Alaska Local linguists create a virtual Inupiaq dictionary, combining generation, accessibility and language preservation

Alaska Local linguists create a virtual Inupiaq dictionary, combining generation, accessibility and language preservation
Alaska Local linguists create a virtual Inupiaq dictionary, combining generation, accessibility and language preservation

UTQIAĠVIK — Edna Ahgeak Paniattaaq MacLean smiled when her granddaughter Sirroun carried a thick tome with two arms and put it sparsely at the desk ahead of her.

“I had some younger folks or youngsters inform me, ‘We’re making an attempt to be informed Iñupiaq however it’s so heavy!’” linguist and educator MacLean laughed, having a look on the Iñupiaq dictionary she wrote.

In June, MacLean and two Yup’ik internet builders, Christopher Egalaaq Liu and Lonny Alaskuk Strunk, finished an internet Iñupiaq dictionary and word-building app, to be had at The venture is in accordance with MacLean’s Iñupiaq dictionary and objectives to make studying the language in class and at house sooner, more uncomplicated and extra available, even in rural spaces.

“It’ll paintings,” MacLean mentioned. “Persons are interested by it.”

Her lifestyles’s paintings has been to check, translate and keep Iñupiaq — a language with an in depth oral custom however restricted written observe. The linguist’s efforts come at a time when simplest about 5% of Iñupiaq audio system are fluent, and the desire for language-learning equipment, in addition to complete instructional methods, is rising.

The Iñupiaq On-line web page — introduced via the Arctic Slope Group Basis — is the primary of its type for the North Slope dialect of Iñupiaq and includes a dictionary, a word-building serve as and an audio library to listen to the best way phrases are pronounced.

“It used to be designed for everybody,” Liu mentioned. “We’ve got it in order that folks can simply glance up phrases briefly. … We made it in order that they are able to glance up the underlying grammatical knowledge in the event that they need to.”

Up to now, about 1,200 distinctive audience have visited the web page, Liu mentioned. Guests can glance up the way to translate a notice, see the plural type of the notice, exchange the traumatic of a verb or upload an adjective to a noun.

“The pc has been taught to create new phrases for the person in accordance with the morphological laws,” MacLean mentioned.

Iñupiaq dictionary and sentence-building app

That is how the word-building instrument works: A learner would possibly need to say, “I need to devour,” and sort the notice “devour” into the dictionary. The verb “to devour” has niġi because the stem, which is the phase that is helping power the which means of the word. To construct out the whole word, further phrases are translated into other word elements — postbases, endings and suffixes — which can be then hooked up to the stem.

The use of the web page, a learner can pick out a postbase — on this case, “I need to” — then make a choice the proper case for “I” and notice the outcome as “niġisuktuŋa,” or “I need to devour.”

In the similar manner, via having a look up the notice “truck,” rookies can finally end up with the sentence, “This can be a giant truck,” or “qamutiqpauruq,” via including different parts to the unique noun.

“That is simply the primary degree,” MacLean mentioned. “There are over 400 suffixes or postbases, and we’ve labored simplest on 10.”

Iñupiaq dictionary and sentence-building app

Beginning once September, linguists plan to start out bettering the algorithms for the web page to incorporate extra complicated parts — as an example, connective verb words for complicated sentences — in addition to conversational words.

“We’re making plans to make updates to the web page and come with extra sentence varieties,” Liu mentioned, “and in addition identical to, bringing in perhaps extra discussion, or conversational-centered speech. … Over the following yr, you’ll be expecting to look updates to the web page.”

For now, rookies can use the present model of the web page and revel in featured paintings created via the overdue Iñupiaq sculptor, silversmith and woodcarver, Ronald Senungetuk.

Iñupiaq On-line isn’t the primary language venture that linguists Liu and Strunk have labored on in combination. A couple of years in the past, they constructed a an identical web page for the Yugtun language and introduced it on the 2018 AFN Conference. The web page won overwhelmingly certain comments, particularly at the translation serve as of the web page, Liu mentioned.

The verdict to construct an internet instrument for Iñupiaq adopted naturally: Each the Yugtun and Iñupiaq languages should not have many irregularities, and so they observe an outlined construction, making word- and sentence-building extra predictable, Strunk mentioned.

