Skip to content
Back to Top

Offices Closed to Public

The Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development offices are closed to the public at this time. We are still open for business and encourage you to contact us via phone or email.

Alaska Native Language Preservation & Advisory Council

Languages

Alaska has some 20 distinct languages, most within two main language groups. The two groupings include Inuit-Unangan (a.k.a. Eskimo-Aleut) and Na-Dene (a.k.a. Athabasan-Eyak-Tlingit). Since its creation by the Alaska Legislature in 1972, the Alaska Native Language Center has researched and documented Alaska's Native languages.

For more information about Alaska Native Languages please visit the Alaska Native Language Center's website.

Alaska Native Language Map

Click here to see enlarged map. This map is courtesy of the Alaska Native Language Center , and is also available on their website.

How Many Speakers are There of Each Alaska Native Language?

There are a lot of challenges to counting who is a “speaker” of a language is and there always will be. The numbers presented in the table below under 'Status Alaska Native Language Speakers', if the number is fewer than 100, come from community members who tell me that they have sat down with other language community members and written down lists of who all they can name who is a strong speaker. Sadly, those numbers are easier to come by as the number of speakers becomes really small.

Surveys that simply ask “Do you (or does that person) speak the language?” are not very informative. One person who speaks the language quite well, but knows that they are far from perfect speaker, may modestly reply “no” whereas someone else, who knows a couple hundred words and a couple dozen phrases, may reply “yes.” Neither one is wrong as such, but it illustrates how a simple “yes/no” question about speaking does not provide useful information.

With Council members, we have been talking about trying to collect numbers of speakers in four categories:

  1. Those who learned the language as children and speak the language well.
  2. Those who started learning the language as children but who have become “dormant speakers” who understand but cannot converse.
  3. Second-language learners who speak the language well.
  4. Second-language learners who can carry on short conversations (five or ten minutes)—more than simply using memorized dialog.
Status Alaska Native Language Speakers
Language Family Language
Inuit-Unangan Inupiatun (Inupiaq): Estimated <2,500 highly proficient speakers in Alaska
Yupigestun / Akuzipigestun (St. Lawrence Island Yupik): Estimated < 1,000 highly proficient speakers.
Yugtun/Cugtun (Central Alaskan Yup'ik / Cup’ik): Estimated <10,000 highly proficient speakers.
Cup’ig (Nunivak Island [Yupik]): Data unavailable
Unangam Tunuu (UnangaX Aleut): <80 highly proficient speakers
Sugt’stun / Alutiit’stun (Sugpiaq/Alutiiq [Yupik]): About ~80 highly proficient speakers
Na-Dene Dena’inaq’ (Dena'ina): 5 highly proficient speakers.
Denaakk'e (Koyukon): Data unavailable
Holikachuk: 0 highly proficient speakers.
Deg Xinag: 2 highly proficient speakers
Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim): <5 highly proficient speakers--perhaps as few as one or none.
Benhti Kokhwt’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana): 1 highly proficient speaker.
Sahcheeg xut'een xneege' (Middle Tanana):0 highly proficient speakers speakers.
Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich'in): <250 highly proficient speakers
Hän: 2 highly proficient speakers in Alaska
Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aandeeg’ (Tanacross): <10 highly proficient speakers?
Nee'aanèegn' (Upper Tanana): ~7 highly proficient speakers; about 25 proficient second-language speakers in Alaska
Koht’aene kenaege’ (Ahtna): ~25 highly proficient speakers.
dAxhunhyuuga’ (Eyak): 0 highly proficient speakers.
Lingít (Tlingit): 50 highly proficient, first-language speakers plus 10 highly proficient second-language speakers.
Wetal (Tseta’ut): 0 highly proficient speakers.
Haida Xaad Kíl (Haida):3 fluent speakers in Alaska plus perhaps 2 highly proficient second-language speakers
Tshimshianic Sm'algyax: 4 highly proficient speakers in Alaska
Directory of Alaska Native Languages

Atnakenaege’ / Ahtna

Atnakenaege’, also known as Ahtna, is an Athabascan language in the Na-Dene language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Ugheli Dzaen!, translates roughly to mean 'Hello, good day!' Find more information about Atnakenaege’ here , and check out one language continuation program here.

Yugtun / Central Yup'ik

Central Yup’ik is one of the Yupik languages in the Inuit-Unangan language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Cama-i, quyana tailuci!, literally means 'Greetings, thank you for coming!' and is spoken here in Generalized Central Yup'ik. Find more information about Central Yup’ik here , and look at one language revitalization project here.

