Cup'ik is a dialect of the Yup'ik Eskimo language. It is one of the four major dialects of the Yup'ik language: General Central Yup'ik, Hooper Bay-Chevak, Norton Sound, and Nunivak Island [consider the English language and a few of its dialects: Southern (e.g., a speaker from Texas), Eastern (e.g., a speaker from New York), and abroad; Australia and UK].


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.

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


.......................Cup'ik Sound Chart

........Vowels..................................................................... .........................Consonants

Single: a i u e..................................... .......................................Stops: p t c k q

Double: aa ii uu ................................................Voiced Fricatives: v l y g r w ia ua ........................................Voiceless Fricatives: vv ll ss gg rr ww iu ui.......................................................Voiced Nasals: m n ng

........................................................ . ......................Voiceless Nasals: m n ng



Single vowels: a, i, u, e

[Note: all of the single vowels are short. The sounds a, i, and u are considered full vowels, because of the full sounds they make; the e sound is considered a lesser vowel, because its sound is almost inaudible and is not included in the double vowels.]

a: the [ah] sound as in the English word 'what'.

ex. ala, angak, manaq

i: the [i] sound as in the English word 'pin' or 'fill'.

ex. pili, ikika, cingiq

u: the [u] sound as in the English word 'put' or 'pull'.

ex. kulun, kuk'uq, culunaq

e: the schwa (indicated as an upside down e in dictionary pronunciation keys) sound,

as in the English word 'bucket' or 'lecture'.

ex. kegginalek, evget, keneq


Double vowels: aa ii uu ia ua

................. au iu ui

aa: [ä], as the 'o' sound in the English word 'long'.

ex. aana, aata, maani

ai: [ eye ], as in the whole English word 'eye'.

ex. tailuten, qainga, aipaq

au: [ou], as the 'ow' in the English word 'town'.

ex. tauna, aumak, auk

ii: [ee], as the 'ee' in the English word 'feel'.

ex. ciin, qiiq, iik

ia: [a], as the 'a' in the English word 'bad'.

ex. piani, mianikuq, maniaq

iu: [eew], as the 'ew' in the English word 'few'.

ex. ciun, ciutek, piuraa, kiugiu

uu: [ooh], as the 'oo' in the English word 'moon'.

ex. cuuguuq, uutuq, cuukiiq

ua: [ô], as the 'o' in the English word 'horse'.

ex. tuavua, Utuan, taigua

ui: [wee], as the 'wee' in the English word 'sweet'.

ex. cuinaq, kuik, muirtuq, aquiguq




Stops: p, t, c, k, q

p: sound between English p & b sounds, as the p sound in the word 'spill' or 'spit.'

ex. pap'a, piipi

t: 1) soft: sound between English t & d sounds, as the t sound in the word

'still' or 'stiff.'

ex. tuntuq, tawa, patu

  1. hard: English [t] sound, usually made at the end of a word, or before a nasal sound.

ex. utnguq, awatmun, Cupiit

c: English [ch] sound.

ex. cuk, acacungaq

k: 1) soft: sound between the English k & g sounds, as the k sound in 'skill' or 'skit.'

ex. kan'a, kiiki, kaaka

2) hard: English [k] sound, usually made at the end of a word, or before a nasal


ex. Cup'ik, ikna

q: sound made further back in the mouth, in the area where the throat is cleared, placed

exactly where the Cup'ik r (fricative section) sound is made.

ex. qaqituq, qunguq, aqngirtuq



Fricatives (or continuants): [v, l, y, g, r, w; vv, ll, ss, gg, rr, ww]

Voiced: v, l, y, g, r, w

v: English [v] sound.

ex. evek, avneq, kaviaq

l: English [l] sound.

ex. elituq, al'qaq, liqneq

y: English [y] sound, as in yes, yo-yo, yacht, or the name Yani; but not in try.

ex. ayii, quyana, taryuq

g: placed exactly where the [k] sound is made, but tongue barely touching the roof of the mouth.

ex. egan, agi, agyaaq

r: placed exactly where the [q] sound is made, but tongue barely touching the back of the mouth.

A French person who pronounces the 'r' in the word Paris is exactly the same way our [r] sound is pronounced.

ex. uruq, arnaq, eruri

w: English [w] sound.

ex. wani, wangkuta, awani, waani


Voiceless: vv, ll, ss, gg, rr, ww

[Note: when a voiceless fricative is placed either before or after a stop consonant, then it will be undoubled, but still voiceless-- unless placed with a separator (indicated by an apostrophe) between them, thus making the fricative to become voiced; compare alqaq (voiceless--Yup'ik pronunciation of 'sister') and al'qaq (voiced--Cup'ik pronunciation of 'sister')]

vv: English [f] sound.

ex. avvutuk, kuvkaaq, civvluku (note: the l in 'civvluku' is also voiceless.)

ll: position your tongue as if you are going to pronounce the English [l] sound; then blow out the

sides of your mouth.

