Professor Investigates Ket Language

Video by Professor Edward Vajda: The first five minutes are subtitled with no sound. But, at 5:10, there is a story in the Ket language.

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A new book chronicles the language link between a remote village in northern Siberia and the Dene or Athabascan family of languages in North America. The Ket people, of the Yenisei River, have been studied by Professor Edward Vajda, a linguistics expert from Western Washington University. Vajda says there are about 30 languages in Siberia that are not related to Russian and Ket is one of them. He says it is radically different than any other language of north Asia.

Vayda says no one from North America had ever worked with the Ket language before. He says Ket is the only surviving language of the Yeniseian family. Other Native languages along the Yenisei River are extinct.

The story of language loss in remote Siberia is similar to Native language loss in North America. Under Stalin, the Soviet government forced nomadic reindeer herders and hunters into villages in the 1930s and 40s and then took their children away to boarding schools to learn Russian in the 50s and 60s. Vajda says today, of the 1,200 Ket people, fewer than 100 elders speak the language.

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