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Eskimos or Esquimaux are indigenous peoples who have traditionally inhabited the circumpolar region from eastern Siberiamarker (Russiamarker), across Alaskamarker (United Statesmarker) and Canadamarker, and all of Greenlandmarker.

There are two main groups referred to as Eskimo: Yupik and Inuit. A third group, the Aleut, is related. The Yupik language dialects and cultures in Alaska and eastern Siberia have evolved in place beginning with the original (pre-Dorset) Eskimo culture that developed in Alaska. Approximately 4,000 years ago the Unangam (also known as Aleut) culture became distinctly separate, and evolved into a non-Eskimo culture. Approximately 1,500-2,000 years ago, apparently in Northwestern Alaska, two other distinct variations appeared. The Inuit language branch became distinct and in only several hundred years spread across northern Alaska, Canada and into Greenland. At about the same time, the Thule Technology also developed in northwestern Alaska and very quickly spread over the entire area occupied by Eskimo people, though it was not necessarily adopted by all of them.

The earliest known Eskimo cultures were Pre-Dorset Technology, which appear to have been a fully developed Eskimo culture that dates to 5,000 years ago. They appear to have evolved in Alaska from people using the Archaic Small Tools Technology, who probably had migrated to Alaska from Siberia at least 2 to 3 thousand years earlier; though they might have been in Alaska as far back as 10 to 12 thousand years or more. There are similar artifacts found in Siberia going back to perhaps 18,000 years ago.

Today the two main groups of Eskimos are the Inuit of northern Alaska, Canada and Greenland, and the Yupik, comprising speakers of four distinct Yupik languages and originating in western Alaska, in South Central Alaska along the Gulf of Alaskamarker coast, and in the Russian Far East.

In Alaska, the term Eskimo is commonly used, because it includes both Yupik and Inupiat, while Inuit is not accepted as a collective term or even specifically used for Inupiat. No universal replacement term for Eskimo, inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people, is accepted across the geographical area inhabited by the Inuit and Yupik peoples. In Canada and Greenland, the term Eskimo has fallen out of favour, as it is considered pejorative by the natives and has been replaced by the term Inuit. The Canadian Constitution Act of 1982, sections 25 and 35 recognized the Inuit as a distinctive group of Canadian aboriginals.

Languages

The Eskimo-Aleut family of languages includes two cognate branches: the Aleut (Unangam) branch and the Eskimo branch. The Eskimo sub-family consists of the Inuit language and Yupik language sub-groups. The Sirenikski language, which is virtually extinct, is sometimes regarded as a third branch of the Eskimo language family, but other sources regard it as a group belonging to the Yupik branch.

Inuit languages comprise a dialect continuum, or dialect chain, that stretches from Unalakleetmarker and Norton Soundmarker in Alaska, across northern Alaska and Canada, and east all the way to Greenland. Speakers of two adjacent Inuit dialects can easily understand one another, but speakers of dialects at the extreme distant ends of the range have significant difficulty. Seward Peninsulamarker dialects in Western Alaska, where much of the Inupiat culture has only been in place for perhaps less than 500 years, are greatly affected by phonological influence from the Yupik languages. Eastern Greenlandic, at the opposite end of the Inuit range has had significant word replacement due to a unique form of ritual name avoidance.

The four Yupik languages have existed in place, which probably includes the locations where Eskimo culture and language began, for much longer than the Inuit language. Alutiiq (Sugpiaq), Central Alaskan Yup'ik, Naukan (Naukanski), and Siberian Yupik, are distinct languages with limited mutual intelligibility. Even the dialectal differences within Alutiiq and Central Alaskan Yup'ik sometimes are relatively great for locations that are relatively close geographically.

While grammatical structures of Yupik and Inuit languages are similar, they have pronounced differences phonologically and differences of vocabulary between Inuit and any of one of the Yupik languages is greater than between any two Yupik languages.

