Thursday, January 24, 2008
A Language Dies
Sad news from the old country. Marie Smith Jones, believed to be the last native speaker of the Eyak language of Alaska, died at her home in Anchorage. The Eyak lived along the Gulf of Alaska between Cordova and Yakutat. The Eyak language was a distinct branch of the Athabascan-Eyak-Tlingit family. Jones helped by Michael Krauss of the University of Alaska compiled an Eyak dictionary, so that future generations might resurrect the language. Even before Europeans arrived, the Eyak were in the process of being absorbed into the Tlingit from Southeast Alaska. Small indigenous languages are dying all over the world. With them also disappears a wealth of knowledge about local plants, animals, and history. It is expected that half of the languages in the world will vanish in this century.