Chevak Cup’ik language

Chevak Cup’ik
Native to United States
Region Central Alaska (Chevak)
Ethnicity Cup'ik
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist list
Glottolog None

Chevak Cup’ik or just Cup’ik (and sometimes Cugtun) is a subdialect of Hooper Bay–Chevak dialect of Yup'ik spoken in southwestern Alaska in the Chevak (Cup'ik, Cev’aq) by Chevak Cup’ik Eskimos (own name Cup’it or Cev’allrarmuit).[1][2][3] The speakers of the Chevak subdialect used for themselves as Cup'ik (as opposed to Yup'ik), but the speakers of the Hooper Bay subdialect used for themselves as Yup'ik (not Cup'ik), as in the Yukon-Kuskokwim dialect.

The Central Alaskan Yupik who in the village of Chevak call themselves Cup'ik (plural Cup'it), whereas those who live on Nunivak Island (Nuniwar in Nunivak Cup'ig, Nunivaaq in Central Yup'ik) call themselves Cup'ig (plural Cup'it), the spelling differences serving as a self-designated cultural identifier between the two groups. In both dialects, the consonant Yup'ik c is pronounced as an English ch. The Cup’ik dialect is readily distinguished from Yup’ik in the pronunciation of Yup'ik "y" sounds as "ch" sounds (represented by the letter "c"), and by some fundamental differences in the base vocabulary and lexicon.

The oldest fully bilingual person in Chevak is Leo Moses, born in 1933; there are few if any persons born after 1945 who do not speak English.[1]

The first documentation of the Hooper Bay-Chevak dialect (beyond occasional citations) is found in the unpublished notes of Jesuit priests residing ay Hooper Bay and Kashunuk in the 1920s and 1930s. Published recognition of Hooper Bay-Chevak as a morphologically distinct dialect of Yup'ik seems to begin with Michael E. Krauss in 1973,[4] although the fundamental differences between the dialects were common knowledge among native speakers.[1] Cup'ik is a critically threatened language, and English the primary language of everyday communication among most of those with knowledge of the language.


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

Their unique cultural and linguistic 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[5] (semi-underground men's community house), and in the homes of the people.[6]

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 ulu, 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.[7]

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



Russian loanwords

Hooper Bay youth, 1930

The Russian loanwords used in Chevak Cup’ik date from the period of the Russian America (1733–1867).[8]

The names of days and months

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Woodbury, Anthony Cabot (1981), Study of the Chevak dialect of Central Yup'ik Eskimo. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.
  2. Woodbury, Anthony Cabot (2002). "The word in Cup'ik". In Dixon, R. M. W. and Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald (eds.) Word: A cross-linguistic typology, 79-99. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Woodbury, Anthony Cabot (2004). Morphological Orthodoxy in Yupik-Inuit. University of Texas, Austin
  4. Krauss, Michael E. (1973). Eskimo-Aleut. current trends in linguistics 10, ed. by Thomas a. Sebeok, 796-902. The Hague: Mouton.
  5. Qaygiq (Men’s House) by Dr. John Pingayak
  6. Alaskool: Guidebook for Integrating Cup'ik Culture and Curriculum
  8. David A Peterson (1991), Russian loan words in Central Alaskan Yup'ik. Fairbanks, Alaska, April 1991.

External links

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