Aleut language
Aleut is a language of the Eskimo–Aleut language family
Language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...

. It is the heritage language of the Aleut  people living in the Aleutian Islands, Pribilof Islands
Pribilof Islands
The Pribilof Islands are a group of four volcanic islands off the coast of mainland Alaska, in the Bering Sea, about north of Unalaska and 200 miles southwest of Cape Newenham. The Siberia coast is roughly northwest...

, and Commander Islands. As of 2007 there were about 150 speakers of Aleut (Krauss 2007, p. 408).


Aleut is alone with the Eskimo languages (Yupik
Yupik language
The Yupik languages are the several distinct languages of the several Yupik peoples of western and southcentral Alaska and northeastern Siberia. The Yupik languages differ enough from one another that speakers of different ones cannot understand each other, although they may understand the general...

 and Inuit
Inuit language
The Inuit language is traditionally spoken across the North American Arctic and to some extent in the subarctic in Labrador. The related Yupik languages are spoken in western and southern Alaska and Russian Far East, particularly the Diomede Islands, but is severely endangered in Russia today and...

 languages) in the Eskimo–Aleut group. The main dialect groupings are Eastern Aleut, Atkan, and Attuan.

Within the Eastern group are the dialects of Unalaska, Belkofski, Akutan
Akutan Island
Akutan Island is an island in the Fox Islands group of the eastern Aleutian Islands in the U.S. state of Alaska. The island is approximately 18 mi in length. It contains the Mount Akutan volcano, which had a major lava eruption in 1979...

, the Pribilof Islands
Pribilof Islands
The Pribilof Islands are a group of four volcanic islands off the coast of mainland Alaska, in the Bering Sea, about north of Unalaska and 200 miles southwest of Cape Newenham. The Siberia coast is roughly northwest...

, Kashega and Nikolski. The Pribilof dialect has more living speakers than any other dialect of Aleut.

The Atkan grouping comprises the dialects of Atka and Bering Island
Bering Island
Bering Island is located off the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Bering Sea. At long by wide, it is the largest of the Commander Islands with the area of ....


Attu Island
Attu is the westernmost and largest island in the Near Islands group of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, making it the westernmost point of land relative to Alaska and the United States. It was the site of the only World War II land battle fought on the incorporated territory of the United States ,...

, now extinct, was a distinct dialect showing influence from both Atkan and Eastern Aleut. Copper Island Aleut (also called Mednyj Aleut) is a Russian-Attuan creole
Creole language
A creole language, or simply a creole, is a stable natural language developed from the mixing of parent languages; creoles differ from pidgins in that they have been nativized by children as their primary language, making them have features of natural languages that are normally missing from...

 (Copper Island
Medny Island
Medny Island , is the second largest island in the Komandorski Islands east of Russia...

  having been settled by Attuans). Ironically, today Copper Island Aleut is spoken only on Bering Island, as Copper Islanders were evacuated there in 1969.

All dialects show lexical influence from Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

; Copper Island Aleut has also adopted many Russian inflectional endings.


The modern Aleut (Latin
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

) alphabet currently used in Alaska has 4 vowels and 21 consonants.
Majuscule Forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
A is the first letter and a vowel in the basic modern Latin alphabet. It is similar to the Ancient Greek letter Alpha, from which it derives.- Origins :...

B is the second letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet. It is used to represent a variety of bilabial sounds , most commonly a voiced bilabial plosive.-History:...

Ch (digraph)
Ch is a digraph in the Roman alphabet and Uyghur. It is treated as a letter of its own in Chamorro, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Igbo, Quechua, Guarani, Welsh, Cornish, Breton and Belarusian Łacinka alphabets. In Vietnamese, it also used to be considered a letter for collation purposes but this is no...

D is the fourth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.- History :The Semitic letter Dâlet may have developed from the logogram for a fish or a door. There are various Egyptian hieroglyphs that might have inspired this. In Semitic, Ancient Greek, and Latin, the letter represented ; in the...

F is the sixth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:The origin of ⟨f⟩ is the Semitic letter vâv that represented a sound like or . Graphically, it originally probably depicted either a hook or a club...

G is the seventh letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:The letter 'G' was introduced in the Old Latin period as a variant of ⟨c⟩ to distinguish voiced, from voiceless, . The recorded originator of ⟨g⟩ is freedman Spurius Carvilius Ruga, the first Roman to open a fee-paying school,...