An example would be how the Welsh pronounce their [ll] sound, as in the names

Lloyd and Llewellyn. Another example (as merely an example) would be a person who has trouble pronouncing the [s] sounds, replacing them with [ll] sounds.

ex. allaneq, kalluk, cilla, qeltaq, iqluuq, elpet

ss: English [s] sound.

ex. Qissunaq, ciissiq, aqsaq, cisquq, peksutuq, pupsuuk

gg: placed exactly where the [k] and [g] sounds are made; example, make an English [wh] sound, then loosen your lips so that they are not rounded.

ex. maaggun, keggun, kegginalek, keggna, megtaq, pitgaq

rr: placed exactly where the [q] and [r] sounds are made.

ex. aarraq, qurrun, metraq, arca, uqrutaq

ww: English [wh] sound.

ex. atawwauguq, aukwaugaq



Nasals: m, n, ng; m, n, ng


Voiced: m, n, ng

m: English [m] sound, as in the English word 'mom'.

n: English [n] sound, as in the English word 'noon'.

ng: English [ng] sound, as in the English word 'swing'.

examples: maani, ingna, anngaq, pingraan, tengssuun


Voiceless: m, n, ng (when written out, these nasals have to have a hat, or an upward slanted mark, above them.)

[Note: when a voiceless nasal is placed after a stop consonant, it is automatically devoiced; thus there is no need for a hat.]

m: [hmh] (made simultaneously by blowing out of the nose)

n: [hnh] (made simultaneously by blowing out of the nose)

ng: [hngh] (made simultaneously by blowing out of the nose)

examples: ciniini, qimugtenguuq, taqmak





Grammatical Rules

Automatic Gemination

Notice below all the letters that are in bold print.

Those letter/sounds are automatically geminated, because they are between one and two vowels. There must be only one vowel in front of the consonant, and two vowels after it.

That means that they sound like they are sounded out twice, as in the English word bookkeeper. In bookkeeper, the k sounds are not separated. So are they in the automatically geminated Cup'ik words.

ayii patuu iliini nuniini ataata anaana assiituq quliini amatiini pikiu ellia

kegguulluten qapiara egauq aciani uquuguq kaviaq marualuni tawaam

qerruuq amiik cangaituq tamuaguq cucuuq pellaaguq passia


Marked Gemination

Marked gemination is indicated by an apostrophe. The syllable before the apostrophe is stressed, and the consonant right before the apostrophe sounds doubled.

pap'a (compare papa) cup'uq (compare cupuq) taq'uq (compare taquq) mit'uq (compare mituq) al'a (compare ala)

qup'uq (compare qupuq) qang'a (compare qanga) kiv'uq (compare kivuq) ang'uq (compare anguq)

Tung'i (a nickname)(compare Tungi) qurr'uq (compare qurruq) Cak'u (a nickname) (compare Caku)

muluk'uuq (compare mulukuuq) ap'a (compare apa) ul'uq (compare uluq) wall'u (compare wallu) cin'aq (compare cinaq)

Ul'a (a nickname) (compare Ula) Pin'i (a nickname) (compare Pini) mak'aq (compare makaq) tak'uq (compare takuq)

tegg'uq (compare tegguq) kass'aq (compare kassaq) cass'aq (compare cassaq) palagg'aayaq (compare palaggaayaq)




Sound Separators

Sound separators are also indicated by an apostrophe. In this case, the apostrophe is placed between two sounds to separate them from either automatic devoicing and the [n] and [g].

can'giiq (compare cangiiq) Tan'giigaq (a last name) (compare Tangiigaq) al'qaq (compare alqaq)

Mik'ngayak (an Eskimo name) (compare Mikngayak) tan'gurraq (compare tangurraq) il'quq (compare ilquq)

aq'vuq (compare aqvuq) kal'taq (compare kaltaq) kal'ciissaq (compare kalciissaq) qup'luq (compare qupluq)

\mul'tuuk (compare multuuk) it'gaq (compare itgaq) nav'pagtuq (compare navpagtuq)



Automatic Devoicing of Fricatives
Fricatives, whenever they are before or after a consonant, are automatically voiceless, unless a sound separator (apostrophe) is put between them.


For any questions about Cup'ik language and grammar, you may contact me, Rebecca Kelly, at

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.... ...aana- mother

aarraq- hand string-game

aata- father

acacungaq- father's sister (aunt)

aciani- 'underneath it.'

agi- 'go over.'

agyaaq- glove

aipaq- partner

ala- 'oh!'

al'a- big sister (usually addressed as a term of endearment)

allaneq- stranger; visitor

al'qaq- big sister

amatiini- 'on the other side of it.'

amiik- door; porch

anaana- mother's sister (aunt)

angak- (short for angacungaq) mother's brother

ang'uq- 'it is big.'

ap'a- grandpa

aqngirtuq- 'he, she, or it is hurt physically.'

aqsaq- belly, abdomen

aq'vuq- 'he or she is running.'

arca- 'enough!'

arnaq- woman; female

assiituq- 'it is bad.'

ataata- father's brother (uncle)

atawwauguq- 'he, she, or it is a blessing.'

