Southeast Alaskan Languages

Languages in Southeast Alaska are made up of three distinct language families. 

 

The Eyak and Tlingit languages are part of the Na-Dené language family, meaning they are related to the eleven Athabascan languages in Alaska. These languages have very rich phonological systems; Tlingit, for example, has over 50 distinct sounds.

 

The Haida language, spoken on Prince of Wales Island and Haida Gwaii in Canada is generally thought to be a language isolate, which means that the language is alone on the global language “family tree” and has no root relationship to any other language.

 

Lastly, the Tsimshian language is spoken on Annette Island in the village of Metlakatla and is related to three other Tsimshianic languages in Canada. Although Tsimshian was not originally spoken in what is now called Alaska, a community of Coast Tsimshian people moved to Annette Island in 1887, led by the missionary William Duncan.