G is the seventh letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:The letter 'G' was introduced in the Old Latin period as a variant of ⟨c⟩ to distinguish voiced, from voiceless, . The recorded originator of ⟨g⟩ is freedman Spurius Carvilius Ruga, the first Roman to open a fee-paying school,...

X is the twenty-fourth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-Uses:In mathematics, x is commonly used as the name for an independent variable or unknown value. The usage of x to represent an independent or unknown variable can be traced back to the Arabic word šay شيء = “thing,” used in Arabic...

X̂  H
H .) is the eighth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:The Semitic letter ⟨ח⟩ most likely represented the voiceless pharyngeal fricative . The form of the letter probably stood for a fence or posts....

I is the ninth letter and a vowel in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:In Semitic, the letter may have originated in a hieroglyph for an arm that represented a voiced pharyngeal fricative in Egyptian, but was reassigned to by Semites, because their word for "arm" began with that sound...

K is the eleventh letter of the English and basic modern Latin alphabet.-History and usage:In English, the letter K usually represents the voiceless velar plosive; this sound is also transcribed by in the International Phonetic Alphabet and X-SAMPA....

Ł or ł, described in English as L with stroke, is a letter of the Polish, Kashubian, Sorbian, Łacinka , Łatynka , Wilamowicean, Navajo, Dene Suline, Inupiaq, Zuni, Hupa, and Dogrib alphabets, several proposed alphabets for the Venetian language, and the ISO 11940 romanization of the Thai alphabet...

M is the thirteenth letter of the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:The letter M is derived from the Phoenician Mem, via the Greek Mu . Semitic Mem probably originally pictured water...

N is the fourteenth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.- History of the forms :One of the most common hieroglyphs, snake, was used in Egyptian writing to stand for a sound like English ⟨J⟩, because the Egyptian word for "snake" was djet...

O is the fifteenth letter and a vowel in the basic modern Latin alphabet.The letter was derived from the Semitic `Ayin , which represented a consonant, probably , the sound represented by the Arabic letter ع called `Ayn. This Semitic letter in its original form seems to have been inspired by a...

Q is the seventeenth letter of the basic modern Latin alphabet.- History :The Semitic sound value of Qôp was , a sound common to Semitic languages, but not found in English or most Indo-European ones...

R is the eighteenth letter of the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:The original Semitic letter may have been inspired by an Egyptian hieroglyph for tp, "head". It was used for by Semites because in their language, the word for "head" was rêš . It developed into Greek Ρ and Latin R...

S is the nineteenth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.-History: Semitic Šîn represented a voiceless postalveolar fricative . Greek did not have this sound, so the Greek sigma came to represent...

T is the 20th letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet. It is the most commonly used consonant and the second most common letter in the English language.- History :Taw was the last letter of the Western Semitic and Hebrew alphabets...

U is the twenty-first letter and a vowel in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-History:The letter U ultimately comes from the Semitic letter Waw by way of the letter Y. See the letter Y for details....

V is the twenty-second letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.-Letter:The letter V comes from the Semitic letter Waw, as do the modern letters F, U, W, and Y. See F for details....

W is the 23rd letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet.In other Germanic languages, including German, its pronunciation is similar or identical to that of English V...

Y is the twenty-fifth letter in the basic modern Latin alphabet and represents either a vowel or a consonant in English.-Name:In Latin, Y was named Y Graeca "Greek Y". This was pronounced as I Graeca "Greek I", since Latin speakers had trouble pronouncing , which was not a native sound...

Z is the twenty-sixth and final letter of the basic modern Latin alphabet.-Name and pronunciation:In most dialects of English, the letter's name is zed , reflecting its derivation from the Greek zeta but in American English, its name is zee , deriving from a late 17th century English dialectal...

Minuscule Forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
a b ch
Ch (digraph)
Ch is a digraph in the Roman alphabet and Uyghur. It is treated as a letter of its own in Chamorro, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Igbo, Quechua, Guarani, Welsh, Cornish, Breton and Belarusian Łacinka alphabets. In Vietnamese, it also used to be considered a letter for collation purposes but this is no...

d f g ĝ x h i k l m n o q r s t u v w y z

The historic Aleut (Cyrillic
Cyrillic alphabet
The Cyrillic script or azbuka is an alphabetic writing system developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School...

