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The language and its speakers      

These recordings and written texts are in Deg Xinag (Deg Xit’an, Deg Hit’an, or Ingalik, international code ing), the westernmost Na-Dene language, whose ancestral territory lies near the confluence of the Yukon and Innoko Rivers and the nearby reaches of the Kuskokwim River in Western Alaska.   

Indigenous Peoples and Languages of Alaska, copyright 2010

Map courtesy of the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (http://www.uaf.edu/anlc).

Always a relatively small language community with population figures decreasing from 1000 in 1834 (VanStone 1979, pp 15-16) to 250 in 2007 (Krauss 2007, p 408. http://www.uaf.edu/anlc/languages/stats/ ), Deg Xinag now has fewer than 10 native speakers (list compiled by language community members), 3 of whom are active, as of this writing, in language documentation and revitalization work.

Acknowledgments

We thank all the speakers for their gracious sharing of time, knowledge and hospitality for this project. They were infinitely patient and accommodating. The generosity of funders made the work possible. We thank the University of Alaska Southeast, the Anvik Historical Society, and the Anvik Tribal Council for administering our grants and the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Doyon Corp. for providing recording space. We are eternally grateful to Joel Mundy at University of Alaska Southeast Information Technology for his expertise and untold hours of volunteer work to put the recordings and texts on the web.

The recording work was first supported by a grant from the Administration for Native Americans to the Anvik Historical Society. Preliminary transcription/translation of some the material was also funded by this grant. In 2007 project funding was picked up the National Science Foundation’s Documenting Endangered Languages initiative in grant 0651787 to the University of Alaska Southeast.

We have prepared these recordings for the benefit of two communities. First, for the Deg Xit’an community, we hope that this material will allow learners to understand vocabulary, observe grammar in action, and absorb cultural lessons. Second, the recordings and written texts provide scientists with a new corpus for analysis of this very much under-documented, highly endangered language, which may contribute to the current principled reconstruction of Proto-Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit and its links to Central Siberian Yeniseian.

Preparation of the recordings

These narratives were recorded during 2002-2004 while the language community was working on its learners’ dictionary (Taff and MacAlpine 2007), a project of the Anvik Historical Society. During this project, in addition to the dictionary entries and examples, Alice Taff and Donna Miller MacAlpine also recorded 5 hours of stories and personal histories in Deg Xinag by fluent speakers Ellen Savage, Alta Jerue, Katherine Hamilton, Hannah Maillelle, Edna Deacon, Jim Dementi, and Louise Winkleman,. Ellen Savage, Hannah Maillelle, and Edna Deacon’s stories make up Deg Xiyan’ Xidhoy. The other recordings remain to be prepared for publication.

The original recordings were made on a Marantz CDR300 Professional CD recorder at 44,100Kh. Unless otherwise noted, the audio presented here is unedited from the original session. We have left in comments by listeners, the speakers’ false starts, and English tangents as these may be of value to some users. Future versions may “clean up” the texts by removing or enhancing portions of the original recordings.

Speakers Ellen Savage, Hannah Maillelle, Alta Jerue, Jim Dementi, Edna Deacon, and Lucy Hamilton with Taff, MacAlpine, and Beth Dementi Leonard, transcribed and translated the recordings. The first three of these speakers, upon whom we depended for “high language” and obscure words, have now passed on. We worked in the speakers’ homes and community centers in Anvik and Shageluk, in Anchorage hotels, and in Fairbanks at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Doyon, Ltd.

The written texts were time-aligned to the audio first using PRAAT software (http://www.fon.hum.uva.nl/praat/) and later using ELAN software (http://www.lat-mpi.eu/tools/elan/). Translations and transcriptions are given by phrase. We predominantly determined phrase ends by pauses but sometimes, as when 2 sentences have no pause between them, by the tail end of falling intonation. Taff reviewed the files in ELAN, checking stubborn spots, particularly vowel length and glottal stops, with the sound files opened in Praat to view the spectrogram. In March 2010 Taff, Deacon, and MacAlpine met for a marathon week in McGrath, AK, to review the bilingual texts of all 4.5 hours of recording that are included in this body of work. Then Taff formatted the print version from ELAN output, sending each story to MacAlpine for proofreading and polishing. During transcription and translation, Taff relied heavily on the stem list being developed by Sharon Hargus, following the work of James Kari and on Kari’s Deg Xinag: Ingalik Noun Dictionary (Kari 1978). The electronic versions of the audio with time-aligned text were formatted by Taff using CuPED software (http://sweet.artsrn.ualberta.ca/cdcox/cuped/ ). The print version given here in PDF is output from ELAN.

