Esquimaux - Sirenik Eskimos

Sirenik Eskimos

Main article: Sirenik Eskimos

Some speakers of Siberian Yupik languages used to speak an Eskimo variant in the past, before they underwent a language shift. These former speakers of Sirenik Eskimo language inhabited settlements Sireniki, Imtuk, and some small villages stretching to the west from Sirenik along south-eastern coasts of Chukchi Peninsula, they lived in neighborhood with Siberian Yupik and Chukchi peoples. As early as in 1895, Imtuk was already a settlement with mixed population, Sirenik Eskimos and Ungazigmit (the latter belonging to Siberian Yupik). Sirenik Eskimo culture has been influenced by that of Chukchi (witnessed also by folktale motifs), also the language shows Chukchi language influences.

The above peculiarities of this (already extinct) Eskimo language amounted to mutual unintelligibility even with its nearest language relatives: in the past, Sirenik Eskimos even had to use the unrelated Chukchi language as a lingua franca for communicating with Siberian Yupik.

Many words are formed from entirely different roots than in Siberian Yupik, but even the grammar has several peculiarities not only among Eskimo languages, but even compared to Aleut. For example, dual number is not known in Sirenik Eskimo, while most Eskimo‚ÄďAleut languages have dual, including its neighboring Siberian Yupikax relatives.

Little is known about the origin of this diversity. According to a supposition, the peculiarities of this language may be the result of a supposed long isolation from other Eskimo groups, being in contact only with speakers of unrelated languages for many centuries. The influence of the Chukchi language is clear.

Because of all these, the mere classification of Sireniki Eskimo language is not settled yet: Sireniki language is sometimes regarded as a third branch of Eskimo (at least, its possibility is mentioned), but sometimes it is regarded rather as a group belonging to the Yupik branch.

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