Central Siberian Yupik language

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Central Siberian Yupik
Siberian Yupik
Yupigestun, Akuzipigestun, Юпик
Native toUnited States, Russia
RegionChukchi Peninsula (Chukotka, Russia), Bering Strait region, St. Lawrence Island
Ethnicity2,828 Siberian Yupiks
Native speakers
• 400-750 in United States[1]
• 172-1,200 in Russia (with Chaplino dialect)[2] (2021)
Early forms
Latin, Cyrillic
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3ess (Central Siberian Yupik)[4]
Glottologcent2128  Central Siberian Yupik
ELPCentral Siberian Yupik
Central Siberian Yupik is classified as Definitely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Central Siberian Yupik,[4][5] (also known as Siberian Yupik, Bering Strait Yupik[citation needed], Yuit[citation needed], Yoit[citation needed], "St. Lawrence Island Yupik",[6][7] and in Russia "Chaplinski Yupik" or Yuk[citation needed]) is an endangered Yupik language spoken by the Indigenous Siberian Yupik people along the coast of Chukotka in the Russian Far East and in the villages of Savoonga and Gambell on St. Lawrence Island. The language is part of the Eskimo-Aleut language family.

In the United States, the Alaska Native Language Center identified about 400-750 Yupigestun speakers, considering “dormant speakers” who understand but cannot converse.[1] In Russia in 2021, 172 people indicated that they speak the language, while only 92 of them use it in everyday life.[2] Thus, the total number of speakers is no more than 550-900 people.

Dialects and subgroups[edit]

Siberian Yupik has two dialects: Chaplino (Chaplinski) Yupik (Uŋazigmit) is spoken on the shores of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug in the Russian Far North, and St. Lawrence Island Yupik (Sivuqaghmiistun) is spoken on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska.

Asian/Siberian Yupik settlements (red dots)

Chaplino, or Uŋazigmit, is the largest Yupik language of Siberia (the second one is Naukan Yupik), and is named after the settlement of Уӈазиӄ (Ungaziq; Chaplino [ru] or Old Chaplino in Russian). The word Ungazighmii / Уңазиӷмӣ[8][9] [uŋaʑiʁmiː] (plural Ungazighmiit / Уңазиӷмӣт [uŋaʑiʁmiːt][10][11]) means "Ungaziq inhabitant(s)". People speaking this language live in several settlements in the southeastern Chukchi Peninsula[12] (including Novoye Chaplino, Provideniya, and Sireniki), Uelkal, Wrangel Island,[11] and Anadyr.[13] The majority of Chaplino Yupik speakers live in the villages of Novoye Chaplino and Sireniki. In another terminology, these people speak Chaplino, and Ungazighmiit people speak one of its dialects, along with other dialects spoken by Avatmit, Imtugmit, Kigwagmit, which can be divided further into even smaller dialects.[12]

The second dialect, St. Lawrence Island Yupik, is believed to be an offspring of Chaplino with only minor phonetic, phonological, morphological, syntactical and lexical differences, and the two dialects are virtually identical.[14]



Unlike the Central Alaskan Yupik languages, Siberian Yupik has a series of retroflex fricatives, more similar to the Alaskan Inuit dialects.

Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
plain lab. plain lab.
Nasal voiceless ŋ̊ ŋ̊ʷ
voiced m n ŋ ŋʷ
Stop p t k q
Fricative voiceless f s ʂ x χ χʷ h
voiced v z ʐ ɣ ɣʷ ʁ ʁʷ
lateral ɬ
Approximant l j


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid ə
Open a


Morphosyntax is the study of grammatical categories or linguistic units that have both morphological and syntactic properties. Central Siberian Yupik’s structure most resembles this category. In addition, CSY can be described as using both internal and external syntax. Internal syntax is used here to describe the way that postbases are added to a base or added to one another, contrasted with external syntax, which refers to the order of independent words.[15]

Central Siberian Yupik is a polysynthetic language, meaning it is made up of long, structured words containing many separate meaningful parts (morphemes). In fact, a single word can be an entire sentence. CSY is also an ergative-absolutive language, in contrast to the nominative-accusative structure of English and many Indo-European languages.

