Sign languages (was: Re: additions to ISO 639 and the IANA language subtag registry)

Mark Crispin mrc at CAC.Washington.EDU
Wed Feb 22 20:43:09 CET 2006

On Wed, 22 Feb 2006, Michael Everson wrote:
>> Is "Eskimo" really a language?
>> AFAIK, there are two major "Eskimo" languages: Yup'ik and Inupiaq (also 
>> called Inuktiut and Kalaalisuit); there are also many dialects.
> This isn't correct. Eskimo is a term which can be used to describe the family 
> of languages which runs from Siberia along to Greenland. There are certainly 
> more than two of these. The Ethnologue can give you more information on this.

My statement was vague ("major languages") and used the layman's 
distinction of "language vs. dialect" for a reason.

AFAIK (from talks with native speakers), Greenlandic and Alaskan Inupiaq 
are mutually intelligible (thus like a "dialect") albeit with some 
different words and pronunciations, whereas Siberian Yup'ik was quite a 
bit different.  Every village has its own local language/dialect, but 
they're mutually intelligible.

I've never heard native speakers refer to their language as "Eskimo", 
although sometimes they call themselves that.

I don't pretend to be expert; just someone who's been to that area on 
multiple occasions.

-- Mark --
Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to eat for lunch.
Liberty is a well-armed sheep contesting the vote.

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