Inupiaq language

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Iñupiatun, Inupiatun, Inupiaqtun
Native to United States, formerly Russia; Northwest Territories of Canada
Region Alaska; formerly Big Diomede Island
Ethnicity 20,709 Inupiat (2015)
Native speakers
6,740, 15% of ethnic population (2009-2013)[1]
Latin (Iñupiaq alphabet)
Iñupiaq Braille
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ik
ISO 639-2 ipk
ISO 639-3 ipkinclusive code
Individual codes:
esi – North Alaskan Inupiatun
esk – Northwest Alaska Inupiatun
Glottolog inup1234[3]
Inuktitut dialect map.svg
Inuit dialects. Inupiat dialects are orange (Northern Alaskan) and pink (Seward Peninsula).
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.

Inupiaq /ɪˈnpiæk/, Inupiat /ɪˈnpiæt/ or Alaskan Inuit, is a group of dialects of the Inuit languages, spoken by the Inupiat people in northern and northwestern Alaska, and part of the Northwest Territories. The Inupiat language is a member of the Inuit-Yupik-Unangan language family, and is closely related to Inuit languages of Canada and Greenland. There are roughly 2,000 speakers.[4] It is considered a threatened language with most speakers at or above the age of 40.[5] Inupiaq is an official language of the State of Alaska.[6]

The name is also rendered as Inupiatun, Inupiaq, Iñupiaq, Inyupiaq,[7] Inyupiat,[7] Inyupeat,[8] Inyupik,[9] and Inupik.

The main varieties of the Inupiaq language are Northern Alaskan Inupiaq and Seward Peninsula Inupiaq.

The Inupiaq language has been in decline since contact with English in the late 19th century. American colonization and the legacy of boarding schools have created a situation today where a small minority of Inupiat speak the Inupiaq language. There is, however, revitalization work underway today in several communities.


The Inupiaq language is an Inuit-Yupik-Unangan language, also known as Eskimo-Aleut, has been spoken in the northern regions of Alaska for as many as 5,000 years. Between 1,000 and 800 years ago, Inuit peoples migrated east from Alaska to Canada and Greenland, eventually occupying the entire Arctic coast and much of the surrounding inland areas. The Inupiaq dialects are the most conservative forms of the Inuit language, with less linguistic change than the other Inuit languages.

In the mid to late 19th century, Russian, British, and American colonizers would make contact with Inupiat people. In 1885, the American territorial government appointed Rev. Sheldon Jackson as General Agent of Education.[10] Under his administration, Inupiat people (and all Alaska Natives) were educated in English-only environments, forbidding the use of Inupiaq and other indigenous languages of Alaska. After decades of English-only education, with strict punishment if heard speaking Inupiaq, after the 1970s, most Inupiat did not pass the Inupiaq language onto their children, for fear of them being punished for speaking their language.

In 1972, the Alaska State Legislature passed legislation mandating that if “a [school is attended] by at least 15 pupils whose primary language is other than English, [then the school] shall have at least one teacher who is fluent in the native language”.[11]

Today, the University of Alaska Fairbanks offers bachelor's degrees in Inupiaq language and culture, while a preschool/kindergarten-level Inupiaq immersion school named Nikaitchuat Ilisaġviat teaches grades PreK-1st grade in Kotzebue.

In 2014, Inupiaq became an official language of the State of Alaska, alongside English and nineteen other indigenous languages.[6]


There are four main dialect divisions and these can be organized within two larger dialect collections:[12]

Iñupiaq dialect distribution through Alaska and Canada.[13]

Seward Peninsula Iñupiaq is spoken on the Seward Peninsula. Northern Alaskan Iñupiaq is spoken from the Northwest Arctic and North Slope regions of Alaska to the Mackenzie Delta in Northwest Territories, Canada.

Dialect Collection[12][14] Dialect[12][14] Subdialect[12][14] Tribal Nation(s) Populated Areas[14]
Seward Peninsula Iñupiaq Bering Strait Diomede Iŋalikmiut Little Diomede Island, Big Diomede Island until the late 1940s
Wales Kiŋikmiut, Tapqaġmiut Wales, Shishmaref, Brevig Mission
King Island Ugiuvaŋmiut King Island until the early 1960s, Nome
Qawiaraq Teller Siñiġaġmiut, Qawiaraġmiut Teller, Shaktoolik
Fish River Iġałuiŋmiut White Mountain, Golovin
Northern Alaskan Iñupiaq Malimiutun Kobuk Kuuŋmiut, Kiitaaŋmiut [Kiitaaġmiut], Siilim Kaŋianiġmiut, Nuurviŋmiut, Kuuvaum Kaŋiaġmiut, Akuniġmiut, Nuataaġmiut, Napaaqtuġmiut, Kivalliñiġmiut[15] Kobuk River Valley, Selawik
Kotzebue Pittaġmiut, Kaŋiġmiut, Qikiqtaġruŋmiut[15] Kotzebue, Noatak
North Slope Common North Slope Utuqqaġmiut, Siliñaġmiut [Kukparuŋmiut and Kuuŋmiut], Kakligmiut [Sitarumiut, Utqiaġvigmiut and Nuvugmiut], Kuulugruaġmiut, Ikpikpagmiut, Kuukpigmiut [Kañianermiut, Killinermiut and Kagmalirmiut][15][16]
Point Hope[13] Tikiġaġmiut Point Hope[13]
Point Barrow
Anaktuvuk Pass Nunamiut Anaktuvuk Pass
Uummarmiutun Uummarmiut Aklavik (Canada), Inuvik (Canada)

