Chevak Cup’ik language

Chevak Cup’ik language
Chevak Cup’ik language
Spoken in United States
Region Central Alaska (Chevak)
Language family
Writing system Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist List esu-hoo

Chevak Cup’ik or just Cup’ik (own name Cugtun), Hooper Bay–Chevak Cup’ik language is a language or dialect of Central Alaskan Yup'ik spoken in Central Alaska in the Chevak (own name Cev’aq) and Hooper Bay by Chevak Cup’ik people (own name Cup’it or Cev’allrarmuit). Actually, Cup’ik spoken in Chevak is closer to General Central Yup’ik than it is to Nunivak Cup’ig, therefore they should not be equated. The Cup'ik dialect is threatened. The Yup'ik letter c is pronounced as an English ch.

The Central Alaskan Yupik who in the village of Chevak call themselves Cup'ik (plural Cup'it). Those who live on Nunivak Island (Nuniwar in Nunivak Cup'ig, Nunivaaq in Central Yup'ik) call themselves Cup'ig (plural Cup'it). The name Cup'ig (with g) used for Nunivak Island Yup'ik dialect. But, the name Cup'ik (with k) used for Hooper Bay-Chevak Yup'ik dialect.



Chevak, the school (blue), lake, and condemned old school (red)

The Cup’ik dialect is distinguished from Yup’ik by the change of "y" sounds into "ch" sounds, represented by the letter "c", and by some words that are completely different from Yup'ik words.

This unique identity has allowed them to form a single-site school district, the Kashunamiut School District, rather than joining a neighboring Yup’ik school district. English and Cup’ik bilingual education is done at this school. There is a tri-language system in Chevak; English, Cup’ik, and a mixture of the two languages.

Before 1950 formal education for students in Chevak took place in the Qaygiq[1] (semi-underground men's community house; Qasgi or Qasgiq[2] in Central Alaskan Yup'ik; Kiiyar in Nunivak Cup’ig; Qargi in Iñupiaq), and in the homes of the people.[3]


Central Alaskan Yup'ik-speaking areas

Vocabulary comparison

The comparison of some words in the two dialects.

Yukon-Kuskokwim Yup’ik Chevak Cup’ik meaning
elicaraq (Y) / elitnauraq (K) elicaraq
skuularaq (Cup’ik English mixed language)
elicarista (Y) / elitnaurista (K) elicarta
skuularta (Cup’ik English mixed language)
yugnikek’ngaq aiparnatugaq friend
yuilquq cuilquq the wilderness; tundra
nuussiq caviggaq knife (not semi-lunar)
uluaq kegginalek semi-lunar woman's knife
canek evek a blade or stalk of grass
ellalluk ivyuk rain


There are 18 letters used in the Cup’ik alphabet: a c e g i k l m n p q r s t u v w y.[4]

These letters are not used in the Cup’ik alphabet: b d f h j o x z.


  • Short vowels: a i u e
  • Long vowels: aa ii uu
  • Diphthongs: ai ui au iu ua ia


  • Stops: p t c k q
  • Voiced fricatives: v l y g r w
  • Voiceless fricatives: vv ll ss gg rr ww
  • Voiced nasals: m [m] n [n] ng [ŋ]
  • Voiceless nasals: m [m̥] n [n̥] ng [ŋ̊]

Russian loanwords

Hooper Bay youth, 1930

The Russian loanwords used in Chevak Cup’ik date from the period of the Russian America (1733–1867).

  • caarralaq (< Rus. сахар) 'sugar'
  • caayuq (< Rus. чай) 'tea'
  • caanik (< Rus. чайник) 'tea kettle'
  • cap’akiq ( < Rus. сапоги) 'shoe'
  • cass’aq (< Rus. часы) 'clock'
  • culunaq (?< Rus. солонина 'salted meat') 'salted fish'
  • kalantaassaq (< Rus. карандаш) 'pencil'
  • kalmaaniq (< Rus. карман) 'pocket'
  • kelipaq (< Rus. хлеб) 'bread'
  • luussitaq (< Rus. лошадь) 'horse'
  • mass’laq (< Rus. масло) 'butter; margarine'
  • missuulleq (< Rus. мешок) 'burlap sack'
  • muluk’uuq (< Rus. молоко) 'milk'
  • mult’uuq (< Rus. молоток) 'hammer'
  • pal’tuuk (< Rus. пальто) 'coat; jacket'
  • pelatekaq (< Rus. палатка) 'tent'
  • putuskaq (< Rus. подушка) 'pillow'
  • spickaq : (< Rus. спичка) 'match'
  • tiititsaaq / tiissitsaaq (< Rus. тысяча) 'thousand; one thousand dollars'
  • yaassiik : (< Rus. ящик) 'box; cardboard box'

The names of days and months

  • erneq day
  • Agayuneq ('praying') Sunday
  • Pekyun ('movement') Monday
  • Aipirin ('next') Tuesday
  • Pingayirin ('third') Wednesday
  • Citamirin ('fourth') Thursday
  • Tallimirin ('fifth') Friday
  • Maqineq ('steambath') Saturday
  • iraluq month
  • Agayuulek ('icicles') January
  • Nakrutlek ('accurate shooter') February
  • Neqlelek ('white front geese') March
  • Tunturalek ('reindeer') April
  • Cupun ('breaking river ice') May
  • Kaugun ('clubbing fish') June
  • Essgun ('newly hatched eggs') July
  • Putukuarun ('waddling ducks & geese') August
  • Amiirairun ('shedding') September
  • Cauyaun ('drumming') (in Chevak) / Ipukaqun (in Hooper Bay) October
  • Kanruyauciq ('frost') November
  • Angunquyugtuun ('big toe') December

See also


  1. ^ Qaygiq (Men’s House) by Dr. John Pingayak
  2. ^ Qasgimi : In the Qasgi
  3. ^ Alaskool: Guidebook for Integrating Cup'ik Culture and Curriculum
  4. ^

External links

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