University to offer analytical courses on Tlingit language

Posted: Sunday, December 09, 2001

Those interested in learning more about the Tlingit language will have a new opportunity starting next semester at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, as an unprecedented three-semester series of Tlingit classes is set to begin.

The first class, Tlingit Linguistic Analysis I, is due to start on Jan. 15 and will be taught by linguists Richard and Nora Dauenhauer of Juneau. The next two courses will be taught at UAS next school year by Jeff Leer, professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Alaska Native Language Center.

Richard Dauenhauer said the classes are not focused on learning to speak the language, but instead on "learning about the language."

"The end goal is that people have a greater awareness and appreciation of the structure of the Tlingit language," he said.

Linguists estimate that about 500 people speak Tlingit.

Sealaska Heritage Institute sociolinguist Roy Iutzi-Mitchell compared the series to an auto mechanics class, getting at the heart of how the language works, while conversational Tlingit classes are more like driver's ed, showing how to use the knowledge.

The first class, to be held on Tuesdays for about three hours in the late afternoon, will serve as an introduction to Tlingit language structure. Leer's two courses will cover intermediate and advanced material.

Leer, a native of Juneau, will spend next school year in Southeast to do research and teach the classes, Iutzi-Mitchell said. That has allowed for the unprecedented consecutive series of courses.

"This the first time we're going to have a full series of Tlingit courses from beginning to advanced," Iutzi-Mitchell said.

There are no prerequisites for the first class, and Dauenhauer said the goal is to get a good mix of students of varying skill levels.

"People just have to be interested, and we'll take care of the rest," he said.

However, those interested in taking Leer's classes next school year must complete the Dauenhauers' class this spring.

Iutzi-Mitchell said the series of courses is unlikely to be repeated in the foreseeable future.

For updated course information and registration, contact Lisa Ward of UAS at 465-6405.

For more information about the courses and other Tlingit language learning opportunities, contact Iutzi-Mitchell at 586-9272.

Andrew Krueger can be reached at

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