Extra Geographical Information:

Bering Strait Dialect:

The native population of the Big Diomede Island was moved to the Siberian mainland after World War II. The following generation of the population spoke Central Siberian Yupik or Russian.[14] The entire population of King Island moved to Nome in the early 1960s.[14] The Bering Strait dialect might also be spoken in Teller on the Seward Peninsula.[13]

Qawiaraq Dialect:

A dialect of Qawiaraq is spoken in Nome.[13][14] A dialect of Qawariaq may be also be spoken in Koyuk,[14] Mary's Igloo, Council, and Elim.[13] The Teller sub-dialect may be spoken in Unalakleet.[13][14]

Malimiutun Dialect:

Both sub-dialects can be found in Buckland, Koyuk, Shaktoolik, and Unalakleet.[13][14] A dialect of Malimiutun may be spoken in Deering, Kiana, Noorvik, Shungnak, and Ambler.[13] The Malimiutun sub-dialects have also been classified as "Southern Malimiut" (found in Koyuk, Shaktoolik, and Unalakleet) and "Northern Malimiut" found in "other villages".[13]

North Slope Dialect:

Common North Slope is "a mix of the various speech forms formerly used in the area".[14] The Point Barrow Dialect was "spoken only by a few elders" in 2010.[14] A dialect of North Slope is also spoken in Kivalina, Point Lay, Wainwright, Atqasuk, Barrow, Nuiqsut, and Barter Island.[13]


Iñupiaq dialects differ widely between consonants used. However, consonant clusters are always limited to exactly two consonants in a row. A word may not begin nor end with a consonant cluster. [13]

All Iñupiaq dialects have three basic vowels: a, i, and u.[13][14] It is unclear how these sounds are exactly pronounced and which, if any, allophones exist. All three vowels can be duplicated: aa, ii, uu.[13] It is likewise unclear how these vowels are pronounced, though this most likely signifies that the vowels are pronounced longer. The following diphthongs can be found: ai, ia, au, ua, iu, ui.[13][17] A vowel cluster consists of exactly two vowels, no more than two vowels can appear toegether.[13]

The Bering strait dialect preserves the fourth proto-Eskimo vowel e, pronounced /ə/ in proto-Eskimo . [13][14] In the other dialects, the proto-Eskimo e merged with the closed front vowel i. The merged i is referred to as the strong i, and causes palatalization when proceeding consonant clusters in the North Slope dialect (see section on palatalization below). The other i is referred to as the weak i. The weak and strong i are not differentiated in orthography, [13] therefore it is impossible to tell which i will cause palatalization "short of looking at other processes which depend on the distinction between two i's or else examining data from other Eskimo languages". [18] However, it can be assumed that, within a word, if a palatal consonant is preceded by an i, the i is strong. If an alveolar consonant is preceded by an i, the i is weak.[18]

A word may only begin with a stop (excluding palatal stops), s, y, m, n, or a vowel—with the exception of foreign loan words, proper names, and exclamations. [13] This applies to both the Seward Peninsula dialects (using the Little Diomede Island sub-dialect as a representative example) and the North Slope dialects. The only exception is Uummarmiutun, which can have a word begin with an /h/. For example the word for "ear" in North Slope and Little Diomede Island dialects is "siun" whereas in Uummarmiutun it is "hiun".

A word may end in any nasal sound (except for the /ɴ/ found in North Slope), in the stops t, k, q, or in a vowel. In the North Slope dialect if a word ends with an m, and the next word begins with a stop, the m is pronounced /p/.[13] For Example: aġnam tupiŋa is read /aʁnap tupiŋa/ (IPA for vowels may be incorrect).

North Slope Iñupiaq:[12][13][19][edit]

Labial Alveolar Palatal Retroflex Velar Uvular Glottal
Stops Voiceless /p/ /t/ /t̚ j/ /tʃ/ /k/ /q/ /ʔ/
Nasals /m/ /n/ /ɲ/ /ŋ/ /ɴ/
Fricatives Voiceless /f/ /s/ /ʂ/ /x/ /χ/ /h/
voiced /v/ /ʐ/ /ɣ/ /ʁ/
Lateral voiceless /ɬ/ /ʎ̥/
voiced /l/ /ʎ/
approximant /j/

The voiceless stops /p/ /t/ /k/ and /q/ are not aspirated.[13] This may or may not be true for other dialects as well.

