Arya'aq naaqiuq.: The girl is reading.
Like other Native American languages, the Alutiiq language is a spoken language that has only existed in written form since the arrival of Westerners.In the early 1800s, Russian Orthodox monks created the first written records of Alutiiq. They compiled vocabulary, studied Alutiiq grammar, and translated church texts into the Alutiiq language using Church Slavonic Cyrillic characters. Their efforts promoted bilingualism and created a valuable linguistic record.
With the sale to Alaska to the United States in 1867, however, the use of the Alutiiq language diminished. Schools forbade children to speak the language, transmission from one generation to the next slowed, and literacy faded. Over succeeding decades, as English became the dominant language of Alaska, the number of Alutiiq language speakers dropped significantly. Today, there are fewer than 500 speakers and many fewer who can read and write in the language. In the past three decades linguists have worked with speakers to document and reawaken the language. Words are reappearing around Kodiak and opportunities to learn the language are growing.
Written Alutiiq uses letters from English to recreate Alutiiq language sounds. There are twenty-six letters in the Alutiiq alphabet. Although written with roman characters, many of these letters represent sounds that are different from those in English. For example, the Alutiiq letter q is pronounced something like the English letter k - but the sound is made farther back in the mouth.