With fewer than 150 known fluent speakers, the Alutiiq language is just one of many
indigenous languages worldwide that are in danger of extinction. However, with
the concerted efforts from people like April Counceller, that won't happen.
Counceller is the language manager at the Alutiiq
Museum and the director for a new
Alutiiq studies program at the Kodiak
College. Last week the
museum was awarded a $40,000 grant to complete a book
on the orthography of the Kodiak sub-dialect of the Alutiiq language, for which only 45 known fluent speakers remain. Counceller
says the project comes at a key stage after many years of creating language
materials and developing speakers.
now have this group of intermediate fluent speakers that needs this. This isn't
something we would have needed five years ago because we didn't have anyone that
would have used it. But now were getting to the point where we do have those
intermediate speakers that are not fully fluent, but they're getting there and
that's why I think this is so important."
says the idea for the book came as a result of her work on a similar book for
the Chugach dialect of the language, which is spoken in Prince William Sound and on the Kenai Peninsula.
thought it would be such an easy jump once that manuscript is done to
create the Kodiak version."
says Dr. Jeff Leer, an early researcher of the language, was integral to
establishing Alutiiq as a written language in the late 70s. Leer, who is now in
retirement, will be a major contributor to the book, which seeks to standardize
the Alutiiq writing system. The book will also be used in the newly established
Alutiiq studies program at the Kodiak College.