/t̚ j/ is a palatalized and unreleased /t/.[13]


Two consonants cannot appear together unless they share the manner of articulation (in this case treating the lateral and approximate consonants as fricatives). The only exception to this rule is having a voiced fricative consonant appear with a nasal consonant. Since all stops in North Slope are voiceless, a lot of needed assimilation arises from having to assimilate a voiceless stop to a voiced consonant.

This process is realized by assimilating the first consonant in the cluster to a consonant that: 1) has the same (or closest possible) area of articulation as the consonant being assimilated; and 2) has the same manner of articulation as the second consonant that it is assimilating to. If the second consonant is a lateral or approximate, the first consonant will assimilate to a lateral or approximate if possible. If not the first consonant will assimilate to a fricative. Therefore:

North Slope IPA English
Kamik + niaq + te → kamigniaqtuq

or → kamiŋniaqtuq

/kn/ → /ɣn/

or → /ŋn/

"to put boots on" + "will" + "he" → he will put the boots on
iḷisaq + niaq + tuq → iḷisaġniaqtuq /qn/ → /ʁn/

or → /ɴ/ *

"to study" + "will" + "he" → he will study
aqpat + niaq + tuq → aqpanniaqtuq /tn/ → /nn/ "to run" + "will" + "he" → he will run
makit + man → makinman /tm/ → /nm/ "to stand up" + "when he" → When he stood up
makit + łuni → makiłłuni /tɬ/ → /ɬɬ/ "to stand" + "by ---ing" → standing up, he...

* The sound /ɴ/ is not represented in the orthography. Therefore the spelling ġn can be pronounced as /ʁn/ or /ɴn/. In both examples 1 and 2, since voiced fricatives can appear with nasal consonants, both consonant clusters are possible.kiiii

The stops /t̚ j/ and /t/ do not have a corresponding voiced fricative, therefore they will assimilate to the closest possible area of articulation. In this case, the /t̚ j/ will assimilate to the voiced approximant /j/. The /t/ will assimilate into a /ʐ/. Therefore:

North Slope IPA English
siksriit + guuq → siksriiyguuq /t̚ jɣ/ → /jɣ/ "squirrels" + "it is said that" → it is said that squirrels
aqpat + vik → aqparvik /tv/ → /ʐv/ "to run" + "place" → race track

In the case of the second consonant being a lateral, the lateral will again be treated as a fricative. Therefore:

North Slope IPA English
aġnam + lu → aġnamlu

or → aġnavlu

/ml/ → /ml/

or → /vl/

"(of) the woman" + "and" → and (of) the woman
aŋun + lu → aŋunlu

or → aŋullu

/nl/ → /nl/

or → /vl/

"the man" + "and" → "and the man

Since voiced fricatives can appear with nasal consonants, both consonant clusters are possible.

The sounds /f/ /x/ and /χ/ are not represented in the orthography (unless they occur alone between vowels). Therefore, like the /ɴn/ example shown above, assimilation still occurs while the spelling remains the same. Therefore:

North Slope IPA (pronunciation) English
miiqtuq /qɬ/ → /χɬ/ child
siksrik /kʂ/ → /xʂ/ squirrel
tavsi /vs/ → /fs/ belt

These general features of assimilation are not shared with Uummarmiut, Malimiutun, or the Seward Peninsula dialects. Malimiutun and the Seward Peninsula dialects "preserve[] voiceless stops (k, p, q, t) when they are etymological (i.e. when they belong to the original word-base)". [14] Compare:

North Slope Malimiutun Seward Peninsula dialects Uummarmiut English
nivliqsuq nipliqsuq nivliraqtuq makes a sound
igniq ikniq ikniq fire
annuġaak atnuġaak atar̂aaq garment


The following patterns of palatalization can occur in North Slope Iñupiaq: /t/ → /t̚ j/ /tʃ/ or /s/; /ɬ//ʎ̥/; /l//ʎ/; and /n/ → /ɲ/. Palatalization only occurs when one of these four alveolars is proceeded by a strong i. Compare:

Type of I North Slope IPA English
strong qimmiq → qimmit /qimːiq/ → /qimːit̚ j/ dog → dogs
weak tumi → tumit /tumi/ → /tumit/ footprint → footprints
strong iġġi → iġġiḷu /iʁːi/ → /iʁːiʎu/ mountain → and a mountain
weak tumi → tumilu /tumi/ → /tumilu/ footprint → and a footprint

Please note that the sound /it̚ j/ does not have its own letter, and is simply spelled with a T t. The IPA transcription of the above vowels may be incorrect.

If a t that proceeds a vowel is palatalized, it will become an /s/. The strong i affects the entire consonant cluster, palatalizing all consonants that can be palatalized within the cluster. Therefore:

Type of I North Slope IPA English
strong qimmiq + tigun → qimmisigun /qimmiq/ + /tiɣun/ → /qimːisiɣun/ dog + amongst the plural things → amongst, in the midst of dogs
strong puqik + tuq → puqiksuq /puqik/ + /tuq/ → /puqiksuq/ to be smart + she/he/it → she/he/it is smart

Note in the first example, due to the nature of the suffix, the /q/ is dropped. Like the first set of examples, the IPA transcriptions of above vowels may be incorrect.

