Perhaps no branch of Arctic research is of more interest to the scholar than the language of the people who inhabit that region. A careful comparison of the dialect of the different tribes is of great value in ascertaining their history, the origin of the race and the gradual extension of their journeyings to the remotest point from their native land yet reached by them. It is generally admitted that the North American Esquimaux are of Mongolian extraction; that at some period the passage of Behring Strait was affected and the immigrants gradually extended their migration to the eastward and finally occupied Greenland, where the mighty ocean headed them off and brought their wanderings in that direction to an abrupt termination. During what period of the world's history the exodus from Asia occurred is not known. There are those who believe it to have taken place when what is now known as Behring Strait was an isthmus, the shallowness of the water throughout that channel indicating the physical change to have been of comparitively recent date. This opinion was upheld by Lutke in his "Voyage Autour du Monde," vol. 2, page 209, and Whymper, in his work upon Alaska, page 94, alludes to the shallowness of Behring Strait and also of the sea so named, as permitting the whalers to ride at anchor in their deepest parts. Peschel in "Races of Man", page 401, prefers to believe that the transfer was made while Behring Strait still held its present character.

There are not wanting authorities who seek to show that the entire Western Continent was thus peopled by immigration from Asia, and similarity of feature with the Mongolian is traced even to the most southern tribes of South America. The close connection between the "medicine men" of the Indians, the arng-ke-kos of the Esquimaux, and the shamans of Siberia and Brazil, are also quoted to show the probability of one origin. It is, however, in the language of the hyperborean races of America and Asia that the strongest proofs of a like origin is found. The Tshuktshi of Northern Asia, the Esquimaux of America, and the Namollo, all bear a very close relationship, especially in linguistic characteristics.

In common with all the aboriginal languages of America, the Esquimaux language is agglutinative, though, for the accommodation of the white strangers who visit their shores, they separate the words and use them in a single and simple form. In its purity it employs suffixes only for the definition and meaning, though complex sentences are often formed of a single word - that is, it is a polysynthetic in character. No philologist familiar with the whole territory has ever made a comparison of the dialects of the polar tribes, probably because no philologist is familiar with all the dialects spoken there. Everything therefore that would tend to throw any light upon the subject or to place before the scholar material by which to prosecute such philological studies must be regarded as of importance.

The long residence of the Danes in Greenland and their intermarrying with the native Esquimaux, has led to a more thorough acquaintance with the language of the aborigines of that continent, than any other portion of the polar regions. In fact, as long ago as 1804 a complete dictionary of the Greenland tongue was published by Otho Fabricius, the translation being in the Danish language. With the exception of a few fragmentary vocabularies, this is the only work upon which the traveller or the student of the languages of the Polar regions can depend.

Mr. Ivan Petroff, the Alaskan traveller, has taken some pains to compile a vocabulary of the various dialects of the Pacific races with whom he has sojourned, which, when published, will form another link in the chain by which the scholar may trace the spread of the Asiatic tribes along the northern seaboard of America. With the publication of the subjoined vocabulary, in continuation of the philology of the central or Iwillik tribes, the chain may be considered complete.

With these people many of the familiar sounds of the civilized languages are found, as, for instance, the child's first words, an-an-na (mother), ah-dad-ah (father), ah-mam-mah (the mother's breast), ah-pa-pah (little piece of meat, either raw or cooked). Then there is the very natural expression for pain or sickness - ah-ah. Many words seem to indicate the meaning by imitating the action or sound to be described, as the motion of the kittewake when it swoops down toward you with its petulant cry, is well described by the word e-sow'-ook-suck'-too and the vibratory motion of a swinging pendulum by ow-look-a-tak'-took.

The superlative degree is expressed by the suffix adelo - as amasuet (plenty) and amasuadelo (an immense number); also tapsummary (long ago) and tapsumaneadelo (a very long time ago). Examples could be multiplied, but are not necessary. The suffix aloo has somewhat of a similar meaning, or as "Esquimau Joe" translated, it signifies "a big thing;" thus, ivick (walrus), ivicaloo (a big walrus); shoongowyer (beads), shoongowyaloo (big beads), etc. Persons are named usually after some animate or inanimate object, and in repeating to you their own or some one else's name they usually affix the word aloo, as ishuark is a black salmon and also a man's name, but in mentioning the name they always say Ishuark-aloo, though such ceremony is not indulged in on ordinary occasions.

Igeark-too signifies spectacles, and because Lieutenant Schwatka always wore eye-glasses he was known to the natives as Igeark-too-aloo. His companion, the 'Herald' correspondent, was known by a less dignified appellation. A similarity between his name, as they pronounced it, and the English word "mosquito," - or, as they called it "missergeeter" - led them to distinguish him by the Innuit name for that little pest, keektoeyak-aloo - as "Joe" would translate it "a big mosquito." They make no distinction in gender, often the same name being applied to men and women. There were a man and a woman at Depot Island each named Shiksik (ground squirrel), and you had to distinguish which one you intended when you spoke of either.