Most Siberian Yupik words consist of a "base" or "stem", followed by zero or more "postbases", followed by one "ending", followed by zero or more "enclitics":[16]




















angyagh- -ghllag- -nge- -yug- -tuq -llu

boat big acquire want 3SG-PRES also

stem postbase postbase postbase ending enclitic

"Also, he/she wants to acquire a big boat."

Generally, the “base” or “stem” contains the root meaning of the word , while the “postbases,” which are suffixing morphemes, provide additional components of the sentence (see example above). As shown, postbases include items with adjectival and verbal qualities, among other elements. The “ending” (Woodbury’s term) is an inflectional suffix to the right of the postbase that contains grammatical information such as number, person, case, or mood.[17] Enclitics are bound suffixes that follow the inflectional ending of a word. An attached enclitic affects the meaning of the entire sentence, not just the element to which it is attached. The exception is the enclitic ‘llu,’ shown above, which has a basic meaning of ‘and.’[18]


The base forms the lexical core of the word and belongs to one of three main classes: noun bases, verb bases and particle bases.[19]

  • Noun bases (N)
    • Ordinary noun bases (intransitive, transitive)
    • Independent pronoun bases (intransitive)
    • Demonstrative bases (D) (intransitive)
    • Adjectival noun bases
      • Inflecting as ordinary noun bases (intransitive, transitive)
      • Independent relative bases
      • Quantificational bases (Q)
        • Numeral (NM) bases: cardinal (intransitive); ordinal (transitive)
        • Specifier (SP) bases: cardinal (intransitive); partitive (transitive)
    • Locational bases
      • Demonstrative adverb (DA) bases (intransitive)
      • Positional (PS) bases (transitive)
    • Temporal bases
      • Temporal noun bases (intransitive, transitive)
      • Temporal particle bases
  • Verb bases (V)
    • Exclusively intransitive (Vi)
    • Exclusively transitive (Vt)
    • Ambivalent
  • Particles
    • Independent particles
    • Sentence particles
    • Phrasal participles
    • Enclitics

Noun endings indicate number (singular, dual, or plural), case, and whether or not the noun is possessed. If the noun is possessed, the ending indicates the number and person of the possessor. Siberian Yupik has seven noun cases:

  1. absolutive
  2. relative (ergative-genitive)
  3. ablative-modalis
  4. localis
  5. terminalis
  6. vialis
  7. aequalis

Absolutive Case Noun Endings[edit]

As in other ergative-absolutive languages, absolutive case is used to mark nouns that are generally the subjects of intransitive verbs or the objects of transitive verbs.

Singular Noun Plural Noun Dual Noun
Unpossessed Ø -t -k
1st person
singular -ka -nka -gka
plural -put -put -gput
dual -pung -pung -gpung
2nd person
singular -n -ten -gken
plural -si -si -gsi
dual -tek -tek -gtek
3rd person
singular -a -i -kek
plural -at -it -gket
dual -ak -ik -gkek
3rd person
singular -ni -ni -gni
plural -teng -teng -gteng
dual -tek -tek -gtek

Relative/Ergative Case Noun Endings[edit]

Ergative case identifies nouns as a subject of a transitive verb and acts as the genitive form in ergative-absolutive languages.

Singular Noun Plural Noun Dual Noun
Unpossessed -m -t -k
1st person
singular -ma -ma -gma
plural -mta -mta -gemta
dual -mtung -mtung -gemtung
2nd person
singular -gpek -gpek -gpek
plural -gpesi -gpesi -gpesi
dual -gpetek -gpetek -gpetek
3rd person
singular -an -in -gkenka
plural -ita -ita -gkenka
dual -ita -ita -gkenka
3rd person
singular -mi -mi -gmi
plural -meng -meng -gmeng
dual -meng -meng -gmeng

Ablative-Modalis Case Noun Endings[edit]

The ablative case is used to indicate the agent in passive sentences, or the instrument, manner, or place of the action described by the verb.