) alphabet found in both Alaska and Russia has the standard pre-1918 Russian orthography
Russian alphabet
The Russian alphabet is a form of the Cyrillic script, developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School...

 as its basis, although a number of Russian letters were used only in loanwords. In addition, the extended Cyrillic letters: г̑ (г with inverted breve), ҟ, ҥ, ў, х̑ (х with inverted breve) were used to represent distinctly Aleut sounds.
A total of 24 letters were used to represent distinctly Aleut words, comprising: 6 vowels (а, и, й, у, ю, я), 2 reduced vowels (ъ, ь) and 16 consonants (г, г̑, д, з, к, ҟ, л, м, н, ҥ, с, т, ў, х, х̑, ч). The letter ҟ has been used in modern Aleut Cyrillic publications to denote the letter ԟ
Aleut Ka
Aleut Ka is a letter of the Cyrillic alphabet. It is formed from the Cyrillic letter Ka by adding a stroke to the upper diagonal arm.Aleut Ka is used in the alphabet of the Aleut language, where it represents the voiceless uvular plosive ....

 (Aleut Ka) traditionally used to mark the voiceless uvular plosive /q/.
Majuscule Forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
А  Б* В* Г  Г̑  Д  Е* Ж* З И  І* Й  К  Ҟ  Л  М  Н  Ҥ  О* П* Р* С  Т  У  Ў
Short U
Short U is a letter of the Cyrillic alphabet.The only Slavic language using this letter is the Belarusian Cyrillic alphabet....

Ф* Х  Х̑  Ц* Ч  Ш* Щ* Ъ  Ы* Ь  Э* Ю  Я  Ѳ
Fita is a letter of the Early Cyrillic alphabet. The shape and the name of the letter are derived from the Greek letter Theta .In the Cyrillic numeral system, Fita has a value of 9.- Shape :...

Izhitsa is a letter of the early Cyrillic alphabet. It was used to represent ypsilon in words derived from Greek, such as . It represented the same sound /i/ as the normal letter и in Russian...

Minuscule Forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
а б* в* г г̑ д е* ж* з и і* й к ҟ л м н ҥ о* п* р* с т у ў ф* х х̑ ц* ч ш* щ* ъ ы* ь э* ю я ѳ* ѵ*
* denotes letters typically used in loanwords
† only found in Atkan Aleut


The consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

s of the various Aleut dialects are represented below. The first line of each cell indicates the International Phonetic Alphabet
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

 (IPA) representation of the phoneme; the second indicates how the phoneme is represented in the Aleut orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...

. Italicized orthographic forms represent phonemes borrowed from Russian or English; bold orthographic forms represent native Aleut phonemes. Note that some phonemes are unique to specific dialects of Aleut.
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

Dental Alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Uvular consonant
Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. Uvulars may be plosives, fricatives, nasal stops, trills, or approximants, though the IPA does not provide a separate symbol for the approximant, and...

Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Stop /p/
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

Lateral consonant
A lateral is an el-like consonant, in which airstream proceeds along the sides of the tongue, but is blocked by the tongue from going through the middle of the mouth....

Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

  /ɹ/, /ɾ/

* Only found natively in Attuan (/v/ is also found in loanwords)
Only found in Eastern Aleut
Only found in Atkan and in loanwords

Taff et al. (2001, p. 234) note that modern Eastern Aleut has done away with most voicing distinctions among nasals, sibilants and approximants.


Aleut has six native vowel phonemes: the short vowels /i/, /a/, and /u/, and their long counterparts /iː/, /aː/, and /uː/. These are represented orthographically as i, a, u, ii, aa, and uu respectively.

Before or after a uvular consonant
Uvular consonant
Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. Uvulars may be plosives, fricatives, nasal stops, trills, or approximants, though the IPA does not provide a separate symbol for the approximant, and...

, /i/ is retracted to [e], /a/ is retracted to [ɑ], and /u/ to [o]. Before or after a coronal consonant
Coronal consonant
Coronal consonants are consonants articulated with the flexible front part of the tongue. Only the coronal consonants can be divided into apical , laminal , domed , or subapical , as well as a few rarer orientations, because only the front of the tongue has such...

, /a/ becomes [e] or [ɛ], and /u/ becomes [y] or [ʉ] (Bergsland 1994, p. xix; Bergsland 1997, pp. 21–22; see also Taff et al. 2001, pp. 247–249).