They seldom take the trouble to make explanations, and a singular mistake occurred once at Depot Island in that way. On one of the small islands, near the mainland and Hudson Bay, Lieutenant Schwatka saw, in the fall of 1878, a very fine looking dog, called E-luck-e-nuk, and asked its owner's name. He was informed that it belonged to Shiksik, and, as the old woman of that name was in the camp and he knew of none other, he offered to buy it from her for his dog team. She consented to the proposed transfer very readily, and said it was a very fine dog indeed, she had no doubt it would give entire satisfaction. Some time during the winter, after the hunters had all returned from the reindeer country, a little old man offered to sell Lieutenant Schwatka a very fine large dog for one pound of powder and a box of caps, and, when requested to produce his dog, brought in E-luck-e-nuk. The Lieutenant recognized the animal at once by a broken ear and a loose-jointed tail, and, smiling graciously, told the would-be dog seller that the dog already belonged to him by purchase from Shiksik for a similar price, to her in hand paid about six weeks prior to the present occasion. The old man did not seem to understand the matter very clearly and went out for an interpreter, whom he found in "Esquimau Joe." The latter then stated that the dog in question belonged to the person then present, and when Lieutenant Schwatka indignantly asserted that every one in camp declared the dog belonged to Shiksik at the time of purchase, Joe remarked, "At's all right; he name Shiksik, too." As an example of the simplicity of the Innuit character, it should be remarked that when the purchase was originally made, all the people looked complacently and admiringly on without a word of explanation, though they well knew the mistake, merely remarking the unexampled generosity of Igeark-too-aloo. Under such adverse circumstances does the barterer ply his traffic with the Esquimaux.

It is exceedingly difficult to secure a good interpreter among these people. Even "Esquimau Joe," who travelled so long with Captain Hall, and lived so many years in the United States and England, had but an imperfect knowledge of the English language, though he had been conversant with it almost from infancy. There was, however, at Depot Island, a Kinnepatoo Innuit, who came there from Fort York in the fall of 1878, who spoke the English language like a native - that is to say, like an uneducated native. He would prove almost invaluable as an interpreter for any expedition that expected to come much in contact with the Esquimaux, as all their dialects were understood by him. His father had spoken English and was Dr. Rae's interpreter upon many of his Arctic journeys. This young man had also accompanied that veteran explorer upon his voyage up the Quoich River, and from Repulse Bay to Boothia, at the time he ascertained the fate of the Franklin expedition. In translating from the English to the Innuit language he usually employed the Kennepatoo, his native dialect, which at first was quite confusing, the accentuation of the words being so peculiar to one familiar with the Iwillik tongue only. From him much information concerning the language was derived, and through him one who would give careful consideration could secure much valuable matter, especially concerning the structure of the language.

In one instance, at least, the Innuit language has an advantage over the French. They have a word for "home." You ask an Innuit, Na-moon'? or Na-moon,-oct-pick (Where are you going?) and he may reply, Oo-op-tee'-nar (Home - that is, to my igloo, or my tent, as the case may be). There is an expression that sounds familiar to ears accustomed to the English tongue, but which has another meaning in their language - Ah-me or ar-my'. This is not an exclamation of regret, but simply means, "I do not know."

In the higher latitudes sounds are conveyed to a long distance, owing partially to the peculiar properties of the atmosphere, the comparative evenness of the surface and to the absence of other confusing sounds, for under other conditions they would not be transmitted to any unusual distance. It used to be the custom in the early summer of 1880 for those who had been hunting upon the mainland to come to a point on the shore nearest the Depot Island and to call for the boat to be sent to ferry them over. This nearest point was by triangulation two miles and a half distant. When, however, the distance would be too great for conversation, or the wind would be in the wrong direction, a few signals were used that could be distinguished a great way off. The signal to "come here" is given by standing with your face toward the party with whom you desire to communicate and then raising your right arm to the right and moving it up and down like a pump handle. The effect can be increased by holding a gun or your hat or anything that can be seen at a greater distance in the moving hand. The signal "yes" is made by turning your side to the party and bowing your body forward several times, forming a right angle at the waist.

The Esquimaux language, though comprising but few words, is one that is difficult for foreigners to acquire and equally difficult to write, owing to the existence of sounds that are not heard in any of the civilized tongues and not represented by any combination of the letters of the English alphabet. Though somewhat gutural it is not unmusical, and for the sake of euphony final consonants are often omitted in conversation. As for instance, the Inuit name for Repulse Bay, Iwillik, is more frequently called, "Iwillie," a really musical sound. And so with all such terminations. It is not difficult for a stranger to acquire a sufficient knowledge of the language to enable him to converse with the natives who inhabit the coasts and are in the habit of meeting the whalers who frequent the nothern waters in the pursuit of their avocation. There is a kind of pigeon English in use in these regions that enables the strangers to communicate with the natives and make themselves understood, though they would understand but little of a conversation between two natives. As an illustration, the word "notimer" means "where," and "ki-yete" is used for any form of the verb "to come;" therefore "notimer ki-yete" would be understood by them to mean "Where do you come from?" Now one native addressing another would not use that form at all, but would say "Nuke-pe-wickt," which bears no resemblance to the words used in the whalers' language. Also, take the same word "notimer" and follow it with "owego," which is used for any form of the verb to go, and you have "Notimer owego," "Where are you going?" The native, however, would say "Namoon-ock-pict," or perhaps "Nelle-ock-pin" (which way are you going?). Still they would readily understand the expression familiar to the whalers and traders, as the words are really Esquimaux words, but used in a free, broad sense; as, for instance, the reader would understand a foreigner who used the word "speak" instead of the other words expressing the same thought, as "tell," "ask," "talk," &c. "Speak Charles come here" would convey intelligence to your mind and be understood as well, though not so readily until accustomed to it, as "Tell Charles to come here."