Single Noun Plural Noun Dual Noun
Unpossessed -meng -neng -gneng
1st person
singular -mneng -mneng -gemneng
plural -mnneng -mnneng -gemneng
dual -mtegneng -mtegneng -gemtegneng
2nd person
singular -gpe(g)neng -gpe(g)neng -gpe(g)neng
plural -gpesineng -gpesineng -gpesineng
dual -gpetegneng -gpetegneng -gpetegneng
3rd person
singular -aneng -ineng -gkeneng
plural -itneng -itneng -itneng
dual -gkeneng -itneng -itneng
3rd person
singular -mineng -mineng -gmineng
plural -meggneng -meggneng -gmeggneng
dual -meg(te)neng -meg(te)neng -gmeg(te)neng

The endings of the locative and terminative cases are the same as those of the ablative case except that the locative case has -mi and -ni and the terminative case has -mun and -nun in place of the -meng and -neng at the end of the ablative case endings.

Prolative Case Noun Endings[edit]

In grammar, the prolative case, also called the vialis case, is a grammatical case of a noun or pronoun that expresses motion by the referent of the noun it marks.

Singular Noun Plural Noun Dual Noun
Unpossessed -kun -tgun -gnekun
1st person
singular -mkun -mkun -gemkun
plural -mteggun -mteggun -gemteggun
dual -mtegnegun -mtegnegun -gemtegnegun
2nd person
singular -gpegun -gpegun -gpegun
plural -gpesigun -gpesigun -gpesigun
dual -gpetegnegun -gpetegnegun -gpetegnegun
3rd person
singular -akun -ikun -gkenkun
plural -itgun -itgun -itgun
dual -gkenkun -itgun -itgun
3rd person
singular -mikun -mikun -gmikun
plural -megteggun -megteggun -gmegteggun
dual -megtegnegun -megtegnegun -gmegtegnegun

Equative Noun Case Endings[edit]

Equative is a case that expresses the standard of comparison of equal values.

Singular Noun Plural Noun Dual Noun
Unpossessed -tun -stun -gestun
1st person
singular -mtun -mtun -gemtun
plural -mtestun -mtestun -gemtestun
dual -mtegestun -mtegestun -gemtegestun
2nd person
singular -gpetun -gpetun -gpetun
plural -gpesistun -gpesistun -gpesistun
dual -gpetegetun -gpetegetun -gpetegetun
3rd person
singular -atun -itun -gketun
plural -itun -itun -itun
dual -gketun -itun -itun
3rd person
singular -mitun -mitun -gmitun
plural -megestun -megestun -gmegestun
dual -megestun -megestun -gmegestun


Derivation is accomplished in CSY by attaching suffixes called postbases. Productivity in the context of CSY is defined as the free addition of a postbase to any base without an unpredictable semantic result; non-productivity implies that said postbases cannot combine freely but are limited to attaching to only a particular set of bases.[17] Postbases are either nominal or verbal and select nominal or verbal bases or expanded bases to attach to (an expanded base is a base followed by one or more postbases). There are four kinds of postbases:[19]

  1. VN: postbases deriving nouns from verbs
  2. NV: postbases deriving verbs from nouns
  3. NN: postbases constructing complex nouns
  4. VV: postbases constructing complex verbs

These postbases can indicate a wide variety of meaning, including:[19]

For nouns:

  • quantification,
  • adjectival modification,
  • being and becoming,
  • a type of verbal noun-incorporation

For verbs:

  • changes in transitivity,
  • adverbial modification,
  • evidentially,
  • negation,
  • tense,
  • agent noun formation,
  • relative clause formation,
  • various types of verbal complementation

It is estimated that CSY has approximately 547 postbases: 75 NN, 55 NV, 30 VN, and 387 VV. It appears that in CSY the large majority of NN, NV, and VN postbases are productive; for the VV postbases, there are approximately 190 non-productive ones and 197 productive ones.[17]

Characteristics of polysynthetic postbases[edit]

There are no clear morphological position classes in CSY.[20] A position class is the organization of morphemes or a morpheme class into a linear ordering with no apparent connection to syntactic, semantic, or phonological representation.[21] In the example below, it is semantic restrictions that dictate the order.[20]


















negh- -yaghtugh- -yug- -umaeat -yagh- -pete- -aa -llu

eat go.to.V want.to.V PST FRUSTR INFER IND.3S3S also

‘Also, it turns out she/he wanted to go eat it, but. . .’.