Nomenclature

Origin of the name Eskimo

Two principal competing etymologies have been proposed for the name "Eskimo", but the most commonly accepted today appears to be the Montagnais word meaning "snowshoe-netter". The word assime·w means "she laces a snowshoe" in Montagnais. Since Montagnais speakers refer to the neighbouring Mi'kmaq people using words that sound very much like eskimo, Ives Goddard of the Smithsonian Institutionmarker has concluded that this is the more likely origin of the word.

Jose Mailhot, a Quebec anthropologist who speaks Montagnais, however, published a paper in 1978 which suggested that the meaning is "people who speak a different language".

Folklore has it that speakers of some Algonkian languages coined the term Eskimo to mean "eaters of raw meat". Linguistic research by anthropologists does not support that etymology, but regardless it is commonly felt in Canada and Greenland that the term Eskimo is pejorative.

While the majority of academic linguists hold the non-pejorative view of Eskimo, the majority of Inuit people believe the word to be racist, and are similarly supported by Algonkian speakers who see the natural similarity in pronunciation to "he eats raw". While the term's proper etymology continues to be held to be neutral by linguists, Native and Métis groups both inside the Inuit and Cree/Ojibwa peoples insist that the term evolving as presented by linguists does not make sense. Many Native North American peoples used snowshoes, and as such would not likely choose to use their word for snowshoe to describe any other native people. Whatever the truth, the resulting political response to the perception of Eskimo being pejorative has been significant, with The Inuit Circumpolar Conference meeting in Barrow, Alaska, officially adopting Inuit as a designation for all Eskimos, regardless of their local usages, in 1977.

General

In Canada and Greenland the term Eskimo is widely held to be pejorative and has fallen out of favour, largely supplanted by the term Inuit. However, while Inuit describes all of the Eskimo peoples in Canada and Greenland, that is not true in Alaska and Siberia. In Alaska the term Eskimo is commonly used, because it includes both Yupik and Inupiat, while Inuit is not accepted as a collective term or even specifically used for Inupiat (which technically is Inuit). No universal replacement term for Eskimo, inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people, is accepted across the geographical area inhabited by the Inuit and Yupik peoples.

The primary reason that Eskimo is considered derogatory is the arguable perception that it means "eaters of raw meat." There are two different etymologies in scientific literature for the term Eskimo. The most well-known comes from Ives Goddard at the Smithsonian Institutionmarker, who says it means "Snowshoe netters." Quebec linguist Jose Mailhot, who speaks Innu-aimun (Montagnais) (which Mailhot and Goddard agree is the language from which the word originated), published a definitive study in 1978 stating that it means "people who speak a different language."

Since the 1970s in Canada and Greenland Eskimo has widely been considered offensive, owing to folklore and derogatory usage. In 1977 The Inuit Circumpolar Conference meeting in Barrow, Alaska, officially adopted Inuit as a designation for all circumpolar native peoples,regardless of their local view on an appropriate term. As a result the Canadian government usage has replaced the (locally) defunct term Eskimo with Inuit (Inuk in singular). The preferred term in Canada's Central Arctic is Inuinnaq, and in the eastern Canadian Arctic Inuit. The language is often called Inuktitut, though other local designations are also used.

The Inuit of Greenland refer to themselves as Greenlanders or, in their own language, Kalaallit, and to their language as Greenlandic or Kalaallisut.

Because of the linguistic, ethnic, and cultural differences between Yupik and Inuit peoples there is uncertainty as to the acceptance of any term encompassing all Yupik and Inuit people. There has been some movement to use Inuit, and the Inuit Circumpolar Council, representing a circumpolar population of 150,000 Inuit and Yupik people of Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, in its charter defines Inuit for use within the ICC as including "the Inupiat, Yupik (Alaska), Inuit, Inuvialuit (Canada), Kalaallit (Greenland) and Yupik (Russia)." However, even the Inuit people in Alaska refer themselves as Inupiat (the language is Inupiaq) and do not typically use the term Inuit. Thus, in Alaska, Eskimo is in common usage, and is the preferred term when speaking collectively of all Inupiat and Yupik people, or of all Inuit and Yupik people of the world.