Deg Xinag

Deg Xinag is the language of the Deg Hit’an people, one of the Athabascan languages in the Na-Dene language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Ndadz dengit'a?, literally means 'Hello, how are you?' Find more information about Deg Xinag here , and look at one language continuation resource here.

Denaakk'e / Koyukon

Denaakk’e is one of the Athabascan languages in the Na-Dene language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Enaa neenyo , literally means 'It is precious that you came!' Find more information about Denaakk’e here, and look at one language revitalization project here.

Dena'inaq' / Dena'ina

Dena’ina is one of the Athabascan languages in the Na-Dene language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Naghe nduniya! , literally means 'Welcome!' Find more information about Dena’ina here , and look at one language revitalization project here.

Dinak'i / Upper Kuskokwim

Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim) is an Athabascan language in the Na-Dene language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Do'ent'a?, literally means 'How are you?' Find more information about Dinak'i here , and look at one language continuation resource here.

Dinjii Zhuh K'yaa / Gwich'in

Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa, also known as Gwich’in, is an Athabascan language in the Na-Dene language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Nakhwal’in shoo ihlii, translates roughly to mean 'I am happy to see you all.' Find more information about Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa here, and find one language continuation resource here.

Doogh Qinaq / Holikachuk

Doogh Qinaq (also known as the Holikachuk language) is an Athabascan language in the Na-Dene language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Etla, s'coy, literally means 'Hello, my grandchild'. Find more information about Doogh Qinaq here , and find more information about the language here.

Häl golan / Hän

Häl golan, also known as the Hän language, is an Athabascan language in the Na-Dene language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Nänjit dähònche?, translates roughly to mean 'Hello, how are you?' Find more information about Häl golan here.

Inupiatun / Inupiaq

Inupiaq is one of the Inuit languages in the Inuit-Unangan language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Paglagivsi, literally means 'Welcome!' is spoken here in North Slope Iñupiaq. Find more information about Inupiaq here , and look at one language revitalization project here.

Nee’aandeg’ / Tanacross

Nee’aandeg’, also known as Tanacross language, is an Athabascan language in the Na-Dene language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Nts’a?a?’ di?i?t’eh, translates roughly to mean 'Hello, how are you?' Find more information about Nee’aandeg’ here , and find one language learning resource here.

Sm’algyax / (Coast) Tsimshian

Sm’álgyax is a Tsimshianic language spoken in Southeast Alaska and Northwestern British Columbia. This 'Welcome' recording, Ama sah gya'wn, translates roughly to mean 'It is a good day today.' Find more information about Sm’álgyax here , and find one language continuation resource here.

Akuzipigestun / St. Lawrence Island Yupik

St. Lawrence Island Yupik, also known as Siberian Yupik, is one of the Yupik languages in the Inuit-Unangan language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Quyaakamsi tagilghiisi, literally means 'Thank you all for coming!' Find more information about St. Lawrence Island Yupik here, and look at a grammatical text of the language at the Alaska State Historical Collections Library.

Sugpiaq / Alutiiq

Sugpiaq (Sugt’stun in the Sugpiaq language) or Alutiiq is closely related to the Central Yup’ik language in the Inuit-Unangan language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Cama'i, literally means 'Hello, welcome!'. Find more information about Sugt’stun here, and look at one language continuation project here.

Lingít / Tlingit

Tlingit is one of the languages in the Na-Dene language family. This 'Welcome' recording, Yak’éi haat yigoodée! , literally means 'It is good that you have come here!' >Find more information about Tlingit here, and look at one language revitalization project here.

Unangam Tunuu / Aleutian Aleut

Unangam Tunuu is the language of the Unangax^ (also known as Aleut) people and one of the Inuit-Unangan languages. This 'Welcome' recording, Aang, literally means 'Yes' or 'Hello'. Find more information about Unangam Tunuu here , and look at two language continuation projects at, one at Edwin Ko's website and the other at the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association website.

Xaat Kíl / Haida

Xaat Kíl, also known as Haida, is a language isolate, meaning it does not have any known genetic relationship to other languages. This 'Welcome' recording, Sán uu dáng gíidang?, translates roughly to mean 'Hello, how are you?' Find more information about Xaat Kíl here and check out one language resource here.

For more information about the Alaska Native Language Preservation & Advisory Council contact

D. Roy Mitchell, IV
Research Analyst
Division of Community and Regional Affairs
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
Phone: 907-269-3646
Email: anlpac@alaska.gov