Eskimo-Aleut Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Eskimo-Aleut Languages


a group of languages that includes Eskimo and Aleut.

The Eskimo-Aleut languages are conventionally classified among the Paleo-Asiatic languages; the features they exhibit in common with these languages probably were acquired through an interaction that lasted many centuries. Because of their geographical isolation from one another, the Eskimo-Aleut languages do not share a sizable common lexicon, although they are typologically quite similar.

The phonology of the Eskimo-Aleut languages is characterized by relative uniformity of the vowel and consonant systems, as evidenced in a common set of velars—[k], [ɤ], and [x]—and uvulars—[q], [κ], and [ϰ] Other common phonetic features are voiced and voiceless [1] and [ł] and the dental and velar nasals [n] and [ŋ]. There is considerable similarity in syllable and word structure: clusters of two (more rarely, three) consonants are found only in the middle of a word; the only consonants appearing at the end of a word are [q], [k], and [n] in Eskimo and the corresponding consonants [ϰ], [x], and [n] in Aleut and other languages.

The Eskimo-Aleut languages are agglutinative synthetic languages. New words and word forms are created only through suffixation, and word structure is characterized by distinct morpheme boundaries. Possessive personal forms of the noun and pronoun, adjective and numeral, and subject-object forms of the verb share common meanings and, in part, formations. Syntax is characterized by two main types of simple sentences. In the nominative type the subject is in the absolute case, and the predicate is an intransitive verb or a transitive verb that takes an indirect object. In the possessive (ergative) type the predicate is a transitive verb that takes a direct object.


Menovshchikov, G. A. “Eskimossko-aleutskaia grappa.” In Iazyki narodov SSSR, vol. 5. Leningrad, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.