Alaskans also use the term Alaska Native, which is inclusive of all Eskimo, Aleut and Indian people of Alaska, and is exclusive of Inuit or Yupik people originating outside the state. The term Alaska Native has important legal usage in Alaska and the rest of the United States as a result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

The term "Eskimo" is also used world wide in linguistic or ethnographic works to denote the larger branch of Eskimo-Aleut languages, the smaller branch being Aleut.

Inuit

An Inuit family, c.1917
The Inuit inhabit the Arctic and northern Bering Seamarker coasts of Alaska and Arctic coasts of the Northwest Territoriesmarker, Nunavutmarker, Quebecmarker, Labrador, and Greenland. Until fairly recent times, there has been a remarkable homogeneity in the culture throughout this area, which traditionally relied on fish, sea mammals, and land animals for food, heat, light, clothing and tools. They maintain a unique Inuit culture.

Alaska's Inupiat

The Inupiat people are the Inuit people of Alaska's Northwest Arcticmarker and North Slopemarker boroughs and the Bering Straitsmarker region, including the Seward Peninsula. Barrowmarker, the northernmost city in the United States, is in the Inupiaq region. Their language is known as Inupiaq.

Canada's Inuit

Canadian Inuit live primarily in Nunavutmarker (a territory of Canada), Nunavikmarker (the northern part of Quebecmarker) and in Nunatsiavut (the Inuit settlement region in Labrador).

Inuvialuit

The Inuvialuit live in the western Canadian Arctic region. Their homeland - the Inuvialuit Settlement Regionmarker - covers the Arctic Oceanmarker coastline area from the Alaskan border east to Amundsen Gulf and includes the western Canadian Arctic Islandsmarker. The land was demarked in 1984 by the Inuvialuit Final Agreement.

Kalaallit

The Kalaallit live in Greenland, which is called Kalaallit Nunaat in Kalaallisut.

Yupik

The Yupik are indigenous or aboriginal peoples who live along the coast of western Alaska, especially on the Yukonmarker-Kuskokwimmarker delta and along the Kuskokwim River (Central Alaskan Yup'ik), in southern Alaska (the Alutiiq) and along the eastern coast of Chukotkamarker in the Russian Far East and St. Lawrence Islandmarker in western Alaska (the Siberian Yupik). The Yupik economy has traditionally been strongly dominated by the harvest of marine mammals, especially seals, walrus, and whales.

Alutiiq

The Alutiiq also called Pacific Yupik or Sugpiaq, are a southern, coastal branch of Yupik. They are not to be confused with the Aleuts, who live further to the southwest, including along the Aleutian Islandsmarker. They traditionally lived a coastal lifestyle, subsisting primarily on ocean resources such as salmon, halibut, and whales, as well as rich land resources such as berries and land mammals. Alutiiq people today live in coastal fishing communities, where they work in all aspects of the modern economy, while also maintaining the cultural value of subsistence. The Alutiiq language is relatively close to that spoken by the Yupik in the Bethel, Alaskamarker area, but is considered a distinct language with two major dialects: the Koniag dialect, spoken on the Alaska Peninsulamarker and on Kodiak Islandmarker, and the Chugach dialect, is spoken on the southern Kenai Peninsulamarker and in Prince William Soundmarker. Residents of Nanwalekmarker, located on southern part of the Kenai Peninsula near Seldoviamarker, speak what they call Sugpiaq and are able to understand those who speak Yupik in Bethel. With a population of approximately 3,000, and the number of speakers in the mere hundreds, Alutiiq communities are currently in the process of revitalizing their language.