If a strong i precedes geminate consonant, the entire elongated consonant becomes palatalized. For Example: niġḷḷaturuq and tikiññiaqtuq.

Further strong versus weak i processes[13][edit]

The strong i can be paired with a vowel. The weak i on the other hand cannot.[18] The weak i will become an a if it is paired with another vowel, or if the consonant before the i becomes geminate. This rule may or may not apply to other dialects. Therefore:

Type of I North Slope IPA English
weak tumi → tumaa /tumi/ → /tumaː/ footprint → her/his footprint
strong qimmiq → qimmia /qimːiq/ → /qimːia/ dog → her/his dog
weak kamik → kammak /kamik/ → /kamːak/ boot → two boots

Like the first two sets of examples, the IPA transcriptions of above vowels may be incorrect.

Uummarmiutun Sub-Dialect:[17][edit]

Labial Alveolar Palatal Retroflex Velar Uvular Glottal
Stops Voiceless /p/ /t/ /tʃ/ /k/ /q/ /ʔ/ *
Voiced /dʒ/
Nasals /m/ /n/ /ɲ/ /ŋ/
Fricatives Voiceless /f/ /x/ /χ/ /h/
voiced /v/ /ʐ/ /ɣ/ /ʁ/
Lateral voiceless /ɬ/
voiced /l/
approximant /j/

* Ambiguities: This sound might exist in the Uummarmiutun sub dialect.

Phonological Rules[17][edit]

The /f/ is always found as a geminate.

The /j/ cannot be geminated, and is always found between vowels or proceeded by /v/. In rare cases it can be found at the beginning of a word.

The /h/ is never geminate, and can appear as the first letter of the word, between vowels, or preceeded by /k/ /ɬ/ or /q/.

The /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ are always geminate or preceded by a /t/.

The /ʐ/ can appear between vowels, preceded by consonants /ɣ/ /k/ /q/ /ʁ/ /t/ or /v/, or it can be followed by /ɣ/, /v/, /ʁ/.

Seward Peninsula Iñupiaq:[12][edit]

Labial Alveolar Palatal Retroflex Velar Uvular Glottal
Stops Voiceless /p/ /t/ /tʃ/ /k/ /q/ /ʔ/
Voiced /b/
Nasals /m/ /n/ /ŋ/
Fricatives Voiceless /s/ /ʂ/ /h/
voiced /v/ /z/ /ʐ/ /ɣ/ /ʁ/
Lateral voiceless /ɬ/
voiced /l/
approximant /w/ /j/ /ɻ/

Unlike the other Iñupiaq dialects, the Seward Peninsula dialect has a mid central vowel e (see the beginning of the phonology section for more information).


In North Slope Iñupiaq, all consonants represented by orthography can be geminated, except for the sounds /tʃ/ /s/ /h/ and /ʂ/.[13] Seward Peninsula Iñupiaq (using vocabulary from the Little Diomede Island as a representative sample) likewise can have all consonants represented by orthography appear as geminates, except for /b/ /h/ /ŋ/ /ʂ/ /w/ /z/ and /ʐ/. Gemination is caused by suffixes being added to a consonant, so that the consonant is found between two vowels.[13]

Writing systems[edit]

Inupiaq was first written when explorers first arrived in Alaska and began recording words in the native languages. They wrote by adapting the letters of their own language to writing the sounds they were recording. Spelling was often inconsistent, since the writers invented it as they wrote. Unfamiliar sounds were often confused with other sounds, so that, for example, 'q' was often not distinguished from 'k' and long consonants or vowels were not distinguished from short ones.

Along with the Alaskan and Siberian Yupik, the Inupiat eventually adopted the Latin script (Qaliujaaqpait) that Moravian missionaries developed in Greenland and Labrador. Native Alaskans also developed a system of pictographs,[which?] which, however, died with its creators.[20]

In 1946, Roy Ahmaogak, an Inupiaq Presbyterian minister from Barrow, worked with Eugene Nida, a member of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, to develop the current Iñupiaq alphabet based on the Latin script. Although some changes have been made since its origin—most notably the change from 'ḳ' to 'q'—the essential system was accurate and is still in use.

Iñupiaq alphabet (North Slope and Northwest Arctic)[21]
A a Ch ch G g Ġ ġ H h I i K k L l Ḷ ḷ Ł ł Ł̣ ł̣ M m
a cha ga ġa ha i ka la ḷa ła ł̣a ma
/a/ // /ɣ/ /ʁ/ /h/ /i/ /k/ /l/ /ʎ/ /ɬ/ /ʎ̥/ /m/
N n Ñ ñ Ŋ ŋ P p Q q R r S s Sr sr T t U u V v Y y
na ña ŋa pa qa ra sa sra ta u va ya
/n/ /ɲ/ /ŋ/ /p/ /q/ /ɹ/ /s/ /ʂ/ /t/ /u/ /v/ /j/

