The other day I started a list of words I have learned. Needless to say it is not a long list but then I am only picking up most of these in passing. Below are a few of the more common ones. I have done my best to give  a pronunciation guide however I am not 100% sure on some of them and some of the diphthongs are different from english.

Fair warning I have done my best to authenticate the spellings with native speakers but there may still be some errors.

Isinnaq- Shungnak (iss ing nuck) like kissing without the k and nuck

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 6.04.14 PM



uvlaallautaq- good morning (oov law low tuck) oov like move with out the m

uvlullautaq- good afternoon (oov lew low tuck)

uvunga atiga ___-my name is



tuttu-caribou (2-2)

tiniika-moose (tin E kaw)

siilik-pike (see lick)

amaguk-wolf (ama gook) like mama with out the m and good with k instead of d

sii- a fish but I can’t remember which (see)

nanuk- polar bear (nah nook) like nanuk of the north

Display at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue about 150 miles away. Sorry none of these guys where I am.


Words for the classroom teacher;

ii-yes (E)

Aglagvik- School (ah glog vik)

Aglagtii- teacher (ah glog tee)

qanaa- no (kaw-ng-aw)

kaliikaq-paper (ka lee kuck)

aglaun- pencil (uh gloon)

suva- what (sue vaw)

qichaq- stand up (key chuck)

qichaqitchi- you guys stand up (key chuck itch E)

takluari- line up (ta clore E)

takluari lusri- you guys line up (ta clore E loosh E)

sallummaq- clean up (sal loo muck)

sallumauraq- slowly clean up (sal loo more ruck)

sallummaqitchi- you guys clean up (sal loo muck itch E)

talu- door (ta loo)

itna- like this (it naw)

uvluvak-today (oov loo vuck)

nipaisaaq- be quiet (nip ay sock)

ataa- be quiet (a tah)

naalagni- listen (naw log knee)

migiaq- throw up (mi gak short i sound)

numbers 1-10; 1-atausriq (a toe shruck) 2-malguk (mall gook) 3-pinasrut (pin a sh rut) 4-sisamat (sissy mat) 5-tallimat (tally mat) 6-itchaksrat (ick shut shrut) 7-tallimat malguk 8-tallimat pinasrut 9-quilnugutailaq (I have a hard time with that one) 10-qulit (cool eat)


Things I can say but don’t really understand

silent knight in Iñupiaq

The Iñupiaq Pledge of Allegiance



Other good words

alappaa- cold (ah law paw)

aarigaa- its good often in relation to warm temperatures (ah dee gaw)

katak- fall down (cut tuck)

tinmisuun- airplane (ting me soon)



takuu-thank you, may not actually be an Iñupiaq but maybe a adoption of the english word? (take koo)

kunni saq- mud room (cun E suck) (cunni chuck if you are costal)

arii- I don’t like (uh-dee) which I joke is my Iñupiaq name because the kids say it so much in school. Kind of the Iñupiaq equivalent of ugh!

achiigang- danger (ah chi gong) I’m thinking of a shirt that says achiigang is my middle name

and of course anaq- poop (uh nuck)


Some common words that are english but used a little differently;

‘black’ berries

black berries- crow berries

catch- catch, trap, snare, shoot

snowgo- snowmobile

pack sack- back pack

honda- 4 wheeler even if its not a honda

bad-cool ie real bad snowgo

cheep- bad

always- always/ sometimes/ once -ie teacher you always move the desks? (asked the one day the whole year the desks are in a different place). It would be grammatically correct to ask do you always move the desks but that not what they mean to ask, they want to know did you move the desks, this time?

off- take of as in I’m going to off my coat

I never! You always! (or not even!)- The local version of Nah Uh! Yah Hugh! or Did not! Did too!

borrow- lend ie I will you borrow me some money

funny- bad ie my pencil is funny (broken) he is being funny to me (teasing)

let- make ie teachers going to let you owe him time if your funny to me

thing- whatever word you cant think of, dakine in hawaii, ie teacher can you thing my pencil (sharpen), or teacher I can’t find thing (pencil).


Also important to remember that much of the communication is nonverbal.

eyebrows up-yes

wrinkled nose-no

Photo on 2-8-16 at 7.40 AM
Photo on 2-8-16 at 7.40 AM .2

other notes;

All tenses have to be inferred from context as village english uses present tense exclusively as in ‘I go Kobuk yesterday’ or ‘My teach catch the moose?’ Some words are dropped like do and will, some are not quite used correctly like really and always and many times plural forms are left singular. Traditionally Iñupiaq speaking is slower and more deliberate and only what is necessary is said so if it can be inferred then it will probably be left out of the sentence ie ‘store?’ instead of ‘would you like to go to the store with me?’


Also interesting to note;

Our local language is slightly different in spelling and pronunciation from the languages of costal peoples only 100 miles away. While they can still understand each other it is not necessarily easy even though both are under the same umbrella of Iñupiaq language. Alaska’s native languages are broken into 10 distinct groupings with Athabaskin broken into 11 more subsets. The diversity in language is enormous and is suspected to stem from multiple colonizations via the land bridge when people first populated the Americas. Comparatively Europe which has almost 1000 times as many people, has about 10 distinct Indo-European languages.

Someone asked what language the kids speak. I commented below that they speak ‘village English’ which I realize is not a meaningful answer to most of my readers. It is similar to the pigeon English used in Hawaii in that it carries it’s own distinct grammatical rules developed apart from standard English so of which I have described above. Some words have also derived local meaning as described above which further separates village English from standard English. The vocabulary is primarily English although a few Iñupiaq words are used, usually things that they don’t hear often in school like boogers and puke and local things like the names of some local plants and animals. Adults will often use more of the Iñupiaq vocabulary and may slip back and forth between English and Iñupiaq while talking to fellow native speakers. We have and Iñupiaq class where the students work on cultural learning and language, however the largest factor, as with any learning, is how much it is spoken at home.





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