Central Alaskan Yup'ik

Yup'ik, with an apostrophe, denotes the speakers of the Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, who live in western Alaska and southwestern Alaska from southern Norton Sound to the north side of Bristol Baymarker, on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Deltamarker, and on Nelson Islandmarker. The use of the apostrophe in the name Yup'ik denotes a longer pronunciation of the p sound than found in Siberian Yupik. Of all the Alaska Native languages, Central Alaskan Yup'ik has the most speakers, with about 10,000 of a total Yup'ik population of 21,000 still speaking the language. There are five dialects of Central Alaskan Yup'ik, including General Central Yup'ik and the Egegik, Norton Sound, Hooper Bay-Chevak, Nunivak, dialects. In the latter two dialects, both the language and the people are called Cup'ik.Alaska Native Language Center. (2001-12-07). "Central Alaskan Yup'ik." Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanksmarker. Retrieved on 2007-04-06.

Siberian Yupik

Siberian Yupik reside along the Bering Sea coast of the Chukchi Peninsulamarker in Siberia in the Russian Far East and in the villages of Gambellmarker and Savoongamarker on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska. The Central Siberian Yupik spoken on the Chukchi Peninsula and on St. Lawrence Island is nearly identical. About 1,050 of a total Alaska population of 1,100 Siberian Yupik people in Alaska still speak the language, and it is still the first language of the home for most St. Lawrence Island children. In Siberia, about 300 of a total of 900 Siberian Yupik people still learn and study the language, though it is no longer learned as a first language by children.

Naukan

About 70 of 400 Naukan people still speak the Naukanski. The Naukan originate on the Chukot Peninsula in Chukotka Autonomous Okrugmarker in Siberia.

Sireniki Eskimos

Some speakers of Siberian Yupik languages used to speak an Eskimo variant in the past, before they underwent a language shift. These former speakers of Sireniki Eskimo language inhabited settlements Sireniki, Imtuk, and some small villages stretching to the west from Sireniki along south-eastern coasts of Chukchi Peninsula, they lived in neighborhood with Siberian Yupik and Chukchi peoples. As early as in 1895, Imtuk was already a settlement with mixed population, Sireniki Eskimos and Ungazigmit (the latter belonging to Siberian Yupik). Sireniki Eskimo culture has been influenced by that of Chukchi (witnessed also by folktale motifsМеновщиков 1964: 132), also the language shows Chukchi language influences.

The above mentioned peculiarities of this (already extinct) Eskimo language amounted to mutual unintelligibility even with its nearest language relatives: in the past, Sireniki Eskimos even had to use the unrelated Chukchi language as a lingua franca for communicating with Siberian Yupik.

Many words are formed from entirely different root than in Siberian Yupik,Меновщиков 1964: 42 but even the grammar has several peculiarities not only among Eskimo languages, but even compared to Aleut. For example, dual number is not known in Sireniki Eskimo, while most Eskimo-Aleut languages have dual, including its neighboring Siberian Yupik relatives.

Little is known about the origin of this diversity. According to a supposition, the peculiarities of this language may be the result of a supposed long isolation from other Eskimo groups, being in contact only with speakers of unrelated languages for many centuries. Influence by Chukchi language is clear.

Because of all these, the mere classification of Sireniki Eskimo language is not settled yet: Sireniki language is sometimes regarded as a third branch of Eskimo (at least, its possibility is mentioned),Linguist List's description about Nikolai Vakhtin's book: The Old Sirinek Language: Texts, Lexicon, Grammatical Notes. The author's untransliterated (original) name is “ Н.Б. Вахтин”. but sometimes it is regarded rather as a group belonging to the Yupik branch.

Dialects

Inuit languages comprise a dialect continuum, or dialect chain, that stretches from Unalaskamarker and Norton Sound in Alaska, across northern Alaska and Canada, and east all the way to Greenland. Changes from western (Inupiaq) to eastern dialects are marked by the dropping of vestigial Yupik-related features, increasing consonant assimilation (e.g., kumlu, meaning "thumb," changes to kuvlu, changes to kublu, changes to kulluk, changes to kulluq), and increased consonant lengthening, and lexical change. Thus, speakers of two adjacent Inuit dialects would usually be able to understand one another, but speakers from dialects distant from each other on the dialect continuum would have difficulty understanding one another.