Extra letter for Kobuk dialect: /ʔ/

Inupiaq alphabet (Seward Peninsula)
A a B b G g Ġ ġ H h I i K k L l Ł ł M m N n Ŋ ŋ P p
a ba ga ġa ha i ka la ła ma na ŋa pa
/a/ /b/ /ɣ/ /ʁ/ /h/ /i/ /k/ /l/ /ɬ/ /m/ /n/ /ŋ/ /p/
Q q R r S s Sr sr T t U u V v W w Y y Z z Zr zr '
qa ra sa sra ta u va wa ya za zra
/q/ /ɹ/ /s/ /ʂ/ /t/ /u/ /v/ /w/ /j/ /z/ /ʐ/ /ʔ/

Extra letters for specific dialects:

  • Diomede: e /ə/
  • Qawiaraq: ch //
Canadian Iñupiaq alphabet (Uummarmiutun)
A a Ch ch F f G g H h Dj dj I i K k L l Ł ł M m
a cha fa ga ha dja i ka la ła ma
/a/ // /f/ /ɣ/ /h/ // /i/ /k/ /l/ /ɬ/ /m/
N n Ñ ñ Ng ng P p Q q R r Ȓ ȓ T t U u V v Y y
na ña ŋa pa qa ra ȓa ta u va ya
/n/ /ɲ/ /ŋ/ /p/ /q/ /ʁ/ /ʐ/ /t/ /u/ /v/ /j/


Due the number of dialects and complexity of Iñupiaq Morphosyntax, the following section will be discussing Malimiutun morphosyntax as a representative example. Any examples from other dialects will be marked as such.

Iñupiaq is a polysynthetic language, meaning that words can be extremely long, consisting of one of three stems (verb stem, noun stem, and demonstrative stem) along with one or more of three endings (postbases, (grammatical) endings, and enclitics). [13] The stem gives meaning to the word, whereas endings give information regarding case, mood, tense, person, plurality, etc. The stem can appear as simple (having no postbases) or complex (having one or more postbases). In Iñupiaq a "postbase serves somewhat the same functions that adverbs, adjectives, prefixes, and suffixes do in English" along with marking various types of tenses. [13] There are six word classes in Malimiut Inñupiaq: nouns (see Nominal Morphology), verbs (see Verbal Morphology), adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, and interjections. All demonstratives are classified as either adverbs or pronouns.[22]

Iñupiaq has 5 different moods including: Indicative, Interrogative, Imperative (positive, negative, optative), Coordinative (positive, negative), and Conditional (realized, unrealized).[23]

Nominal Morphology[edit]

The Iñupiaq category of number distinguishes singular, dual, and plural. The language works on an Ergative-Absolutive system, where nouns are inflected for number, several cases, and possession.[13] Iñupiaq (Malimiutun) has nine cases, two core cases (ergative and absolutive) and seven oblique cases (instrumental, allative, ablative, locative, perlative, similative and vocative).[22] North Slope Iñupiaq does not have the vocative case.[13] Iñupiaq does not have a category of gender and articles.[citation needed]

Iñupiaq Nouns can likewise be classified by Wolf A. Seiler's 7 noun classes.[22][23] These noun classes are "based on morphological behavior. [They] ... have no semantic basis but are useful for case formation ... stems of various classes interact with suffixes differently".[22]

Due to the nature of the morphology, a single case can take on up to 12 endings (ignoring the fact that realization of these endings can change depending on noun class). For example, the possessed ergative ending for a class 1a noun can take on the endings: -ma, ‑mnuk, ‑pta, ‑vich, ‑ptik, -psi, -mi, -mik, -miŋ, -ŋan, -ŋaknik, and ‑ŋata. Therefore only general features will be described below. For an extensive list on case endings, please see Seiler 2012, Appendix 4, 6, and 7.[23]

Absolutive Case/ Noun Stems[edit]

The subject of an intransitive sentence or the object of a transitive sentence take on the absolutive case. This case is likewise used to mark the basic form of a noun. Therefore all the singular, dual, and plural absolutive forms serve as stems for the other oblique cases.[13] The following chart is verified of both Malimiutun and North Slope Iñupiaq.

Absolutive Endings[13][22]
singular -q, -k, -n, or any vowel
dual -k
plural -t

If the singular absolutive form ends with -n, it has the underlying form of -ti /tə/. This form will show in the absolutive dual and plural forms. Therefore:

tiŋmisuun (airplane) → tiŋmisuutik (two airplanes) and tiŋmisuutit (multiple airplanes)

Regarding nouns that have an underlying /ə/ (weak i), the i will change to an a and the previous consonant will be geminated in the dual form. Therefore:

Kamik (boot) → kammak (two boots).

If the singular form of the noun ends with -k, the preceding vowel will be elongated. Therefore:

savik (knife) → saviik (two knives).

