Eskimo is spoken over a vast area extending from Greenland across Canada and Alaska, and into Siberia. Speakers in Greenland number 50,000, in Alaska 25,000, and in Canada 25,000. In the Russia about 1,000 Eskimos live in northeastemmost Siberia, in the area near the Bering Strait.
Considering this vast territory, it is remarkable that there are only two major dialects of Eskimo, and that one of them, known as Inupik, is spoken almost uniformly across Greenland, Canada, and northern Alaska. But at an imaginary line running east-west across central Alaska there is an abrupt change: Eskimos living south of this line speak a dialect, known as Yupik, that is completely unintelligible to Inupik speakers. The line reaches Norton Sound on the west coast between the towns of Unalakleet, where Inupik is spoken, and St. Michael, which is Yupik-speaking. Yupik, or variations thereof, is also spoken in Siberia.
The only language known to be related to Eskimo is the Aleut language of the Aleutian Islands. The two are not mutually intelligible, but there are sufficient similarities to indicate that they were a single language several thousand years ago. Together they form the Eskimo--Aleut family.
The Eskimos call themselves inuit, or "people." The word Eskimo comes from the language of the Cree Indianstheir immediate neigh-bors to the south in the area of Hudson Bayand means "eaters of raw flesh." Igloo and kayak are two Eskimo words that have entered the English language. In Eskimo they simply mean "house" and "boat" respectively.
The writing of Eskimo dates back as far as 1721 when the Roman alphabet was introduced into Greenland. In 1937 the Soviet government developed a Cyrillic-based alphabet for the use of Russia's 1,000 Eskimos.