Workshop Covers Alutiiq Language and its Written Form

logo-w-sunburstKayla Desroches/KMXT

A workshop today will cover the writing system of the Alutiiq language.

Alutiiq Museum executive director, April Laktonen Counceller, says the written version of the language only developed after contact with the Western world.

“Although the Alutiiq language didn’t have a writing system per se, it did have a lot of different ways that people communicated visually using patterns and other symbols and other sorts of depictions either painted or incised into objects and things like that.”

Counceller explains during the 19th century and late 18th century, the population connected with the Russian church in Kodiak would translate documents and songs into the Alutiiq language in the hope of converting people. That led to the need for a written format.

“And so, during that time, they used the Cyrillic alphabet and there were some creole, mixed Alutiiq and Russian people, who developed this Cyrillic writing system. It used the alphabet that is used by the Russian language, but applied sometimes different sounds to different letters.”

She says the resulting writing system was used well into the 20th century before it died out, and linguists developed a new one using the orthography of other Native languages, such as Yupik and Inuit.

“Those writing systems were originally based upon a Moravian version of alphabets for those other languages, and the Moravian version of the writing system used the Roman alphabet, or what we’d consider the same alphabet as English.”

Counceller will delve into more of the history at the workshop, which will begin at 2 p.m. today at the Kodiak Public Library.

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