Gemination of the consonant preceding the final vowel is also sometimes geminated, though exact phonological reasoning is unclear.[22]

Ergative Case[edit]

This case is often referred to as the Relative Case in Iñupiaq sources.[13] This case marks the subject of a transitive sentence or a genitive (possessive) noun phrase. For non-possessed noun phrases, the noun is marked only if it is a third person singular. The unmarked nouns leave ambiguity as to what is the subject and object. This can be resolved only through context.[13][22] Possessed noun phrases and noun phrases expressing genitive are marked in ergative for all persons.[22]

Ergative Endings[22]
Endings Allophones
-m -um, -im

This suffix applies to all singular unpossessed nouns in the ergative case.

Example English
aŋun → aŋutim man → man (ergative)
aŋatchiaq → aŋatchiaŋma uncle → my two uncles (ergative)

Please note the underlying /tə/ form in the first example.

Instrumental Case[edit]

This case is also referred to as the Modalis case. This case has a wide range of uses described below:

Usage of Instrumental[22] Iñupiaq English English
Marks nouns that are means by which the subject achieves something (see instrumental) Aŋuniaqtim aġviġluaq tuqutkaa nauligamik. [hunter (ergative)] [gray wale (absolutive)] [kill—indicative; third person singular subject and object] [harpoon (using it as a tool to)] The hunter killed the gray whale with a harpoon.
Marks the apparent patient (grammatical object upon which the action was carried out) of syntactically intransitive verbs Miñułiqtugut umiamik. [paint—indicative; third person singular object] [boat (having the previous verb being done to it)] We're painting a boat.
Marks information new to the narrative (when the noun is first mentioned in a narrative)

Marks indefinite objects of some transitive verbs

Tuyuġaat tuyuutimik. [send—indicative; third person plural subject, third person singular object] [letter (new piece of information)] They sent him a letter.
Marks the specification of a noun's meaning to incorporate the meaning of another noun (without incorporating both nouns into a single word) (Modalis of specification)[13] Niġiqaqtuguk tuttumik. [food—have—indicative; first person dual subject] [caribou (specifying that the caribou is food my referring to the previous noun)] We (dual) have (food) caribou for food.
Qavsiñik paniqaqpit? [how many (of the following noun)] [daughter—have] How many daughters do you have?
Instrumental Endings[22]
Endings Examples
Iñupiaq English
singular -mik Kamik → kamiŋmik boot → (with a) boot
dual [dual absolutive stem] -nik kammak → kammaŋnik (two) boots → (with two) boots
plural [singular absolutive stem] -nik kamik → kamiŋnik boot → (with multiple) boots

Since the ending is the same for both dual and plural, different stems are used. In all the examples the k is assimilated to an ŋ.

Allative Case[edit]

This case is also referred to as the Terminalis case. The uses of this case are described below:[22]

Usage of Allative[22] Iñupiaq English English
Used to signify motion or an action directed towards a goal[13] Qaliŋaum quppiġaaq atauksritchaa Nauyamun. [Qaliŋak (Ergative)] [coat (absolutive)] [lend—indicative; third person singular subject and object] [Nauyaq (towards his direction/to him)] Qaliŋak lent a coat to Nauyaq
Isiqtuq iglumun. [enter—indicative; third person singular] [house (into)] He went into the house
Signifies that the statement is for the purpose of the marked noun Niġiqpaŋmun niqłiuqġñiaqtugut. [(for the purpose of) feast ] [prepare.a.meal—future—Indicative; first person plural subject] We will prepare a meal for the feast.
Signifies the beneficiary of the statement Piquum uligruat paipiuranun qiḷaŋniqsuq. [Piquk (ergative)] [blanket (absolutive) plural] [(for) baby plural] [knit—indicative; third person singular] Evidently Piquk knits blankets for babies.
Marks the noun that is being addressed to Qaliŋaŋmun uqautirut [(to) Qaliŋaŋmun] [tell—indicative; third person plural subject] They (plural) told Qaliŋak.
Allative Endings
Endings Examples
Iñupiaq English
singular -mun aġnauraq → aġnauramun girl → (to the) girl
dual [dual absolutive stem] -nun aġnaurak → aġnauraŋ* (two) girls → (with two) girls
plural [singular absolutive stem] -nun aġnauraq → aġnauranun girl → (to the two) girls

*It is unclear as to whether this example is regular for the dual form or not.

Verbal Morphology[edit]

Verbs are inflected for number and person of their subject and object, as well as mood. Person, number and mood are expressed by a single morpheme. Iñupiaq marks future tense obligatorily while present and past tense are marked optionally.


Subject-object-verb is the most neutral word order. Subject-verb-object is also acceptable. Verb-initial sentences are grammatical but unusual. Iñupiaq displays ergative-absolutive alignment through case marking and verb agreement.[22]

Iñupiaq grammar includes morphological passive, antipassive, causative and applicative. Noun incorporation is also attested.

Text sample[edit]

This is a sample of the Inupiaq language of the Kivalina variety from Kivalina Reader, published in 1975.

Aaŋŋaayiña aniñiqsuq Qikiqtami. Aasii iñuguġuni. Tikiġaġmi Kivaliñiġmiḷu. Tuvaaqatiniguni Aivayuamik. Qulit atautchimik qitunġivḷutik. Itchaksrat iñuuvlutiŋ. Iḷaŋat Qitunġaisa taamna Qiñuġana.