The English translations answer the question, “How would this Deg Xinag word or phrase be expressed in English?” Whenever possible, in order to retain the flavor of the original Deg Xinag, and to help learners construct sentences in the Deg Xinag word order, we have worded the translations so as to make the English follow the word order of the Deg Xinag when this doesn’t stretch the English beyond poetic usage. For example:

Git'on' dhith oqo   xinitl'anh.

leaf      ­sack   for it  I’m looking

We give the English as ‘The gunny sack, I'm looking for it,’ instead of  ‘I’m looking for the gunny sack.’

In cases where English translation cannot follow the Deg Xinag word order, as with adjectives which precede nouns in Deg Xinag, we give the English word order. For example:

valggats chux

boat        big

We give the translation, ‘big boat.’

Conforming to speaker pronunciation, some words are spelled either with or without the final consonant:

Ts’in’ or ts’i ‘like’ or negative particle

Ethok or etho ‘container’

Xiłdik or xiłdi ‘then’

Yolqʼat or yolqʼa ‘window’

We have included ‘false starts’, set off by {curly brackets}, so that listeners will not think they are mishearing the audio.

Copies of all the written and audio materials will be housed at the Alaska Native Language Center Archives at the University of Alaska Fairbanks http://www.uaf.edu/anla/. The original recordings and copies will be housed at the Egan Library Archives at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau http://www.uas.alaska.edu/library/. The archived recordings are formatted in .wav and .mp3, the written text in .pdf.

About the authors

Brief biographies of the speakers are included immediately before their stories.

Donna Miller MacAlpine studied languages in both high school and university in Canada where she grew up. In 1954 she moved with her family to Alaska and after several years in Anchorage took a position teaching high school in Anvik, a Deg Xit’an village on the Yukon River.  There she revived her interest in language, and eventually became coordinator of the Bilingual/Bicultural program for the Iditarod Area School District.  In that position she trained local elders in methods of teaching their own language and in creating classroom materials, thereby acquiring further knowledge of the Athabaskan languages, both in workshops and college classes and from the elders themselves.  Working with the elders she was instrumental in the preparation and publication of sets of language lessons and of many small story books in the indigenous languages of the school district, including Deg Xinag. She also assisted Alice Taff and other linguists in preparing Deg Xinag Dindlidik and the Deg Xinag Learners’  Dictionary, and took part in the telephone class in “Conversational Deg Xinag”.

Alice Taff began working with Alaskan languages when she spent 4 years as a teacher in the Pribilof Islands in the 1970s, learning from the Unangan (Eastern Aleut) language teachers in the schools. In the 1980s she moved to the Kenai Borough school district, where she developed instructional language materials and programs with the Alutiiq and Dena’ina Athabascan teachers in that region. Because Dena’ina territory is divided between 2 school districts, Alice met her counterpart in the Iditarod SD, Donna Miller MacAlpine and they began working together on language projects. In the 1990s, during graduate studies in linguistics at the University of Washington, Alice assisted Sharon Hargus with fieldwork in Shageluk, to collect Deg Xinag verbs. This lead to the preparation of Deg Xinag Dindlidik: Deg Xinag Literacy Manuel (Jerue et al 1993), Deg Xinag axa Nixodhił Ts’in’: Deg Xinag Verb Lessons (Taff 1994), and Deg Xinag Ałixi Ni’elyoy: Deg Xinag Learners’ Dictionary (Taff and MacAlpine 2007). From 1996-2007 she served as instructor of record for a conversational Deg Xinag class carried out by weekly telephone meetings with elders and learners.

Other publications in Deg Xinag and about the language and people

We have drawn here on the book list prepared by Sharon Hargus at the end of Deg Xinag Dindlidik  (Jerue, et al. 1993), listed below.

Alaska Native Language Center. 1983. Deg Hit’an Alphabet: A book for learning the letters and sounds of the Deg Hit’an language. Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Alaska Native Language Center. 1983. Dlen Xudhoy: Mouse Story. Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Alaska Native Language Center. 1983. Ggux K’idz Xiday Iy: Where is the Little Rabbit? Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Attla, Marjorie. 1985. Gigginghdi. (Smokehouse.) Translated from Koyukon to Deg Xinag by Alta Jerue and Chad Thompson. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Attla, Marjorie. 1985. Xiyhts’in’. (Falltime.) Translated from Koyukon to Deg Xinag by Alta Jerue and Chad Thompson. Iditarod Area School District: McGrath, AK.

Attla, Marjorie. 1985. Xulegg. (Springtime.) Translated from Koyukon to Deg Xinag by Alta Jerue and Chad Thompson. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Attla, Marjorie. 1998. Dinondidoy Ninot’ux: The Robin Came Back.  Translated from Koyukon to Deg Xinag by Alta Jerue and Hannah Maillelle. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Chapman, John W. 1914. Ten’a Texts and Tales from Anvik, Alaska. Volume VI of the American Ethnological Society. Leyden: E. J. Brill, Limited.

