation:  Please list author, date, and title of publication, whether item is a photocopy or original, location of original document if different than ANLC, then note folder title, Inupiaq Language Collection, Alaska Native Language Center Archive, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

INFORMATION FOR RESEARCHERS:

Access:  Collection access is permitted during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 4:30, and further by appointment throughout the year. 

Preferred Citation:  Please list author, date, and title of publication, whether item is a photocopy or original, location of original document if different than ANLC, then note folder title, Inupiaq Language Collection, Alaska Native Language Center Archive, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Restrictions:  Visitors to the collection may copy non-restricted items, though lack of clerical support prohibits ANLC from processing photocopy requests online or by mail at this time.  In addition, many items in the collection are restricted in their use by their authors or by the repositories from which we obtained our copies, and may not be further copied here without permission of the original repositories.

Language Information

Inupiaq is spoken throughout much of northern Alaska and is closely related to Canadian Inuit and to Greenlandic, all three of which form the Inuit branch of Eskimo (as opposed to its other branch, Yupik). Alaskan Inupiaq includes two major dialect groups: North Alaskan Inupiaq and Seward Peninsula Inupiaq. North Alaskan Inupiaq comprises the North Slope dialect spoken along the Arctic Coast from Barter Island to Kivalina, and the Malimiut dialect found primarily around Kotzebue Sound and the Kobuk River. Seward Peninsula Inupiaq comprises the Qawiaraq dialect found principally in Teller and in the southern Seward Peninsula and Norton Sound area, and the Bering Strait dialect spoken in the villages surrounding Bering Strait and on the Diomede Islands.  There are about 10,000 Inupiat in Alaska, of whom about 3,000 speak one of the dialects of Inupiaq.  Several orthographies have been produced for Inupiaq; the current accepted orthography was developed in the 1970s, and there is a large collection of educational materials in Inupiaq.  

Scope and Content Note

The scope of the Inupiaq language collection is quite broad in that it strives to include all material written or published in or about the Inupiaq Language.  Dr. Michael Krauss made an effort to collect all things Inupiaq, and has developed a nearly comprehensive collection. For the purposes of the collection, Inupiaq is understood to pertain strictly to Alaskan Inupiaq and Western Canadian Inuit up to the Mackenzie River.  Although Canadian Inuit and Greenlandic are considered part of the same large language group, materials from most of Canada and from Greenland are organized as separate collections.  Western Canadian Inuit is included with Inupiaq because of the historical migrations of Alaskan Inupiaq speakers within this area and the near-identity of the dialects.  Collection development has slowed in the late 1990s, and the later part of the collection is currently not comprehensive.

The Alaska Native Language Center Inupiaq manuscript holdings contain approximately 700 items dating between 1791 and 2006.  Materials prior to the 1920s largely relate to expedition reports, e.g. extracts of the report of the Billings expedition of 1791, or Jenness’s report of the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-1918; ethnographic accounts, such as Murdoch’s 1890 notes on astronomical and mathematical knowledge among the Eskimo of Point Barrow; and wordlists, such as Beechey’s Western Eskimo vocabulary of 1826 or Kelly’s Eskimo vocabularies of 1890.  In some cases, where Inupiaq is secondary to the work, only the relevant pages of a work have been photocopied and included in the Inupiaq collection; thus, only the pages containing place names on the Seward Peninsula and in Bering Strait, pages 54-58, of the Billings work are included.

From the 1920s to about the early 1960s, many of the materials are religious in nature, such as the translation of the Gospels into various Inupiaq dialects by Oscar Brown and Milton Adams in the 1940s.  There are, however, significant numbers of items relating to the development of an orthography and literacy in Inupiaq, e.g. Roy Ahmaogak and Donal H. Webster’s work in this field.  There are also a number of lexical and grammatical studies, such as Donald Webster’s morphological and grammatical work on the North Slope dialect.  An important inclusion is the work of G.A. Menovshchikov on the Eskimo language of Big Diomede, on the Russian side of the Bering Strait.  This work was photocopied from the National Archives of Russia, in St. Petersburg.  Despite the diversity of materials, however, it should be noted that a majority of the work of this period focuses on the North Slope dialect; for example, there are only about 3 or 4 works on Qawiaraq during this period, only 9 or 10 from the Bering Strait dialect, all but 3 of which are religious in nature, and only 2 from the Malimiut dialect.

The bulk of the collection dates from the mid-1960s to the present; well over half of the items are educational materials, including literacy manuals, children’s primers and stories in the various Inupiaq dialects, and workshop or classroom notes.  Inupiaq has been taught at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as well as at Ilisagvik College in Barrow, and some of the class materials are found in the Inupiaq collection.  There is also significant fieldwork on the lexicon, particularly relating to efforts to produce an Inupiaq dictionary (e.g. Edna Ahgeak MacLean and Lawrence D. Kaplan), and on phonological studies by Kaplan. Traditional texts are also well represented, both in English and Inupiaq, a number of them with word-by-word analyses of the Inupiaq; some notable texts include Inupiaq belief systems as told by Emily Ivanoff Brown.  Although grammatical analyses are generally less-well represented, some notable items are MacLean’s draft pedagogical grammars. 

There are fewer linguistic items from the late 1980s and 1990s, due more to less active collection activity; student and staff work at the Alaska Native Language Center is reflected in more recent donations to the Archive.

Extent:  51 manuscript boxes, 7 8x24 boxes, 5 3x5 card files, 5 ft of books, covering 20 linear feet.

Languages: Collection languages are primarily Inupiaq and English, although some materials are in Russian, and one or two are in French or Danish. Some documents offers Inupiaq words in comparison to other Eskimo languages in Alaska.

Back to Top