This is the English translation, from the same source:

Aaŋŋaayiña was born in Shishmaref. He grew up in Point Hope and Kivalina. He marries Aivayuaq. They had eleven children. Six of them are alive. One of the children is Qiñuġana.

Vocabulary comparison[edit]

The comparison of various vocabulary in four different dialects:

North Slope Iñupiaq[24] Northwest Alaska Iñupiaq[24]
(Kobuk Malimiut)
King Island Iñupiaq[25] Qawiaraq dialect[26] English
atausiq atausriq atausiq atauchiq 1
malġuk malġuk maġluuk malġuk 2
piŋasut piñasrut piŋasut piŋachut 3
sisamat sisamat sitamat chitamat 4
tallimat tallimat tallimat tallimat 5
itchaksrat itchaksrat aġvinikłit alvinilġit 6
tallimat malġuk tallimat malġuk tallimat maġluuk mulġunilġit 7
tallimat piŋasut tallimat piñasrut tallimat piŋasut piŋachuŋilgit 8
quliŋuġutaiḷaq quliŋŋuutaiḷaq qulinŋutailat quluŋŋuġutailat 9
qulit qulit qulit qulit 10
qulit atausiq qulit atausriq qulit atausiq qulit atauchiq 11
akimiaġutaiḷaq akimiaŋŋutaiḷaq agimiaġutailaq . 14
akimiaq akimiaq agimiaq . 15
iñuiññaŋŋutaiḷaq iñuiñaġutaiḷaq inuinaġutailat . 19
iñuiññaq iñuiñaq inuinnaq . 20
iñuiññaq qulit iñuiñaq qulit inuinaq qulit . 30
malġukipiaq malġukipiaq maġluutiviaq . 40
tallimakipiaq tallimakipiaq tallimativiaq . 100
kavluutit . kabluutit . 1000
nanuq nanuq taġukaq nanuq polar bear
ilisaurri ilisautri iskuuqti ilichausrirri teacher
miŋuaqtuġvik aglagvik iskuuġvik naaqiwik school
aġnaq aġnaq aġnaq aŋnaq woman
aŋun aŋun aŋun aŋun man
aġnaiyaaq aġnauraq niaqsaaġruk niaqchiġruk girl
aŋutaiyaaq aŋugauraq ilagaaġruk ilagagruk boy
Tanik Naluaġmiu Naluaġmiu Naluaŋmiu white person
ui ui ui ui husband
nuliaq nuliaq nuliaq nuliaq wife
panik panik panik panik daughter
iġñiq iġñiq qituġnaq . son
iglu tupiq ini ini house
tupiq palapkaaq palatkaaq tupiq tent
qimmiq qipmiq qimugin qimmuqti dog
qavvik qapvik qappik qaffik wolverine
tuttu tuttu tuttu tuttupiaq caribou
tuttuvak tiniikaq tuttuvak, muusaq . moose
tulugaq tulugaq tiŋmiaġruaq anaqtuyuuq raven
ukpik ukpik ukpik ukpik snowy owl
tatqiq tatqiq taqqiq taqiq moon/month
uvluġiaq uvluġiaq ubluġiaq ubluġiaq star
siqiñiq siqiñiq mazaq matchaq sun
niġġivik tiivlu, niġġivik tiivuq, niġġuik niġġiwik table
uqautitaun uqaqsiun qaniqsuun qaniqchuun telephone
mitchaaġvik mirvik mizrvik mirrvik airport
tiŋŋun tiŋmisuun silakuaqsuun chilakuaqchuun airplane
qai- mauŋaq- qai- qai- to come
pisuaq- pisruk- aġui- aġui- to walk
savak- savak- sawit- chuli- to work
nakuu- nakuu- naguu- nakuu- to be good
maŋaqtaaq taaqtaaq taaqtaaq maŋaqtaaq, taaqtaaq black
uvaŋa uvaŋa uaŋa uwaŋa, waaŋa I, me
ilviñ ilvich iblin ilvit you (singular)
kiña kiña kina kina who
sumi nani, sumi nani chumi where
qanuq qanuq qanuġuuq . how
qakugu qakugu qagun . when (future)
ii ii ii'ii ii, i'i yes
naumi naagga naumi naumi no
paniqtaq paniqtaq paniqtuq pipchiraq dried fish or meat
saiyu saigu saayuq chaiyu tea
kuuppiaq kuukpiaq kuupiaq kupiaq coffee


