For the first time in the 125 year history of the International Polar Year (IPY) research, the 2007 organizers of the fourth IPY decided to include the "human dimension" of polar science. The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded an unprecedented 20 million dollars in support of more than 30 research observational and data management projects in social science and humanities. This IPY project is groundbreaking "human dimension" research; the documentation of acutely endangered languages of the Arctic.

Language makes the communication of cultural identity.

Elder Susie Boatman
Elder Susie Boatman of Nenana, Alaska. Circa 1970s.

Cultural beliefs, world views, value systems of the past, present and future are shared because these elements compose language. A verbal language relies on the present moment and context for the exchange of information.A documented language allows for the heritage exchange to take place regardless of the time and place in which it occurs.

The cultural identity of the language can be shared in perpetuity because the language documentation has been completed.

The purpose of the IPY: Documenting Alaskan and Neighboring Languages Project, NSF #0707327 is the documentation of endangered languages and extinct languages of the Arctic. The project results are comprehensive dictionaries, grammars and assorted publications/web resources for these languages.

Young Inupiat learning her heritage language.
Young Inupiat learning her heritage language. Barrow, Alaska 2013

IPY arctic research practical to a variety of stakeholders

Teacher reading to young children


Linguists and social scientists from Alaska and around the world have spent a substantial portion of their lives working toward the goals of this project. The work is all fieldwork and/or consolidation and analysis of large masses of data collected over many years. All data is available through the Alaska Native Language Archive, University of Alaska Fairbanks.