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FORTESCUE, Michael, Steven JACOBSON and Lawrence KAPLAN, 2010 Comparative Eskimo Dictionary With Aleut Cognates, Second Edition, Fairbanks, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska Native Language Center, Research Paper, 9, xxiv & 696 p., indices, maps.

  • Louis-Jacques Dorais

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The publication, by Fortescue, Jacobson and Kaplan, of the original edition of the Comparative Eskimo Dictionary in 1994 marked an important turning point in Eskaleut linguistics. For the first time, specialists had access to a practical reference for retracing the reconstructed proto-Eskimo, proto-Inuit, and proto-Yupik forms, together with their Aleut cognates, which are ancestral to the present-day Eskaleut languages. Naturally enough, such a pioneer work had a number of errors and omissions, due to the limitations of research data available in the late 1980s. This is why the second edition of the Dictionary is really welcome.

New materials were principally drawn from a manuscript dictionary of the Western Canadian Inuit dialects by the late Duncan Pryde, plus the dictionaries of Naukanski and Nunivak Yupik compiled at the Alaska Native Language Center. New indices have been added (for Central Siberian Yupik and North Alaskan Inuit), and numerous additions and corrections were made to the original material on the basis of new information that has come to light over the last twenty years. Moreover, a full list of Proto-Aleut bases with no obvious (or only doubtful) Eskimo cognates now appears in the book. The second edition includes the following sections:

  • a one-page preface;

  • two dialect maps;

  • a substantive introduction explaining the structure of the Dictionary, as well as the nature of sound changes from Proto-Eskimo to the modern languages;

  • a list of Proto-Eskimo bases along with their modern forms; it constitutes, by far, the main section of the book;

  • a list of Proto-Aleut bases with no obvious Eskimo cognates;

  • a list of postbases and enclitics;

  • a list of grammatical inflections;

  • an analytical list of demonstratives;

  • seven indices (Aleut, Central Alaskan Yupik, Central Siberian Yupik, Eastern Canadian Inuit, Greenlandic Inuit, North Alaskan Inuit, English glosses of protoforms);

  • an extensive list of references (mostly lexicological)

The dictionary is, thus, fairly exhaustive. The only addition that might be welcome in an eventual Third Edition, apart from such obvious corrections and addenda to the basic linguistic materials that will stem from new research, would be a Western Canadian Inuit index (based, perhaps, on the Siglit dialect), this subdivision of the Inuit language being altogether different from both Eastern Canadian and North Alaskan Inuit.

This new edition of the Comparative Eskimo Dictionary doubtless constitutes an essential document for all students and specialists of the Eskaleut languages, and more particularly for Inuit and Yupik speakers and learners of their ancestral form of speech. They will find in it truly interesting data on how their ancestors communicated among themselves.