Most Aleut words can be classified as noun
In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

s or verb
A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

s. Notions which in English are expressed by means of adjective
In grammar, an adjective is a 'describing' word; the main syntactic role of which is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified....

s and adverb
An adverb is a part of speech that modifies verbs or any part of speech other than a noun . Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives , clauses, sentences, and other adverbs....

s are generally expressed in Aleut using verbs or postbase
In linguistics a postbase is a special kind of grammatical suffixing morpheme that is suffixed to a base. It is mostly found in Eskimo–Aleut languages. Postbases differ from most other affixes in that they usually carry a much more salient semantic content than affixes in other languages and are...

s (derivational
Derivation (linguistics)
In linguistics, derivation is the process of forming a new word on the basis of an existing word, e.g. happi-ness and un-happy from happy, or determination from determine...

An affix is a morpheme that is attached to a word stem to form a new word. Affixes may be derivational, like English -ness and pre-, or inflectional, like English plural -s and past tense -ed. They are bound morphemes by definition; prefixes and suffixes may be separable affixes...


Nouns are obligatorily marked for grammatical number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

 (singular, dual, or plural) and for absolutive or relative case
In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles to indicate number , case , and gender...

 (some researchers, notably Anna Berge, dispute both the characterization of this feature as "case" and the names "absolutive" and "relative". This approach to Aleut nouns comes from Eskimo linguistics, but these terms can be misleading when applied to Aleut). The absolutive form is the default form, while the relative form communicates a relationship (such as possessive or contrastive) between the noun and another member of the sentence
Sentence (linguistics)
In the field of linguistics, a sentence is an expression in natural language, and often defined to indicate a grammatical unit consisting of one or more words that generally bear minimal syntactic relation to the words that precede or follow it...

, possibly one that has been omitted. Absolutive and relative are identical in most combinations of person and number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....


In possessive
Possession (linguistics)
Possession, in the context of linguistics, is an asymmetric relationship between two constituents, the referent of one of which possesses the referent of the other ....

 constructions, Aleut marks both possessor and possessum:

`[the] man'

`[the] father'

tayaĝu-m ada-a
man-REL father-POSSM
`the man's father'

The possessor precedes the possessum.

Positional nouns are a special, closed set of nouns which may take the locative
Locative case
Locative is a grammatical case which indicates a location. It corresponds vaguely to the English prepositions "in", "on", "at", and "by"...

 or ablative
Ablative case
In linguistics, ablative case is a name given to cases in various languages whose common characteristic is that they mark motion away from something, though the details in each language may differ...

 noun cases; in these cases they behave essentially as postpositions. Morphosyntactically, positional noun phrases are almost identical to possessive phrases:

tayaĝu-m had-an
man-REL direction-LOC
`toward the man'

Verbs are inflected for mood
Grammatical mood
In linguistics, grammatical mood is a grammatical feature of verbs, used to signal modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying...

 and, if finite, for person
Grammatical person
Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event; such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns...

 and number. Person/number endings agree
Agreement (linguistics)
In languages, agreement or concord is a form of cross-reference between different parts of a sentence or phrase. Agreement happens when a word changes form depending on the other words to which it relates....

 with the subject of the verb if all nominal participants of a sentence are overt; in general, if a complement (including the complement of a verb, the object of a positional noun, or the possessor of a noun) is omitted, its absence will be reflected by anaphoric
Anaphora (linguistics)
In linguistics, anaphora is an instance of an expression referring to another. Usually, an anaphoric expression is represented by a pro-form or some other kind of deictic--for instance, a pronoun referring to its antecedent...

 marking on the verb; in such situations, the subject will usually be in the relative case. Compare:
Peter-SG.ABS man-SG.ABS help-PRESENT-3SG

`Peter is helping the man.'
Piitra-m kidu-ku-u.
Peter-SG.REL help-PRES-3SG.ANA

`Peter is helping him.'

(Bergsland 1997, pp. 126-127)

When more than one piece of information is omitted, the verb agrees with the element whose grammatical number is greatest. This can lead to ambiguity
Ambiguity of words or phrases is the ability to express more than one interpretation. It is distinct from vagueness, which is a statement about the lack of precision contained or available in the information.Context may play a role in resolving ambiguity...


`He/she helped them.' / `They helped him/her/them.'

