Koyukon language

Koyukon language

Infobox Language
states=United States
region=Alaska (middle Yukon River, Koyukuk River)
iso2= ath
iso3= koy
fam5=Northern Athabaskan
script=Latin (Northern Athabaskan variant)

Koyukon is an Athabaskan language spoken along the Koyukuk and middle Yukon River in western interior Alaska. Also called Ten'a, Koyukon has about 300 speakers - generally older adults bilingual in English - from an ethnic population of 2,300Fact|date=February 2007.

Jules Jette, a French Canadian Jesuit missionary, began recording the language and culture of the Koyukon people in 1898. Considered a fluent Koyukon speaker after spending years in the region, Jette died in 1927, leaving behind a significant quantity of notes on the Koyukon people, their culture and beliefs, and their language. Eliza Jones, an Alaskan native and member of the Koyukon tribe, came in contact with these manuscripts while studying, and later working, at the University of Alaska in the early 1970s. Working from Jette's notes, and in consultation with Koyukon tribal elders, Jones pieced together the Koyukon Athabaskan Dictionary, edited by James Kari and published by the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, in 2000.

The Koyukon Athabaskan Dictionary is unusually comprehensive in terms of documentation of an American indigenous language, in part because Jette's notes were of excellent quality and depth, and because these notes were taken around a century ago, when the language was far more actively spoken and the culture more traditional. The title 'dictionary' is misleading as the document is as much encyclopedic dictionary as it is a record of the culture and traditions of the Koyukon people.

There are also some traditional stories set down as readers by Catherine Attla and published by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Phonology and Orthography


Sounds are given in IPA with the orthographic equivalent in angled brackets [cite journal
last = Axelrod
first = Melissa
year = 1990
month = April
title = Incorporation in Koyukon Athapaskan
journal = IJAL
volume = 56
issue = 2
pages = 79–95
publisher = University of Chicago
location = Chicago
issn = 0020-7071
url = http://www.jstor.org/view/00207071/ap040208/04a00020/0
format = Dead link|date=May 2008
] :


There are four full vowels in Koyukon:

And there are three reduced vowels:

*ɞ <ʉ>

Further reading

* Jones, Eliza, Comp. "Junior Dictionary for Central Koyukon Athabaskan: Dinaakkanaaga Ts'inh Huyoza". Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, P.O. Box 900111, Fairbanks, AK 99775-0120, 1992.


* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=koy Ethnologue entry for Koyukon]
* [http://www.uaf.edu/anlc/ Alaska Native Language Center]

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