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Aleut RavenNiiĝuĝim Tunugan Ilakuchangis
Introduction to Atkan Aleut
Grammar and Lexicon

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This publication in Atkan Aleut, commonly referred to as Western Aleut, is one of ten similar projects undertaken by the National Bilingual Materials Development Center. It consists of two major sections: the Elements of Atkan Aleut Grammar and the Junior Dictionary.

The Elements of Atkan Aleut Grammar

The Elements of Grammar section was written by Knut Bergsland in July of 1977. Bergsland had this to say of the introduction to Atkan Aleut grammar:

This is a teacher's aid, rather than a complete grammar. The purpose is to make the Aleut speaking teacher aware of how the language "operates", in order that it may be cultiviated in its own right: according to its own rules, which sometimes differ rather deeply from English. The true cultivation of the language, however, goes through careful speech with a clear thought and through creative writing.

The headings indicate the respective subject matters, but there is no technical terminology, only examples to show how words and sentences are formed and "twisted". To simplify the exposition, some of the examples are rather schematic: illustrations of rules, rather than models of style.

Some of the material may have an archaic flavor to it, originating from my work with the people of Atka as far back as in 1950 and 1952. The rest is based upon work done in 1971, when I continued my own scientific work, and in 1973, when I had the privilege of assisting the Bilingual Program, giving back some of what I had gotten in the previous years, as well as in 1976, when Moses Dirks was with me in Oslo, Norway, and now, in 1977, when we have been working together in Atka village. Moses Dirks has checked all the examples, but the responsibility for possible mistakes rests with me.


Junior Dictionary

The Junior Dictionary contains 1,500 main entries with one or more derived forms listed under each main entry bringing the total to about 2,500 entries. Moses Dirks selected all of the entries in this dictionary, choosing words that are commonly used by the young people of Atka today.

The dictionary is based upon the National Bilingual Materials Development Center's talking pictionary of approximately 500 entries, which was compiled by Nadesta Golley and Moses Dirks, and on Knut Bergsland's manuscript vocabulary (about 5,000 entries), which was compiled with the help of the people of Atka in 1950, 1952, 1971, and 1973. A few words were also added from joint work done by Bergsland and Dirks in 1976 in Oslo, and in 1977 in Atka village.

Entries are made in alphabetical order with basic words listed flush with the left margins of the pages. These are followed by English translations. Derived words are listed under the basic words followed by their English translations. Then one or more sentences using basic words, and/or any of their derived forms are given as examples of usage. All Native language materials is underlined.


An Aleut word is very often used both as a noun and as a verb; therefore, the distinction is made only in the English translation and by the choice of forms.

The following notes on the pronunciation of Atkan Aleut should be of great help to users of this work. They have been taken largely from material prepared for the Center by Bergsland and Dirks in the summer of 1977.


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Last modified August 14, 2006