Some postbases can be used recursively, as in the example below.[20]












itegh- -sqe- -yaghtugh- -sqe- -aa

come.in ask.to.V go.to.V ask.to.V IND.3S3S

‘Hei asked himj to go ask himk to come in’.

Recursion can also be used for emphasis.[22]




really really well

There is variability in postbase ordering with no change in semantic outcome.[20]










aane- -nanigh- -utke -aa

go.out cease.to.V V.on.account.of IND.3S3S

‘He ceased going out on account of it’.










aane- -utke- -nanigh- -aa

go.out V.on.account.of cease.to.V IND.3S3S

‘He ceased going out on account of it’.

Abbreviations: V, verb; PST, past tense; FRUSTR, frustrative (‘but . . ., in vain’); INFER, inferential evidential (often translatable as ‘it turns out’); INDIC, indicative; 3S3S, third-person subject acting on third-person object): (de Reuse 2006) Note: postbases noted in bold.

V:verb FRUSTR:frustrative aspect (‘but ... in vain’) INFER:inferential evidential (often translatable as ‘it turns out’) 3S3S:third-person subject acting on third-person object

Note: there is a general rule in CSY of semantic scope in which the rightmost postbase will have scope over the left. However, there are many exceptions, as in the example above.[20]


Following are a brief list and description of enclitics in CSY. The table is recreated from de Reuse (1988).[23]

  1. -lli: modal function, interrogative
  2. -tuq: modal function, optative
  3. -qa, -sa, -wha: modal function, exhortative or exclamative
  4. -nguq: evidential function
  5. -llu: focus marking or conjunction
  6. -iii: can be interrogative; sometimes marks a perlocutionary act
  7. -ta, -Vy: mark illocutionary acts
  8. -ngam, -qun: mark the “presupposition that the hearer is unaware that the speaker lacks crucial information”
  9. -mi: shifts the attention of the hearer
1st Position 2nd Position 3rd Position 4th position
-sa -nguq
-llu -ngam -tuq

Note: the ‘position’ references above refer to the position of the postbase following the main base.

Other Eskimo languages spoken in Chukotka[edit]

Other Yupik languages[edit]

Naukan, or Nuvuqaghmiistun, the second largest Yupik language spoken in Chukotka, is spoken in settlements including Uelen, Lorino, Lavrentiya, and Provideniya.[13]

Debated classifications[edit]

Additionally, the Sireniki Eskimo language, locally called Uqeghllistun, was an Eskimo language once spoken in Chukotka. It had many peculiarities. Sometimes it is classified as not belonging to the Yupik branch at all, thus forming (by itself) a stand-alone third branch of the Eskimo languages (alongside Inuit and Yupik).[12][24] Its peculiarities may be the result of a supposed long isolation from other Eskimo groups in the past.[25]

Sireniki became extinct in early January 1997.[12][24][26]


