Guide to the Upper Kuskokwim Athabaskan Language Collection
Scope and Content Note
There was very little linguistic documentation of Upper Kuskokwim prior to 1959, and there are only two items from this early period, both largely ethnographic in nature. Linguistic documentation essentially begins with Herbert Zimmerman’s collection of words and phrases in 1959, and fieldwork by Hosley and Krauss on the Upper Kuskokwim sound system and lexicon in the early 1960s. The most prolific contributor to fieldwork on the language is Raymond Collins (18 items), whose work spans the period from 1964 to 1979 and includes studies of the lexicon, phonology, place names, and grammar, as well as his work on developping educational materials. There has been noticeably less documentation of the language during the 1980s and 1990s; most has been ethnographic or sociolinguistic in nature (e.g. attitudes towards language). From 1997, new linguistic research on tone, dialects, and sociolinguistics has been undertaken by Andrej Kibrik. Athough there are some originals, many of the fieldnotes are photocopies provided by the author or field researcher.
By far the largest part of the collection pertains to educational materials, most of which are elementary readers and children’s literacy exercises (ca. 50 items), produced from the 1960s to the 1970s and published by either the National Bilingual Materials Development Center in Anchorage or the Alaska State Operated Schools. Many are translations of primary readers for children developed by Yupik and Inupiaq authors, or of templates of primary readers developed by the Alaska State Operated Schools; Betty Petruska and Raymond Collins did much of the work of translation and adaptation into Upper Kuskokwim. Petruska also translated a number of traditional Deg Xinag stories. The 1980s to the present have seen less activity on language materials development; there is some student work from 1983-1984 (3 items) and some songs for teaching the language were developped in 1998.
Languages: Collection languages are both Upper Kuskokwim and English, with one work in Russian. Some documents offers Upper Kuskokwim words in comparison to other Athabaskan languages in Alaska.