(Sadock 2000)

Both nouns and verbs are subject to extensive derivational morphology. Aleut words begin with a content morpheme, called a `root' or a `base', optionally followed by any number of derivational suffixes (`postbases'). Inflectional endings are obligatory; interestingly, there is no "zero
Zero (linguistics)
A zero, in linguistics, is a constituent needed in an analysis but not realized in speech. This implies that there is a lack of an element where a theory would expect one. It is usually written with the symbol "", in Unicode .There are several kind of zeros....

" (null
Null morpheme
In morpheme-based morphology, a null morpheme is a morpheme that is realized by a phonologically null affix . In simpler terms, a null morpheme is an "invisible" affix. It is also called a zero morpheme; the process of adding a null morpheme is called null affixation, null derivation or zero...

) inflectional ending for either class of words.

Aleut's canonical word order
Word order
In linguistics, word order typology refers to the study of the order of the syntactic constituents of a language, and how different languages can employ different orders. Correlations between orders found in different syntactic subdomains are also of interest...

 is subject object verb (SOV).

Comparison to Eskimo grammar

Although Aleut derives from the same parent language as the Eskimo languages, the two language groups (Aleut and Eskimo) have evolved in distinct ways, resulting in significant typological
Linguistic typology
Linguistic typology is a subfield of linguistics that studies and classifies languages according to their structural features. Its aim is to describe and explain the common properties and the structural diversity of the world's languages...

 differences. Aleut inflection
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

al morphology is greatly reduced from the system that must have been present in Proto-Eskimo–Aleut, and where the Eskimo languages mark a verb's arguments morphologically, Aleut relies more heavily on a fixed word order.

Unlike the Eskimo languages, Aleut is not an ergative-absolutive language
Ergative-absolutive language
An ergative–absolutive language is a language that treats the argument of an intransitive verb like the object of a transitive verb, but differently from the agent of a transitive verb.-Ergative vs...

. Subjects and objects in Aleut are not marked differently depending on the transitivity
Transitivity (grammatical category)
In linguistics, transitivity is a property of verbs that relates to whether a verb can take direct objects and how many such objects a verb can take...

 of the verb (i.e. whether the verb is transitive
Transitive verb
In syntax, a transitive verb is a verb that requires both a direct subject and one or more objects. The term is used to contrast intransitive verbs, which do not have objects.-Examples:Some examples of sentences with transitive verbs:...

 or intransitive
Intransitive verb
In grammar, an intransitive verb is a verb that has no object. This differs from a transitive verb, which takes one or more objects. Both classes of verb are related to the concept of the transitivity of a verb....

); by default, both are marked with a so-called absolutive noun ending. However, if an understood complement (which may either be a complement of the verb or of some other element in the sentence) is absent, the verb takes an "anaphoric" marking and the subject noun takes a "relative" noun ending.

A typological feature shared by Aleut and Eskimo is polysynthetic derivational morphology, which can lead to some rather long words:
Ting .
Ting .

`Perhaps he tried to fool me again.' (Bergsland 1997, p. 123)

Research history

The first contact of people from the Eastern Hemisphere with the Aleut language occurred in 1741, as Vitus Bering
Vitus Bering
Vitus Jonassen Bering Vitus Jonassen Bering Vitus Jonassen Bering (also, less correNavy]], a captain-komandor known among the Russian sailors as Ivan Ivanovich. He is noted for being the first European to discover Alaska and its Aleutian Islands...

's expedition picked up place names and the names of the Aleut people they met. The first recording of the Aleut language in lexicon form appeared in a word list of the Unalaskan dialect compiled by Captain James King
Captain James King
James King FRS was an officer of the Royal Navy. He served under James Cook on his last voyage around the world, specialising in taking important astronomical readings using a sextant. After Cook died he helped lead the ships on the remainder of their course, also completing Cook's account of the...

 on Cook
James Cook
Captain James Cook, FRS, RN was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer who ultimately rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy...

's voyage in 1778. At that time the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 became interested in the Aleut language upon hearing of Russian expeditions for trading.