There are also words that neither belong to the Esquimaux nor any other language, but are very valuable and expressive. "Sel-low" has been used for so long a time to express the idea "sit down," and the application of the latter term is so broad, that "sel-low" has been incorporated into the language and was understood even by the natives of the interior whom we met on our sledge journey and who had more of them never before seen a white man. As, for example, you would ask, "Emik sellow cattar?" (Is there any water in the pail?) and be thoroughly understood, though a native would say, "Cattar, emik ta-hong-elar?" Another useful word adopted from the unknown is "seliko," which means to kill, shoot, break, bend, scratch, destroy or any kindred thought. "Took too, seliko, ichbin?" (Did you kill any reindeer?) The old fashion way of putting it is, "Took too par?" But that would only be understood by the natives.

Our interpreter, Ebierbing (Esquimau Joe), says that the language has undergone considerable change since the advent of white men, and even since his early boyhood, and sometimes would tell me of meeting strangers, who came into camp, from the interior who spoke "old fashion," as he called it. This, he said, was especially the case with the inhabitants of Southampton Island, called by the natives "Sedluk." Though situated directly in the line of travel of the whalers in Hudson Bay, all of whom pass directly along its rocky coast, it is an almost unknown territory. It is known to be inhabited, but its people are seldom seen. The head of the island is far from Iwillik, and the frozen straits that separate the two countries would afford an admirable route of communication. The island is said to be well stocked with game and the inhabitants are comparatively comfortable. While our party was in Hudson Bay a whaler was wrecked on the western coast of Southampton, north of cape Kendall, and the crew easily secured a reindeer the day they landed. They remained there but two days and then sought the other shore of Rowe's Welcome, so as to be in the course of the other whalers then in the bay in order that they might be picked up by them. They said, however, that if compelled to remain on the island they had no doubt of their ability to secure plenty of game to maintain them, or at least to keep off scurvy. Last year the captain of the wrecked vessel visited the island of the scene of the wreck in order to save as much as possible from destruction. He went in a whale boat with a crew of Iwillik Esquimaux, and while there met with a party of the natives. I subsequently had a talk with the captain's Iwillik crew and inquired about the people of Sedluk. They told me that their language was "old-fashioned" and that their arms and implements were mostly of the obsolete pattern of the Stone Age.

Though living so near together there had been no communication between the nations; and only once before, about three years previous to my visit to Hudson Bay, when a whale had gone ashore on Sedluk, an Iwillik native on board the vessel that killed the whale went with the crew to claim the carcases and brought news of the foreign country and its people. I was told that the language of these people of Sedluk was similar to that spoken by the fathers and grandfathers of the Iwillik tribe. They had evidently the same origin, and while one became improved by intercourse with foreign nations and adopted words from foreign tongues, the other remained as it was in the past, unimproved by interchange of ideas. I have never seen anything like a full glossary of the Esquimaux language, and believe that at this time, when Arctic affairs are attracting so much attention everywhere, a list of the most important words used in communicating with the natives, and the method of uniting them, would prove quite interesting. My experience was that though we at first found it difficult to talk with the interior tribes they soon caught the idea and conversation became easy. Innukpizookzook, an Ooqueesiksillik woman who with her husband joined our party on Hayes River, learned the method of communication in two weeks, so that it was as easy to hold conversation with her as with any of those who came with us from Hudson Bay and had been accustomed to the peculiar language since their birth. In fact, as a general thing, we found the women much brighter than the men, not only in acquiring language but in understanding the descriptions of wonderful things in the white men's country.

It used to be an endless source of amusement to the men, women, and children in the Arctic regions to look at the pictures in the illustrated books and journals. Colored maps were also very attractive to them, and the large type in advertisements apparently afforded them great pleasure. They were not at particular to hold the pictures right side up; side-wise or upside down seemed quite as satisfactory. Though admiring pictures exceedingly, I did not find them very proficient draughtsmen, and yet nothing seemed to give them more pleasure than to draw with a lead pencil on the margin of every book they could get hold of, and my Nautical Almanac and "Bowditch's Epitome" are profusely illustrated by them. Their favorite subjects were men and women and other animals, always drawn in profile and with half the usual number of feet and legs visible.