Alaska native languages at risk of extinction by 2100: report

Updated 2018-01-22 10:22:04 Xinhua

Alaska Native languages are most likely to be extinct or dormant by the end of the 21st century unless action is taken to save them, a new report released by a committee of the state in the most northwestern part of the United States said.

The Anchorage Daily News Sunday quoted the 2018 report of the Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council as saying that the Alaska Native languages are in a "linguistic emergency."

"If current rates of decline were to continue as they have been since the 1970s, all Alaska Native languages may lose their last fluent speakers by the end of the 21st century," the report said.

The council, established by the state legislature in 2012 to preserve and restore Alaska Native languages, urged Alaska Governor Bill Walker to make a state policy to preserve, promote and develop those languages.

At the time of statehood in 1959, there were 20 indigenous languages spoken within the boundaries of Alaska, all of which, in addition to English, were recognized as official languages of the state.

Most of these languages belong to one of two large language families -- Eskimo-Aleut and Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit.

Currently, all of those Native languages have "suffered an ongoing loss in the number of speakers over the past 40 years," the council said in its biennial report.

The Tsetsa'ut language lost its last fluent speaker in the early 1930s, and another language, Eyak, lost its last fluent speaker in 2008, it noted.

The council warned that the number of people who actually speak the languages has falled, though the Alaska Native population has grown since 1980.

While the central Yup'ik and Inupiaq are the two most spoken Alaska Native languages, other languages such as Haida, Tsimshian, Han, and Upper Tanana, now have fewer than 10 speakers each in Alaska, said the council.

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