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Detailed Languages Spoken at Home and Ability to Speak English". US Census Bureau. Retrieved 2017-11-21. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Inupiatun". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Inupiatun, North Alaskan". Ethnologue. 
  6. ^ a b "Alaska's indigenous languages now official along with English". Reuters. 2016-10-24. Retrieved 2017-02-19. 
  7. ^ a b "SILEWP 1997-002". Retrieved 2012-08-23. 
  8. ^ "Inyupeat Language of the Arctic, 1970, Point Hope dialect". 2009-10-20. Retrieved 2012-08-23. 
  9. ^ Frederick A. Milan (1959), The acculturation of the contemporary Eskimo of Wainwright Alaska
  10. ^ "Sheldon Jackson in Historical Perspective". Retrieved 2016-08-11. 
  11. ^ Krauss, Michael E. 1974. Alaska Native language legislation. International Journal of American Linguistics 40(2).150-52.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Iñupiaq/Inupiaq". Retrieved 2007-09-28. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al MacLean, Edna Ahgeak (1986). North Slope Iñupiaq Grammar: First Year. Alaska Native Language Center, College of Liberal Arts; University of Alaska, Fairbanks. ISBN 1-55500-026-6. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Dorais, Louis-Jacques (2010). The Language of the Inuit: Syntax, Semantics, and Society in the Arctic. McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-7735-3646-3. 
  15. ^ a b c Burch 1980 Ernest S. Burch, Jr., Traditional Eskimo Societies in Northwest Alaska. Senri Ethnological Studies 4:253-304
  16. ^ Spencer 1959 Robert F. Spencer, The North Alaskan Eskimo: A study in ecology and society, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin, 171 : 1-490
  17. ^ a b c Lowe, Ronald (1984). Uummarmiut Uqalungiha Mumikhitchiȓutingit: Basic Uummarmiut Eskimo Dictionary. Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada: Committee for Original Peoples Entitlement. pp. xix–xxii. ISBN 0-9691597-1-4. 
  18. ^ a b c Kaplan, Lawrence (1981). Phonological Issues In North Alaska Inupiaq. Alaska Native Language Center, University of Fairbanks. p. 85. ISBN 0-933769-36-9. 
  19. ^ Kaplan, Larry (1981). North Slope Iñupiaq Literacy Manual. Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks. 
  20. ^ Project Naming Archived 2006-10-28 at the Wayback Machine., the identification of Inuit portrayed in photographic collections at Library and Archives Canada
  21. ^ Kaplan, Lawrence (2000). "L'Inupiaq et les contacts linguistiques en Alaska". In Tersis, Nicole and Michèle Therrien (eds.), Les langues eskaléoutes: Sibérie, Alaska, Canada, Groënland, pages 91-108. Paris: CNRS Éditions. For an overview of Inupiaq phonology, see pages 92-94.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Lanz, Linda A. A Grammar of Iñupiaq Morphosyntax. Houston, Texas: Rice University, 2010.
  23. ^ a b c Seiler, Wolf A. (2012). Iñupiatun Eskimo Dictionary (PDF). SIL International. pp. Appendix 7. ISSN 1939-0785. 
  24. ^ a b "Interactive IñupiaQ Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-08-23. 
  25. ^ "Ugiuvaŋmiuraaqtuaksrat / Future King Island Speakers". 2009-04-17. Retrieved 2012-08-23. 
  26. ^ Agloinga, Roy (2013). Iġałuiŋmiutullu Qawairaġmiutullu Aglait Nalaunaitkataat. Atuun Publishing Company. 

Print Resources: Existing Dictionaries, Grammar Books and Other[edit]

  • Barnum, Francis. Grammatical Fundamentals of the Innuit Language As Spoken by the Eskimo of the Western Coast of Alaska. Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1970.
  • Blatchford, DJ. Just Like That!: Legends and Such, English to Inupiaq Alphabet. Kasilof, AK: Just Like That!, 2003. ISBN 0-9723303-1-3
  • Bodfish, Emma, and David Baumgartner. Iñupiat Grammar. Utqiaġvigmi: Utqiaġvium minuaqtuġviata Iñupiatun savagvianni, 1979.
  • Kaplan, Lawrence D. Phonological Issues in North Alaskan Inupiaq. Alaska Native Language Center research papers, no. 6. Fairbanks, Alaska (Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska, Fairbanks 99701): Alaska Native Language Center, 1981.
  • Kaplan, Lawrence. Iñupiaq Phrases and Conversations. Fairbanks, AK: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska, 2000. ISBN 1-55500-073-8
  • MacLean, Edna Ahgeak. Iñupiallu Tanņiḷḷu Uqaluņisa Iḷaņich = Abridged Iñupiaq and English Dictionary. Fairbanks, Alaska: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska, 1980.
  • Lanz, Linda A. A Grammar of Iñupiaq Morphosyntax. Houston, Texas: Rice University, 2010.
  • MacLean, Edna Ahgeak. Beginning North Slope Iñupiaq Grammar. Fairbanks, Alaska: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska, 1979.
  • Seiler, Wolf A. Iñupiatun Eskimo Dictionary. Kotzebue, Alaska: NANA Regional Corporation, 2005.
  • Seiler, Wolf. The Modalis Case in Iñupiat: (Eskimo of North West Alaska). Giessener Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, Bd. 14. Grossen-Linden: Hoffmann, 1978. ISBN 3-88098-019-5
  • Webster, Donald Humphry, and Wilfried Zibell. Iñupiat Eskimo Dictionary. 1970.

External links and language resources[edit]

There are a number of online resources that can provide a sense of the language and information for second language learners.