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Other names

Asiatic eskimo, bering strait yupik, siberian yupik, st. lawrence island eskimo, yuit

Spoken in ...

Russian Federation: at the southern tip of the Chukchi Peninsula (specifically, close to Novoye Chaplino and Sireniki), on the Gulf of Anadyr and on Wrangel Island.

USA: on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska.

Number of speakers

1,400, approximately 1,100 of whom live on St. Lawrence Island and the rest of whom live in Siberia.

Legal status

Non-specific protection in the USA. Legally recognised in the Russian Federation.

English is the USA's de facto official language. The Native American Languages Act (1990, 1992; amended in 2001) was the first federal legislative act on the language rights of Native Americans and the indigenous peoples of Alaska, Hawaii and the islands of the Pacific. The act not only requires the government of the USA to preserve, protect and promote the aforementioned communities' rights to use and develop their languages, but also specifically recognises their entitlement to use those languages for the purposes of education. In the state of Alaska, the 1997 Native Language Education Act was one of the first noteworthy laws on the territory's indigenous tongues. The scope of the act is very limited. It declares that Alaska's native languages and cultures are unique, essential elements of the territory's heritage, recognises that knowledge of such languages is vital for the development and wellbeing of Alaska's native inhabitants, and stipulates that study programmes must envisage provisions related to learning the tongues in question.

As a federal state, the Russian Federation's 1993 constitution establishes language-related legislation on two levels, specifically that of the federation as a whole and that of its constituent republics. Russian is the federation's only official language, although the state guarantees equal rights for all Russia's indigenous tongues, according to the aforementioned constitution. The various republics are entitled to establish their own co-official languages. The languages that enjoy co-official status in one or more of the Russian Federation's 21 republics are Adyghe, Altai, Avar, Azeri, Bashkir, Buryat, Chechen, Chuvash, Dargin, Kabardian, Kalmyk, Karachay, Karelian, Khakass, Komi, Lak, Lezgi, Mari, Mordvin, Nogay, Ossetic, Sakha (or Yakut), Tabasaran, Tat, Tatar, Tuvan and Udmurt.

Source(s)

The Alaska Native Language Center.

CAMPBELL, L. (1997) American Indian Languages. The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press; chapter 4.

LECLERC, J. (2007) L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde. Quebec: TLFQ, Université Laval.

MITHUN, M. (2001) The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Produced by the Endangered Language Study Group (Grup d'Estudi de Llengües Amenaçades or GELA) of the General Linguistics Department of the University of Barcelona.

Comments

The genetic relationship between the Eskimo-Aleut language family's Eskimo and Aleut branches was discovered by historical and comparative linguists in the early 19th century. There are major differences between the two branches.

The territory of the five languages that make up the Eskimo-Aleut family's Yupik group spans Russia's far east and southwestern Alaska, where the Eskimo tongues originated. The five languages in question are Sirenikski (extinct), Naukanski, Central Siberian Yupik, Central Alaskan Yupik and Pacific Yupik. Sirenikski was and Naukanski still is spoken in Russia only, while Central Alaskan Yupik and Pacific Yupik are exclusive to the USA. Central Siberian Yupik is spoken both in Russian territory and on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska.

Central Siberian Yupik was originally spoken throughout the Chukchi Peninsula. Nowadays, the language is only spoken in the region by adults, who have ceased to pass it on to their children as there is just one primary school (in Anadyr) in which it is taught. In Alaska, in contrast, all the inhabitants of St. Lawrence Island speak Central Siberian Yupik.

The name Yupik means 'real person' (from yuk, meaning 'person', and pik, meaning 'real'). The term is applied both to the group of languages and the peoples who speak them.

Number system

Direction in which language is written

Left to right

Alphabet

Classification

  • Family:
    Eskimo-Aleut
  • Branch:
    Eskimo
  • Group:
    Yupik

Location

  • Continents:
    America
  • Countries:
    Russia, United States
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