Eyak was once spoken in south eastern Alsaka on the Cooper River. It is a member of the Athabascan-Eyak branch of the Athabascan-Eyak-Tlingit language family. The last traditional speaker, Chief Marie Smith Jones, died on 21st January 2008. The language was a victim of the spread of English, and also of Tlingit.
Dr Michael Krauss, a linguist and professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and founder of the Alasaka Native Language Center, has studied and documented Eyak, and all the other native languages of Alaska. He speaks Eyak fluently, having learnt it from the last native speakers, and has produced a dictionary of the languages, and also a collection of stories and folklore.
The Eyak Language Project is a grassroots community effort to revive Eyak as a living, spoken language. Since 2002 the materials collected by Michael Krauss have been made easily accessible and DVDs to help people learn Eyak have been made. The are available free-of-charge to anyone who wants to learn the language, and one person who used them is Guilluame Leduey from France, who learnt Eyak, then visited Alaska. His example demonstrated to the Eyak people that it is possible to revitalise their language, and he is also able to teach the language, and is working with Michael Kraus.
1. č’i·lehkuc’gšiyah q’ew lu· ˀi·yahł. 2. c’idwex̣ ci·dəˀạ·ˀč ˀa·k’. 3. ˀu·dəx̣ či·šx̣da·q’d ˀidəcəłəyəq’šgł. 4. dəwa· q’əw teˀyaˀle· qiˀ ˀədcəłəduxłˀạ·ˀ k’uˀdišłiyəq’šgł. 5. ˀəwlah yəx̣· ˀədi·lihłaˀya·x̣ịh, "k’e·duw quˀxšeh[;] ˀəw teˀyaˀ,"
1. Little Old Raven was beachcombing. 2. He kept coming upon mussels. 3. Then he was opening mussels on a pebble-beach. 4. Then as he opened one he came upon where King Salmon was floating. 5. He thought about it, "How shall I kill it, that fish?"
Note: this text appears to be in a version of the IPA.
Information about the Eyak language and people
Recordings of Eyak