Deacon, Belle. 1987. Engithidong Xugixudhoy: Their Stories of Long Ago. Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska.

de Laguna, Frederica, ed. 1955. Tales from the Dena: Indian Stories from the Tanana, Koyukuk, & Yukon Rivers. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Iditarod Area School District. Chel Ndadz Dit’anh: What is the Boy Doing? McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Hargus, Sharon. 2010. “Vowel quality and duration in Deg Xinag.” Proceedings of the 2009 Dene (Athabaskan) Languages Conference, ed. by Siri Tuttle and Justin Spence. ANLC Working Papers. Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Jerue, Alta. 1987a. Dlen Xidhoy: Mouse Story. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Jerue, Alta. 1987b. Tsodlig Didag Q‘at Nithitrax: The Tree Squirrel Cried for His Parka. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Jerue, Alta, transl. 1999. Yixgitsiy Gitro Xidelyoq: Raven Fools Himself. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Jerue, Alta and Donna MacAlpine. 1999. Gileg: Songs for learning Deg Xinag. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District. 

Jerue, Alta, Hannah Maillelle, Sharon Hargus, and Alice Taff. 1993. Deg Xinag Dindlidik: Deg Xinag Literacy Manual. Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks

John, Grace. 1983. Xudhoyh: Stories by Grace John of Shageluk. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Kari, James. 1976, revised 1980. Deg Xinag. Anvik-Shageluk-Holy Cross Literacy Exercises. Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Kari, James. 1978. Ingalik Noun Dictionary. Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Kari, James, ed. 1981. Athabascan stories from Anvik, (Re-transcribed from John W. Chapman’s Ten’a texts and Tales.) Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Krauss, Michael E. 2007. Native languages of Alaska. In: The Vanishing Voices of the Pacific Rim, ed. by Osahito Miyaoko, Osamu Sakiyama, and Michael E. Krauss. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

MacAlpine, Donna. 1980. Anvik Resource Book. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

MacAlpine, Donna. 1985. Athabaskan as a Second Language – Deg Xinag. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

MacAlpine, Donna and Alta Jerue. 1984. Anvik: People and Places. Gitr’ingithchagg: Dinaqay Xineg. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

National Bilingual Materials Development Center. 1984a.  How much? How many? Anchorage, AK: National Bilingual Materials Development Center.

National Bilingual Materials Development Center. 1984b. Siyix. Anchorage, AK: National Bilingual Materials Development Center.

Osgood, Cornelius. 1940. Ingalik Material Culture. London: Oxford University Press.

Osgood, Cornelius. 1958. Ingalik Social Culture. New Haven, CN: Department of Anthropology, Yale University.

Osgood, Cornelius. 1959. Ingalik Mental Culture. New Haven, CN: Department of Anthropology, Yale University.

Paul, John. 1985a. Ggagg Tlagg: Porcupine. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Paul, John. 1985b. Gitsighiy: Marten. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Paul, John. 1985c. Tsodlig: Squirrel. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Paul, John. 1987. Niłtiy: Crane. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Rock, Bertha. 1998a. Translated from Holikachuk to Deg Xinag by Alta Jerue and Hannah Maillelle. Chighiligguy: The Fox. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Rock, Bertha. 1998b. Translated from Holikachuk to Deg Xinag by Alta Jerue and Hannah Maillelle. Dlen Gini’eyh: The Mouse that was Stealing. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Rock, Bertha. 1998c. Translated from Holikachuk to Deg Xinag by Alta Jerue and Hannah Maillelle. Niq’ołonh Chux Deg Ghihoł: The Big Woman was Walking Along. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Rock, Bertha. 1998d. Translated from Holikachuk to Deg Xinag by Alta Jerue and Hannah Maillelle. Tthidinihonh Sughiliq: The Poor Orphan. McGrath, AK: Iditarod Area School District.

Taff, Alice. 1994. Deg Xinag axa Nixodhił Ts’in’: Deg Xinag Verb Lessons. HyperCard formatted Deg Xinag  language lessons. Anvik, AK: Anvik Historical Society. 

Taff, Alice and Donna Miller MacAlpine. 2007. Deg Xinag Ałixi Ni’elyoy: The local language is gathered together. Online audio dictionary. University of Alaska Fairbanks: http://ankn.uaf.edu/ANL/course/view.php?id=7

VanStone, James. 1978. E. W. Nelson’s Notes on the Indians of the Yukon and Innoko Rivers, Alaska. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History.

VanStone, James. 1979. Historic Ingalik Settlements along the Yukon, Innoko, and Anvik Rivers. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History.

VanStone, James. 1979. Ingalik contact Ecology: An Ethnohistory of the Lower-Middle Yukon, 1790-1935. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History.

The Recordings:

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National Science FoundationThis material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 065178. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

 
 

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