The four Yupik languages, including Alutiiq (Sugpiaq), Central Alaskan Yup'ik, Naukan (Naukanski), and Siberian Yupik are distinct languages with phonological, morphological, and lexical differences, and demonstrating limited mutual intelligibility. Additionally, both Alutiiq Central Yup'ik have considerable dialect diversity. The northernmost Yupik languages — Siberian Yupik and Naukanski Yupik — are linguistically only slightly closer to Inuit than is Alutiiq, which is the southernmost of the Yupik languages. Although the grammatical structures of Yupik and Inuit languages are similar, they have pronounced differences phonologically, and differences of vocabulary between Inuit and any of one of the Yupik languages is greater than between any two Yupik languages.

The Sirenikski language is sometimes regarded as a third branch of the Eskimo language family, but other sources regard it as a group belonging to the Yupik branch.

An overview of the Eskimo-Aleut languages family is given below:
Aleut
:Aleut language
::Western-Central dialects: Atkan, Attuan, Unangan, Bering (60-80 speakers)
::Eastern dialect: Unalaskan, Pribilof (400 speakers)
Eskimo (Yup'ik, Yuit, and Inuit)
:Yupik
::Central Alaskan Yup'ik (10,000 speakers)
::Alutiiq or Pacific Gulf Yup'ik (400 speakers)
::Central Siberian Yupik or Yuit (Chaplinon and St Lawrence Island, 1400 speakers)
::Naukan (70 speakers)
::Inuit or Inupik (75,000 speakers)
:::Iñupiaq (northern Alaska, 3,500 speakers)
:::Inuvialuktun (western Canada; together with Siglitun, Natsilingmiutut, Inuinnaqtun and Uummarmiutun 765 speakers)
:::Inuktitut (eastern Canada; together with Inuktun and Inuinnaqtun, 30,000 speakers)
:::Kalaallisut (Greenland, 47,000 speakers)
Sireniki Eskimo language (Sirenikskiy) (extinct)


See also



Notes

  1. Kaplan, Lawrence. (2001-12-10). "Comparative Yupik and Inuit". Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Retrieved on 2007-04-06.
  2. Goddard, Ives (1984). "Synonymy." In Arctic, ed. David Damas. Vol. 5 of Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant, pp. 5-7. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. Cited in Campbell 1997
  3. Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America, pg. 394. New York: Oxford University Press
  4. Mailhot, J. (1978). "L'étymologie de «Esquimau» revue et corrigée." Etudes Inuit/Inuit Studies 2-2:59-70.
  5. Kaplan, Lawrence. (2002). "Inuit or Eskimo: Which names to use?". Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Retrieved on 2007-04-06.
  6. Historical Dictionary of the Inuit By Pamela R. Stern
  7. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition
  8. wikitravel == Greenland
  9. Ostgroenland-Hilfe Project
  10. usage note, Inuit, American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, 2000
  11. "Eskimo" by Mark Israel
  12. Cree Mailing List Digest November 1997
  13. Setting the Record Straight About Native Languages: What Does "Eskimo" Mean In Cree?
  14. Eskimo, American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition, 2000
  15. Inuit Circumpolar Council. (2006). "Charter." Retrieved on 2007-04-06.
  16. Yupik. (2008). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 13, 2008, from: Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  17. Alaska Native Language Center. (2001-12-07). "Siberian Yupik." Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Retrieved on 2007-04-06.
  18. Vakhtin 1998: 162
  19. Меновщиков 1964: 7
  20. Menovshchikov 1990: 70
  21. Меновщиков 1964: 6–7
  22. Меновщиков 1964: 38
  23. Меновщиков 1964: 81
  24. Меновщиков 1962: 11
  25. Меновщиков 1964: 9
  26. Vakhtin 1998: 161
  27. Ethnologue Report for Eskimo-Aleut
  28. Kaplan 1990: 136


References



Cyrillic

  • The transliteration of author's name, and the rendering of title in English:


Further reading



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Origin of the name


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