Guide to the Comparative Inuit-Yupik-Unangan Collection


Title: Comparative Inuit-Yupik-Unangan Language Collection.

Extent:  22 manuscript boxes, 1 8x24 boxes, 0.5 ft of books, covering 7 linear feet.

Repository Location:
Alaska Native Language Archive, 401 Brooks Building, University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Please consult with the Alaska Native Language Center for information regarding the specific location of materials within the archive.

Forms of Material:The collection includes both original and photocopied manuscript and typescript documents comprised of academic research papers; fieldnotes, particularly pertaining to Eskimo-Aleut place names, phonology, and verb forms; wordlists; ethnographic, religious, and traditional texts; and educational materials.

Languages: Collection languages are primarily English, with considerable numbers of materials in Russian, French, Danish, German, and Dutch.  All materials offer comparisons of two or more of the Eskimo-Aleut languages; some compare Inuit languages and dialects; others compare Inuit and Yupik languages; and others offer a comparative view of Eskimo languages (especially Greenlandic) and Aleut.

Abstract: The collection spans the mid-18th century to the present.  Materials are largely works by explorers and linguists proving the relationship of the various dialects and languages within the Eskimo-Aleut language family to each other.  These works include both published and unpublished materials,  and range from letters with notes on similarities between lexical items of different languages, to dictionaries and comparative grammatical treatises.  There are significant numbers of items by Bergsland, Fortescue, Hammerich, Menovshchikov, Miyaoka, Swadesh, and Thalbitzer, inter alia.  Some of the collection consists of photocopied material representing original material held by other repositories, and certain reproduction and use restriction apply.


Acquisition Information:  Dr. Michael Krauss of the Alaska Native Language Center began collecting materials now in the Comparative Eskimo-Aleut collection when he arrived at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1960.  Krauss made great effort to assemble a near-comprehensive collection of primary and secondary source material, in the form of wordlists, fieldnotes, manuscript texts, conference papers and handouts, journal articles, and previously published articles on the language.  The staff of the Alaska Native Language Center have also contributed primary material to the collection through their fieldnotes, class lectures and notes, and academic research papers. 

Processing History:  The first major organization of the Comparative Eskimo-Aleut Collection occurred in the late 1970s and led to an unpublished annotated catalogue based on folder titles.  This system has been retained, and recent work (2002-2006) has concentrated on document preservation, the development of an electronic database, and the creation of a finding aid. 

Acknowledgements: Some of the photocopies obtained by Krauss were made from originals held in other repositories, including the Alaska and Polar Regions Collection, Elmer Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska. 

Funding: The National Endowment for the Humanities (grant # PA-50139-03) funded collection processing and finding aid development.


Language Information: The Inuit-Yupik-Unangan (Eskimo-Aleut) language family is spoken from parts of the Russian Far East to Greenland.  It consists of two distinct language groups, Aleut and Inuit-Yupik; the latter is further divided into two or three distinct subgroups, including Yupik and Inuit, with Sireniksi perhaps representing a third branch. Unangan (Aleut) is a single language, consisting today of two recognized dialects and one or more obsolete dialects.  The Yupik branch of Inuit-Yupik includes Central Siberian Yupik (spoken on the Chukchi Peninsula in Russia and on St. Lawrence Island), Naukanski (spoken in East Cape, the northeastern most point of the Russian Far East), Central Alaskan Yup’ik (spoken in southwestern Alaska), Alutiiq (also known as Sugpiaq or Sugcestun, and spoken along the Pacific coast of Alaska south of Central Alaskan Yup’ik).  Some linguists also include the now-extinct Sirenikski language (once spoken  as a Yupik language, although others see it as the only documented remnant of a third, separate branch of Eskimo.  Inuit languages and dialects are spoken from the Seward Peninsula in Alaska to Greenland; three significant subdivisions of Inuit include the Greenlandic dialects, the Eastern Canadian dialects, and the Western Canadian and Alaskan Inupiaq dialects.  The Inuit branch is commonly thought of as a dialect continuum, although today differences between eastern and western varieties are substantial.

The term Inuit is sometimes used to refer to a language family, but this term more properly refers to a single language, of which Alaskan Inupiaq is a dialect. For more on the use of the terms Inuit and Eskimo see this article at ANLC. 

Scope and Content Note: The scope of the Comparative Eskimo-Aleut Language Collection is quite broad in that it strives to include all material written or published about comparative studies of the Eskimo-Aleut language family.  In developing this collection, Dr. Michael Krauss also wanted to maintain complete collections of materials on the individual languages represented within this collection; as a result, many of the materials in the Comparative Eskimo-Aleut language collection are duplicates of materials in the respective language collections, or they are duplicated in the respective collections.  Collection development has slowed in the late 1990s, and the later part of the collection is currently not comprehensive.

