Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Knut Bergsland and Aleut Kayak Terminology

Knut Bergsland, Norwegian linguist contributed an article entitled "Aleut Kayak Terminology" (AKT) to a book called Contributions to Kayak Studies. I have finally gotten around to working my way through it.
AKT is not an easy ready, mostly due to Bergsland's forbidding syntax. Still, it's worthwhile reading the article even if you need to sit down to it with a notepad to diagram the sentences before you can be sure what Bergsland is trying to convey.
The information in the article is twofold. One type of information derives from the literal translation of Aleut terms for kayak parts. For instance, we learn that the third deck beam of a single-hatch baidarka is also the place where the paddler braces his feet. The fifth deck beam is referred to as the back rest. But interestingly, the fourth deck beam is just referred to as the deck beam next to the opening, that is, the cockpit. The implication is that this deck beam had no relation to the paddler's anatomy, that it was not used by the paddler to brace his knees or thighs.
The other type of information in this article is from what I can tell, the most complete enumeration of Aleut kayak accessories to be found anywhere. For instance, we are told not only that the Aleut paddler carried with him a repair kit but also what its contents were. We are also given a detailed list of hunting implements, everything from sea otter darts to whaling lances.

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