  1. ^ a b "Alaska Native Language Preservation & Advisory Council". Archived from the original on 31 May 2023.
  2. ^ a b "Владение языками и использование языков населением" [Language proficiency and language use by the population] (in Russian). Archived from the original on 26 March 2023.
  3. ^ Chappell, Bill (21 April 2014). "Alaska OKs Bill Making Native Languages Official". NPR.
  4. ^ a b "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: ess". ISO 639-3 Registration Authority - SIL International. Retrieved 2017-07-08. Name: Central Siberian Yupik
  5. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forke, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2020). "Central Siberian Yupik". Glottolog 4.3.
  6. ^ "Yupik, St. Lawrence Island". Ethnologue (25 ed.). 2022. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  7. ^ "Supplementary Table 1. Native North American Languages and Residence in American Indian or Alaska Native Areas for the Population 5 Years and Over in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2006-2010" (xls). Census.gov. St Lawrence Island Yupik
  8. ^ Menovshchikov 1962, p. 89.
  9. ^ same suffix for another root Rubcova (1954, p. 465)
  10. ^ Rubcova 1954, pp. 220, 238, 370, (tale examples).
  11. ^ a b Menovshchikov 1962, p. 1.
  12. ^ a b c d Vakhtin 1998.
  13. ^ a b "Asian Eskimo Language". Endangered languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia. Archived from the original on 2007-08-12.
  14. ^ Morgounova 2004.
  15. ^ Swadesh, Morris (1938). "Nootka Internal Syntax". International Journal of American Linguistics. 9 (2–4). doi:10.1086/463820.
  16. ^ a b Jacobson 1979.
  17. ^ a b c d de Reuse 1988.
  18. ^ Jacobson, Steven (2012). Yup'ik Eskimo Dictionary. Vol. 2 (2 ed.). Alaska Native Language Center, Univ. of Alaska.
  19. ^ a b c Woodbury 1981.
  20. ^ a b c d e de Reuse 2006, p. 745.
  21. ^ Inkelas, Sharon (1993). "Nimboran Position Class Morphology". Natural Language & Linguistic Theory. 11 (4). JSTOR 4047660.
  22. ^ de Reuse 1988, p. 324.
  23. ^ de Reuse 2006.
  24. ^ a b Linguist List's description about Nikolai Vakhtin Archived 2007-10-26 at the Wayback Machine's book: The Old Sirinek Language: Texts, Lexicon, Grammatical Notes Archived 2007-10-23 at the Wayback Machine. The author's untransliterated (original) name is "Н.Б. Вахтин Archived 2007-09-10 at the Wayback Machine".
  25. ^ Menovshchikov 1962, p. 11.
  26. ^ "Поддержка прав коренных народов Сибири" [Support for Siberian Indigenous Peoples Rights] (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2007-11-03. — see the section on Eskimos Archived 2007-08-30 at the Wayback Machine



  • Menovshchikov, G. A. (1962). Грамматиκа языка азиатских эскимосов [Grammar of the language of Asian Eskimos]. Vol. 1. Moscow • Leningrad: Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
  • Menovshchikov, G. A. (1996). "Азиатских эскимосов язык" [The language of Asian Eskimos]. Языки мира. Палеоазиатские языки [Languages of the world. Paleoasiatic languages] (in Russian). Moscow: Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • Rubcova, E. S. (1954). Материалы по языку и фольклору эскимосов (чаплинский диалект) [Materials on the Language and Folklore of the Eskimos (Chaplino Dialect)] (in Russian). Vol. 1. Moscow • Leningrad: Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

Further reading[edit]


  • Menovshchikov, G. A. (1964). Язык сиреникских эскимосов. Фонетика, очерк морфологии, тексты и словарь [Language of Sireniki Eskimos. Phonetics, morphology, texts and vocabulary] (in Russian). Moscow • Leningrad: Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
  • Yupik: Bibliographical guide


  • Badten, Linda Womkon, Vera Oovi Kaneshiro, Marie Oovi, and Steven A. Jacobson. A Dictionary of the St. Lawrence Island/Siberian Yupik Eskimo Language. Fairbanks: Alaska Native Language Center, College of Liberal Arts, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, 1987. ISBN 1-55500-029-0
  • Bass, Willard P., Edward A. Tennant, and Sharon Pungowiyi Satre. Test of Oral Language Dominance Siberian Yupik-English. Albuquerque, N.M.: Southwest Research Associates, 1973.
  • Jacobson, Steven A. Reading and Writing the Cyrillic System for Siberian Yupik = Atightuneqlu Iganeqlu Yupigestun Ruuseghmiit Latangitgun. Fairbanks: Alaska Native Language Center, College of Liberal Arts, University of Alaska, 1990.
  • Koonooka, Christopher (2003). Ungipaghaghlanga: Let Me Tell A Story. Fairbanks: Alaska Native Language Center (University of Alaska Fairbanks).[permanent dead link] Collection of stories, originally recorded by Меновщиков among Siberian Yupik, then transliterated so that it can be read by Yupik of St. Lawrence Island.
  • Nagai, Kayo; Waghiyi, Della (2001). Mrs. Della Waghiyi's St Lawrence Island Yupik Texts with Grammatical Analysis by Kayo Nagai. Osaka (Japan): Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim. Archived from the original on 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2008-11-13.

External links[edit]