Inupiaq

Indigenous Language Map - Inupiaq

Inupiaq is spoken throughout much of northern Alaska and is closely related to the Canadian Inuit dialects and the Greenlandic dialects, which may collectively be called "Inuit" or Eastern Eskimo, distinct from Yupik or Western Eskimo.

Alaskan Inupiaq includes two major dialect groups: North Alaskan Inupiaq and Seward Peninsula Inupiaq. North Alaskan Inupiaq comprises the North Slope dialect spoken along the Arctic Coast from Barter Island to Kivalina, as well as the Malimiut dialect, which is found primarily around Kotzebue Sound and the Kobuk River. Seward Peninsula Inupiaq comprises the Qawiaraq dialect, found principally in Teller and in the southern Seward Peninsula and Norton Sound area, as well as the Bering Strait dialect spoken in the villages surrounding Bering Strait and on the Diomede Islands.

Dialect differences involve vocabulary and suffixes (lexicon) as well as sounds (phonology). North Slope and Malimiut are easily mutually intelligible, although there are vocabulary differences (tupiq means 'tent' in North Slope and 'house' in Malimiut; iglu is 'house' in North Slope) and sound differences ('dog' is qimmiq in North Slope and qipmiq in Malimiut). Seward Peninsula and North Alaskan dialects differ significantly from each other, and a fair amount of experience is required for a speaker of one to understand the dialect of the other. For example, each uses a completely different verb stem for 'talk' ('they are talking' is qaniqtut in Seward Peninsula but uqaqtut in North Alaskan). Sound differences are also numerous ('they are cooking' is iarut in Seward Peninsula but igarut in North Alaskan).

The name "Inupiaq," meaning "real or genuine person" (inuk 'person' plus -piaq 'real, genuine'), is often spelled "I\xf1upiaq," particularly in the northern dialects. It can refer to a person of this group ("He is an Inupiaq") and can also be used as an adjective ("She is an Inupiaq woman"). The plural form of the noun is "Inupiat," referring to the people collectively ("the Inupiat of the North Slope").

Alaska is home to about 13,500 Inupiat, of whom about 3,000, mostly over age 40, speak the language. The Canadian Inuit population of 31,000 includes about 24,000 speakers. In Greenland, a population of 46,400 includes 46,000 speakers.


Common Expressions

(In Inupiaq, the vowels [a, i, u] are pronounced in the same way as the same vowels in Spanish or Italian; r is similar to English r; ġ is similar to French or German r; ŋ is the ng sound; ñ is pronounced ny as in Spanish, ļ is an ly sound and ł is a voiceless l. Double letters are pronounced long [held longer] and single letters are short.)

tautugniaqmiġikpiñ good-bye
quyanaq thank you
qaimarutin welcome
Nayaaŋmik Piqagiñ Merry Christmas
qanuq itpich? Hello, how are you?

 


Common Phrases

Qanuq itpiñ? How are you?
Nakuuruŋa. I am fine
Kiña ilviñ? What's your name?
Uvaŋa Nanuq. I am Nanuq


Dog Names

Some of these names were provided by Leona Okakok and are typical dog names used by Inupiat people of the North Slope. Some other names were taken from the Inupiat Dictionary, compiled by Webster & Zibell.

kinguyakkii northern lights
maguyuk howler
miki little
nanuq polar bear
pakak one that gets into everything
pamiiruq wags his tail
pukiq smart
qannik snowflake
qimmiq dog
qimukti puller
siku ice
suka fast
tupit tattoo lines on face
amaguq wolf

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