“Finding out in regards to the mathematical consistency of the language — these kinds of laws may also be shaped to create whole phrases — used to be very fascinating to me,” he mentioned. “I may just see the there can be packages for … extra thrilling language equipment.”

The venture used to be firstly funded thru an $82,609 grant from the federal Management for Kids and Households ultimate yr and can quickly obtain further investment during the Bureau of Indian Affairs, mentioned Ryan Cope, director of grant methods with the Arctic Slope Group Basis.

To create Inupiaq On-line, MacLean, Liu and Strunk met weekly by way of Zoom. MacLean would take a look at the web page design and provides builders comments. Finding out from MacLean’s insights used to be a spotlight of the venture for Liu.

“She wrote the grammar books. She compiled the dictionary. She’s Iñupiaq herself and the speaker of the language,” he mentioned. “It’s fantastic as a result of a large number of Local assets, language assets, are regularly no longer written via their very own folks.”

Edna Ahgeak MacLean, linguist, Inupiaq language app

In her Utqiaġvik area a couple of steps from the well-known whale bone arch, MacLean used to be slicing muktuk on a foggy afternoon in overdue June. The 77-year-old linguist lives in Anchorage however often visits her house village. This time she got here for Nalukataq, to have fun the whale her brother landed.

Utqiaġvik is the place MacLean’s interest for language took form.

MacLean grew up at a time when oldsters had been requested to talk English to their youngsters, however her father Joseph Ahgeak refused to observe the guideline. In 3rd grade, a specifically strict trainer stuck MacLean talking Iñupiaq and punished her.

“I used to be stuck as soon as so she pulled my ear,” MacLean mentioned, “and I screamed the heck out of ache.”

The younger MacLean got here house for lunch that day, dressed in her hood up. Her mom Maria Ahgeak made her take off her parka ahead of consuming, and realized what took place after she noticed her daughter’s brilliant crimson ears.

“She were given completely mad,” MacLean mentioned. “She placed on one in all my brothers’ parkas … and stormed around the lagoon. It used to be frozen so she stormed around the lagoon and bumped into my trainer’s lecture room and grabbed her via the arm. ‘I’m taking you to the essential’s and there, I’m going to drag your ear!’ ”

MacLean’s dating along with her trainer advanced after that, and MacLean felt much more enthusiastic about talking her local language it doesn’t matter what.

“I used to be one of the most those who used to be punished for talking Iñupiaq, and I were given mad, and my mom were given mad,” she mentioned. “So we simply roughly mentioned, ‘OK, we’re going to do it anyway.’ So I’ve saved up that hobby.”

Fluent from the time she used to be a kid, MacLean didn’t turn into literate in Iñupiaq till she used to be in her 20s and labored along with her mentor, Michael E. Krauss, a linguist and founding father of the Alaska Local Language Heart. Then MacLean taught Iñupiaq on the College of Alaska Fairbanks and immersed herself within the learn about of the language.

She wrote two Iñupiaq grammar books and revealed her newest dictionary in 2014, which took years of labor. First, MacLean wrote down each notice she knew. When she would run throughout a notice she didn’t know, she would name her oldsters and ask them to give an explanation for it to her. And if her oldsters didn’t know that notice both, she requested elders, hunters and different longtime Iñupiaq audio system.

Edna Ahgeak MacLean, linguist, Inupiaq language app

Whilst equipment like dictionaries and apps could make studying more uncomplicated, MacLean mentioned that some of the efficient tactics to keep Iñupiaq locally is to create immersion methods that let scholars to check the language on a deeper stage and for longer sessions of time.

“That’s the next move that we want to do,” she mentioned. “Within the colleges, they have got Iñupiaq language methods, however it’s no longer generating audio system. They’re instructing it in segments, and so they don’t have a real immersion surroundings for the kids, particularly the preschoolers, to be informed it briefly. … The immersion approach appears to be the one manner that works.”

Linguists are proceeding to paintings on Iñupiaq On-line to make it as helpful as imaginable, Liu mentioned, whilst conserving in thoughts {that a} web page can’t be a complete instructional useful resource for the language.

“You’ll be able to’t truly be told the whole lot thru an app or thru a web page,” Liu mentioned. “It’s a must to additionally observe and have interaction with folks.”

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