Alaska Native Languages

Population and Speaker Statistics

The following table gives estimates of the population of speakers of Alaska Native languages in reference to the relevant community population. Numbers such as these should be interpreted with caution. As Krauss notes:

    Arriving at statistics of number of speakers of indigenous languages out of total relevant population is complicated by two types of major factors. The first type is of course in the determination of who is a speaker, and the second is in counting who is a member of the indigenous community. (2007:409)

More relevant to those wishing to understand the status of Alaska Native languages are the current and recent efforts at language documentation and revitalization.

The column labeled EGIDS refers to the Expanded Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale, an attempt to measure language vitality by assessing how the language is used. The Alaska Native Language Center did not participate in these assessment and does not endorse them. They are provided as useful reference metrics. Because EGIDS has been applied across it can be used to compare language vitality in Alaska with that of other indigenous languages across the world.  More information about EGIDS and language endangerment can be found on the Ethnologue website.



Language
Family
Language
Name
Population Speakers EGIDS
Eskimo-Aleut  Ungangan (Aleut) 2,300 150 7 (shifting)
(*Russia) 200 5  
Sugpiaq (Alutiiq) 3,500 200 7 (shifting)
Central Yup'ik 25,000 10,400 6b (threatened)
Siberian Yupik 1,400 1,000 4 (educational)
(*Russia) 900 300  
Inupiaq (Inuit) 15,700 2,144 6b (threatened)
(*Canada) 30,500 24,500  
(Greenland) 47,000 47,000  
Tsimshianic  Coast Tsimshian 1,400 30 7 (shifting)
(Canada) 3,200 <400  
Nisga-Gitksan <100 0?  
(Canada) 5,400 <1,000  
Haida  Northern Haida 650 10 7 (shifting)
(Canada) 1,100 30  
Athabascan-
Eyak-
Tlingit
 
Tlingit 10,000 175 8a (moribund)
(Canada) 1,000 25  
Eyak   0 9 (dormant)
Ahtna 650 25 8a (moribund)
Dena'ina 1,000 50 8a (moribund)
Deg Xinag 250 14 8a (moribund)
Holikachuk 180 5 8b (nearly extinct)
Koyukon 2,300 150 8a (moribund)
Upper Kuskokwim 100 25 8a (moribund)
(Lower) Tanana 400 25 8a (moribund)
Tanacross 200 50 8a (moribund)
Upper Tanana 300 55 7 (shifting)
Han 60 12 8b (nearly extinct)
(Canada) 250 7  
Gwich'in 1,000 150 7 (shifting)
(Canada) 1,900 400  

Source: Krauss, Michael E. 2007. Native languages of Alaska. In: The Vanishing Voices of the Pacific Rim, ed. by Osahito Miyaoko, Osamu Sakiyama, and Michael E. Krauss. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Table 21.1, page 408)

*The non-Alaskan numbers in the table come from the earlier work of Krauss 1997.

†Tlingit updated November 2013 (Twitchell, p.c.).