In Catherine the Great's project to compile a giant comparative dictionary on all the languages spoken in what was the spread of the Russian empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 at that time, she hired Peter Simon Pallas
Peter Simon Pallas
Peter Simon Pallas was a German zoologist and botanist who worked in Russia.- Life and work :Pallas was born in Berlin, the son of Professor of Surgery Simon Pallas. He studied with private tutors and took an interest in natural history, later attending the University of Halle and the University...

 to conduct the fieldwork that would collect linguistic information on Aleut. During an expedition from 1791 to 1792, Carl Heinrich Merck and Michael Rohbeck collected several word lists and conducted a census of the male population that included prebaptismal Aleut names. Explorer Yuriy Feodorovich Lisyansky compiled several word lists. in 1804 and 1805, the czar's plenipotentiary, Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov
Nikolai Rezanov
Nikolay Petrovich Rezanov was a Russian nobleman and statesman who promoted the project of Russian colonization of Alaska and California. One of the ten barons of Russia, he was the first Russian ambassador to Japan , and participated in the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe ,...

 collected some more. Johann Christoph Adelung
Johann Christoph Adelung
Johann Christoph Adelung was a German grammarian and philologist.He was born at Spantekow, in Western Pomerania, and educated at schools in Anklam and Berge Monastery, Magdeburg, and the University of Halle...

 and Johann Severin Vater
Johann Severin Vater
Johann Severin Vater was a German theologian, biblical scholar, and linguist. Following Alexander Geddes, he applied the fragmentary hypothesis to the whole of the Pentateuch, treating it as an aggregate of numerous minor documents that had been compiled together...

 published their Mithridates oder allgemeine Sprachkunde 1806–1817, which included Aleut among the languages it catalogued, similar to Catherine the Great's dictionary project.

It wasn't until 1819 that the first professional linguist, the Dane Rasmus Rask, studied Aleut. He collected words and paradigms from two speakers of Eastern Aleut dialects living in Saint Petersburg. In 1824 came the man who would revolutionize Aleut as a literary language
Literary language
A literary language is a register of a language that is used in literary writing. This may also include liturgical writing. The difference between literary and non-literary forms is more marked in some languages than in others...

. Ioann Veniaminov, a Russian Orthodox priest who would later become a saint, arrived at Unalaska studying Unalaskan Aleut. He created an orthography for this language (using the Cyrillic alphabet; the Roman alphabet would come later), translated the Gospel according to St. Matthew and several other religious works into Aleut, and published a grammar of Eastern Aleut in 1846. The religious works were translated with the help of Veniaminov's friends Ivan Pan'kov (chief of Tigalda) and Iakov Netsvetov (the priest of Atka), both of whom were native Aleut speakers. Netsvetov also wrote a dictionary of Atkan Aleut. After Veniaminov's works were published, several religious figures took interest in studying and recording Aleut, which would help these Russian Orthodox clerics in their missionary work. Father Innocent Shayashnikov did much work in the Eastern Fox-Island dialect translating a Catechism, all four Gospels and Acts of Apostles from the New Testament, and an original composition in Aleut entitled: "Short Rule for a Pious Life". Most of these were published in 1902, although written years earlier in the 1860s and 1870s. Father Lavrentii Salamatov produced a Catechism, and translations of three of the four Gospels (St. Mark, St. Luke, St. John) in the Western-Atkan dialect. Of Father Lavrentii's work, the Gospel of St. Mark was published in a revised orthography (1959), and in its original, bilingual Russian-Aleut format (2007), together with his Catechism for the youth of Atka Island (2007). The Atkan-dialect Gospel of St. John was also electronically published (2008), along with the Gospel of St. Luke (2009) in the original bilingual format, completing the set of Fr. Lavrentii's biblical translations.

The first Frenchman to record Aleut was Alphonse Pinart
Alphonse Pinart
Alphonse Pinart was a French explorer, philologist, and ethnographer. He was an early champion of the theory that the Americas were first populated by migration across the Bering Strait. To support his research, he made extensive travel in the Pacific, from Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to...

, in 1871, shortly after the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 purchase of Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

. A French-Aleut grammar was also produced by Victor Henry, entitled "Esquisse d'une grammaire raisonnee de la langue aleoute d'apres la grammaire et le vocabulaire de Ivan Veniaminov" (Paris, 1879). In 1878, American Lucien M. Turner began work on collecting words for a word list. Benedykt Dybowski, a Pole, began taking word lists from the dialects the Commander Islands in 1881, while Nikolai Vasilyevich Slyunin, a Russian doctor, did the same in 1892.

