M. Krauss: Eyak grammar, texts, lexicon

Principal investigator

Michael E. Krauss came to Alaska in the fall of 1960. His task at the University of Alaska was to teach French and also establish a linguistics department. But he had another purpose and that was the documentation of the Alaska Native languages before their oblivion. In his early years, he worked with Gaelic, Icelandic and Faeroese. For him, the holy grail. was to save the soul of a culture, in his case, the language of a people.

His documentation and civil rights work of the Alaska Native languages began shortly after he arrived.

Sometime in 1963, he was able to focus completely on what was to be a lifelong passion, the documentation of the Eyak language. At that time there were 6 speakers of the language.

Michael Krauss and Marie Smith Jones
Michael Krauss with Marie Smith Jones, the last speaker of the Eyak Language, Cordoba, Alaska 2006 Photo by Molly Lee.

As of August 31, 2011 Krauss has finished ca. 80% of the first draft of the Eyak grammar, ca. 400 dense full pages entered in Word format, so far. As of today, he has very nearly finished the longest chapter, 90-some pages on the qualifier system, perhaps the major complexity of the Eyak verb. There remain only three major chapters: fuller rewrite of elaboration of the 1965 sketch (some of the phonology and morphology basics), preverbals (postpositions and preverbs), and (some of) the syntax and discourse features, and two of the minor one (adverbs, exclamations). The final result or complete grammar would print out to 500-1000 pages depending on format, comprehensive for what Krauss can do with what is saved of the Eyak language. This extra year should be enough to finish the first draft of this. The new Eyak grant should be enough to redo and edit the grammar, complete and edit the lexicon (twice the size of the grammar), likewise (perhaps the size of the grammar). This will certainly make Eyak one of the better documented American languages.

Krauss hopes to finish the whole draft in the next fourteen months.

Click on the link below to view all drafts.


Guillaume Ledeuy and Michael Krauss
During the summer of 2010, Guillaume Ledeuy began to learn and experience the Eyak language with Michael Krauss.

Event of significant potential for Eyak was the appearance of Guillaume Leduey during the summer of 2010. A young man of age twenty-two from La Hague, France who had been studying Eyak since the age of fifteen years contacted the Eyak Language Preservation Council's Laura Bliss. She introduced Ledeuy to Krauss and since then these two have been working together. Krauss asserts Leduey shows great promise as possible "amanuensis."