The Alaska Native Language Archive Comparative Inuit-Yupik-Unangan manuscript holdings contain approximately 600 items dating between 1745 and 2004. There are only 4 items from the 1700s.  Most items from the first half of the 19th century (ca. 20 items) are from journals of scientific expeditions or from explorers’ accounts, and pertain to comparative vocabulary, e.g. Kirill Timofeevich Khlebnikov’s notes on the colonies of Russian-America, or Ferdinand von Wrangell’s ethnographic notes on the inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest. However, a number of the works from this early period include important contributions to other fields of linguistics as well, notably Rask’s remarks on the correspondence of case morphology between Greenlandic and Aleut.  In the second half of the 19th century (ca. 30 items), there are more works devoted specifically to the languages, including comparative vocabularies (e.g. Dall, Nelson, and Wells, Jr.), dialect studies (Rink), grammatical studies (e.g. Barnum); and a bibliography by Pilling.

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.

The vast majority of the collection includes works from the 20th century.  Almost all of these are linguistic works in the form of published articles or conference papers, and they range from lexical comparisons to comparisons of phonology, morphology, and to a far lesser degree, syntax.  Although all of the materials in this collection are comparative in nature, certain authors have concentrated more on one language or group of languages than another.  The following is a very general summary of the various language areas and some of the authors who have most prolifically contributed to work in these areas; however, there are important works on comparative Inuit-Yupik-Unangan by a great many other authors:

For work pertaining to Greenlandic (in comparison to other Inuit-Yupik-Unangan languages), see Thalbitzer, Hammerich, Fortescue, Rischel, Petersen.  For works pertaining to Central and Eastern Canadian Inuit especially, see Kaj Birket-Smith, and Dorais.  For work pertaining to Western Inuit, Jenness, and Kaplan.  For works pertaining to the Russian influences on Eskimo, see Hammerich and Menovshchikov.  For works on Alaskan Yupik, see Hammerich, Menovshchikov, Miyaoka, Krauss, Leer,and  Jacobson.  For works on Siberian Yupik and Aleut, Menovshchikov, Krauss, Jacobson, Vakhtin.  For the origins of language family, and historical developments of the languages, see Rask, Uhlenbeck, Hammerich, Jakobson, Swadesh, Bergsland, Fortescue, Krauss, and Rapelli.


The Comparative Eskimo-Aleut Language Collection adheres to the organizational schema developed and applied to each language within the Alaska Native Language Archives by Michael Krauss and Mary Jane McGary in the late 1970s.  It involves a system of call numbers (folder numbers) aimed at arranging items chronologically by author.  The files are generally organized by author, and thereunder by date of ‘publication’ or ‘work’.  In files with multiple authors, the first or earliest author is used. ‘Authorship’ should be interpreted loosely to include not only author in the traditional sense, but also collector, translator, transcriber, speaker, editor, compiler, or informant; these roles are generally indicated. The call number system codes the language series, author, and date.  A brief explanation of the call number system follows:

The call number first notes the collection name, Comparative Eskimo-Aleut, with the two-letter code “CE”. 

The second element of the call number is a three-digit number consisting of the last three digits of the year of the author’s first known work on comparative work within the language family.  Thus, Knut Bergsland first began working on Aleut in 1950; however, he first produced comparative work between Aleut and Eskimo in 1951.  His work within the Comparative Eskimo-Aleut Language Collection is organized under call numbers beginning with CE951 (as opposed to CE950, as in the Aleut Language Collection).

When an item has more than one author, the date is generally that of the author who first began work on the language group.  For example, CE976FJK1994 refers to the Comparative Eskimo Dictionary with Aleut Cognates, co-authored by Fortescue, Jacobson, and Kaplan.  Kaplan began work on Inupiaq in 1976; however both Jacobson and Fortescue began their work on Yupik and Greenlandic respective somewhat later.

The third element of the call number is the first letter of the author’s surname, or several letters in the case of co-authors, as exemplified above.  In cases in which several authors with the same initial began working in the same year, the convention has been to use the first two letters of the second author’s last name:  thus, I was first used for the Inuit Studies Conference of 1992; later acquisitions of work by Roy D. Iutzi-Mitchell, who began work in the same year, resulted in the use of Iu for Iutzi-Mitchell.

The fourth element of the call number gives the date of the item.  The given date on the published item is used as the item date.  When an item includes several editions, translations, or reprinting of a single item, the date of the specific edition in the archive is listed.  In the dating of unpublished materials, if a date appears on the item, it is used as the publication date, except in rare cases where we have concrete knowledge that the date is in error.  Undated  items have been assigned dates based on our knowledge of the author’s work.  Some of theses dates are quite approximate and this is usually noted in the description.  If multiple items were published in the same year, they are distinguished by letters of the alphabet following the date, e.g.  “1973a”, “1973b”.
Some examples:

CE951B1951b reads as the second of two items produced in 1951 by Bergsland, who began working on comparative aspects of the Eskimo-Aleut languages in 1951. CE976FJK1994 reads as an item produced in 1994 by Fortescue, Jacobson, and Kaplan; Kaplan began working in this field in 1976.