From 1909 to 1910, the ethnologist Waldemar Jochelson traveled to the Aleut communities of Unalaska, Atka, Attu and Nikolski. He spent nineteen months there doing fieldwork. Jochelson collected his ethnographic work with the help of two Unalaskan speakers, Aleksey Yachmenev
Aleksey Yachmenev
Aleksey Mironovich Yachmenev was an Aleut chief who lived in Unalaska. Along with Leontiy Sivstov, Yachmenev accompanied Waldemar Jochelson on his 1909-1910 ethnological studies on the Aleut....

 and Leontiy Sivstov
Leontiy Sivstov
Leontiy Ivanovich Sivstov was a church reader who lived in Unalaska. Along with Aleksey Yachmenev, who like Sivstov was Aleut himself, Sivstov accompanied Waldemar Jochelson on his 1909-1910 ethnological studies on the Aleut.-References:...

. He recorded many Aleut stories, folklore and myth, and had many of them not only written down but also recorded in audio. Jochelson discovered much vocabulary and grammar when he was there, adding to the scientific knowledge of the Aleut language.

In the 1930s, two native Aleuts wrote down works that are considered breakthroughs in the use of Aleut as a literary language. Afinogen K. Ermeloff wrote down a literary account of a shipwreck in his native language, while Ardelion G. Ermeloff kept a diary in Aleut during the decade. At the same time, linguist Melville Jacobs
Melville Jacobs
Melville Jacobs was an American anthropologist known for his extensive fieldwork on cultures of the Pacific Northwest. He was born in New York City. After studying with Franz Boas he became a member of the faculty of the University of Washington in 1928 and remained until his death in 1971...

 picked up several new texts from Sergey Golley, an Atkan speaker who was hospitalized at the time.

John P. Harrington furthered research into the Pribilof Island dialect on St. Paul Island
Saint Paul Island, Alaska
Saint Paul Island is the largest of the Pribilof Islands, a group of five Alaskan volcanic islands located in the Bering Sea between the United States and Russia. The city of St. Paul is the only residential area on the island. The two nearest islands to Saint Paul Island are Otter Island to the...

 in 1941, collecting some new vocabulary along the way. In 1944, the United States Department of the Interior
United States Department of the Interior
The United States Department of the Interior is the United States federal executive department of the U.S. government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native...

 published The Aleut Language as part of the war effort, allowing World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 soldiers to understand the language of the Aleuts. This English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 project was based on Veniaminov's work.

In 1950, Knut Bergsland
Knut Bergsland
Knut Bergsland was a Norwegian linguist. Working as a professor at the University of Oslo from 1947 to 1981, he did groundbreaking research in Uralic and Eskimo–Aleut languages.-Career:...

 began an extensive study of Aleut, perhaps the most rigorous to date, culminating in the publication of a complete Aleut dictionary in 1994 and a descriptive grammar in 1997. Bergsland's work would not have been possible without key Aleut collaborators, especially Atkan linguist Moses Dirks.

Michael Krauss, Jeff Leer, Michael Fortescue
Michael Fortescue
Michael David Fortescue is a British-born linguist specializing in Arctic and native North American languages, including Kalaallisut, Inuktun, Chukchi and Nitinaht. He is professor of General Linguistics at the University of Copenhagen and chairman of the Linguistic Circle of Copenhagen...

, and Jerrold Sadock
Jerrold Sadock
Jerrold Sadock is Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor in Linguistics and the Humanities Collegiate Division at the University of Chicago. Inter alia, he founded the grammatical theory of Autolexical Syntax...

 have published articles about Aleut.

Alice Taff has worked on Aleut since the 1970s. Her work constitutes the most detailed accounts of Aleut phonetics and phonology available.

Anna Berge conducts research on Aleut. Berge's work includes treatments of Aleut discourse structure and morphosyntax, and curricular materials for Aleut, including a conversational grammar of the Atkan dialect, co-authored with Moses Dirks.

In 2005, the parish of All Saints of North America Orthodox Church, began to re-publish all historic Aleut language texts from 1840–1940. Archpriest Paul Merculief (originally from the Pribilofs) of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska and the Alaska State Library
Alaska State Library
The Alaska State Library and Historical Collections is located in Juneau, Alaska, with an office in Anchorage featuring the Talking Book Center.-External links:****...

Historical Collection generously contributed their linguistic skills to the restoration effort. The historic Aleut texts are available on the parish's Aleut library.

External links

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