auk- blood

aukwaugaq- yesterday

aumak- ember from a burned wood

avneq- ghostly humming sound

avvutuk- 'they2 are divorcing/breaking up.'

awani- 'farther over there.'

awatmun- 'towards farther over there.'

ayii- 'go away!'

cangaituq- 'he, she, or it won't do anything.'

can'giiq- blackfish

cass'aq- wristwatch or clock

ciin- 'why?; how come?

ciissiq- bug; insect; low-crawling cold-blooded creature

cilla- the outside, universe, awareness, or air

cin'aq- aged salmon fish

cingiq- shoe lace

ciniini- 'on the edge of it.'

cisquq- knee

ciun- ear

ciutek- two ears

civvluku- 'set the net.'

cucuuq- 'he or she would like to have the same thing.'

cuinaq- twenty

cuk- person; human being

culunaq- salted salmon fish

Cupiit- the Cup'ik People

cup'uq- 'the ice is breaking up.' (in the Spring)

cuuguuq- 'it is a person; it is a human being; he or she lives.'

cuukiiq- sock

egan- cooking pot

egauq- 'he or she is cooking.'

elituq- 'he or she is learning.'

ellia- 'he or she put it down.'

elpet- 'you.' (one person)

eruri- 'wash dishes.' (to one person)

evek- a blade of grass or reed

evget- plural of evek

iik- eye

ikika- 'for sure!'

ikna- 'that one across there.'

iliini- 'sometimes.'

il'quq- brain

ingna- 'that one.'

iqluuq- 'he or she is lying.'

it'gaq- foot

kaaka- 'listen!'

kal'ciissaq- a bb pellet, used in guns

kalluk- thunder and/or lightning

kal'taq- card from a deck of cards

kan'a- that one down there

kass'aq- white person; Caucasian

kaviaq- red fox

kegginalek- semi-lunar Eskimo woman's knife; ulu

keggna- 'that one out there.'

keggun- tooth

kegguulluten- 'take a bite.'

keneq- fire

kiiki- 'come on; hurry.'

kiugiu- 'answer her, him, or it' (to one person)

kiv'uq- 'he or she feels miserable.'

kuik- river

kuk'uq- ghost or monster, usually said to and by a young child

kulun- ring used on a finger

kuvkaaq- to whistle

liqneq- a pattern used for making clothes

maaggun- 'this way.'

maani- 'here in this area.'

mak'aq- creamy Eskimo ice cream

manaq- hook, line, and stick for fishing or jigging

maniaq- fry bread or pancakes

marualuni- 'howling like a dog or wolf.'

megtaq- bumble bee

metraq- king eider duck

mianikuq- 'he or she is being careful.'

mit'uq- 'it is landing.'

muirtuq- 'it is full to the rim.'

mul'tuuk- hammer

muluk'uuq- milk

nav'pagtuq- 'it broke hard.'

nuniini- near it

palagg'aayaq- beaver hat

pap'a- to eat; food (said to and by a baby or toddler)

passia- 'he, she, or it crushed it.'

patu- cover

patuu- 'close it.'

peksutuq- 'he or she found eggs.'

pellaaguq- 'he or she got lost.'

piani- 'up there.'

piipi- baby

pikiu- 'have it.' 'you will tell him or her.'

pili- 'let him or her.'; 'make' (as an order to someone)

pingraan- 'even so.'

pitgaq- arrow

piuraa- 'bye.' (to one person)

pupsuuk- scissors

qainga- 'the top or surface of it.'

qang'a- no

qapiara- 'skin an animal.' (to one person)

qaqituq- 'he or she is done.'

qeltaq- fish scale; scab

qerruuq- 'he or she is having hypothermia or is very cold.'

qiiq- white or gray hair

qimugtenguuq- 'it is a dog.'

Qissunaq- the area of the Kashunak River

quliini- 'above it.'

qunguq- grave site

qup'luq- fly larva; maggot

qup'uq- 'it is breaking in half.'

qurrun- urinal, locally known as 'honey bucket'.

qurr'uq- 'he/she is urinating.'

quyana- 'thank you'

taigua- ' I'm coming over.'

tailuten- 'come here.' (to one person)

tak'uq- 'it is tall; it is lengthy.'

tamuaguq- 'he/she is chewing.'

tan'gurraq- young boy

taqmak- dress; skirt

taq'uq- 'he/she/it is quitting; he/she/it is done.'

taryuq- salt

tauna- 'that one.'

tawa- 'that's enough; no more; okay.'

tawaam- however; that is all.

tegg'uq- 'it is hard.'

tengssuun- airplane

tuavua- 'I am very busy.'; 'I am panicking.'

tuntuq- caribou; reindeer

ul'uq- 'it is high tide; the tide is coming up.'

uqrutaq- wind block set up on the ground

uquuguq- 'it is oil.'

uruq- wet moss

utnguq- wart

uutuq- 'he/she/it burned.'

waani- 'towards the exit.' (of a house or a river)

wall'u- 'or'

wangkuta- 'all of us.'

wani- 'right here.'

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