What is a postbase? Suna Akunniġun?

If you are working with  North Slope Iñupiaq Grammar,  this comes from section 3.8 on p. 49.

In Iñupiatun, a sentence is often a single word, whereas in English, a sentence is almost always made up of multiple words. They function similar to the way suffixes work in English. Multiple postbases can be added to either verb stems or nouns, which can often create super long sentences/words.

There is no limit to the number of postbases that can be added onto a word, however, rarely are there more than 5 postbases added to any word.

There are a number of rules for attaching postbases to a noun or verb.

Categories of Postbases:

  1. Noun to Noun (nn)

attached to nouns –‘º the final product remains a noun.

Example: Aquppiutaq +qpak = Aquppiutaqpak ‘big chair’

2. Noun to Verb (nv)

attached to nouns –‘º the final product is a verb stem.

Example: annuÄ¡aaq + -qaq- = annuÄ¡aaqaq- ‘to have a garment’

3. Verb to Verb (vv)

attached to verbs –‘º final product is a verb stem.

Example: NiÄ¡i- + +valliq- = NiÄ¡ivalliq- ‘to probably eat’

4. Verb to Noun (vn)

attached to verbs –‘º final product is a noun.

Example: aglak- + -un = aglaun

Assimilation Symbols for Postbases

The North Slope Iñupiaq Grammar uses punctuation symbols to indicate how postbases are assimilated. This site will use the same symbols for consistency’s sake. Use the chart linked below for more information on how the symbols work.

Assimilation Symbols

Intransitive Verbs

Remember those dreaded grammar lessons from elementary school? Remember learning about verbs? If you can conjure up memories of those times without cringing or falling asleep then you’ll remember that a verb is an action word. It conveys the core meaning of the sentence.

In Iñupiat, there are two types of verbs: transitive and intransitive. An intransitive verb doesn’t carry action from one noun directly to another. For instance, in English we have the intransitive verbs ‘talk,’ ‘smile,’ ‘arrive,’ and ‘study.’

Laura is talking.

Max smiled.

The car arrived at the house.

The students are studying in the library.

These verbs do not carry/ transfer the action from the subject to anything else.

In an Iñupiat dictionary, you won’t likely find a verb in its complete form. You’ll find a verb stem. This is the base form of the verb, without any endings to make it a complete word. When speaking Iñupiatun, you cannot use a verb stem on its own. It needs an ending to make it a complete sentence. Below is the basic recipe for an intransitive sentence.

stem + ending = complete sentence.

You must take a verb in its stem form

Verb: SuraġaunEnglish Translation
uqaq-to talk
iglaŋa-to smile
tikit-to arrive
iḷisaq-to study

add the appropriate ending



In an earlier lesson, you learned about assimilation. Here is how assimilation works with verb stems and verb endings.

General Rule: If a verb stem ends in

Vowel: add an ending that begins with ‘r’. Ex. IglaÅ‹a- +ruq = IglaÅ‹aruq

Consonant: add an ending that begins with ‘t.’ Ex.  Uqaq- +tuq = Uqaqtuq

However, certain verb stems change the verb ending.

Verbs that end in ‘Ik’ or ‘Iq’ (remember that strong I), get an ending that starts with ‘s’. The ‘t’ changes to an ‘s’. Ex. SivunnIq- +tuq = SivunnIqsuq (‘He/she decided’)

and tara, there is your sentence!

Laura uqaqtuq

Max iglaŋaruaq.

Qamun tikitchuq iglumun.

Iḷisaqtuat iḷisaqtut makpiġaaqaġvik.



Below is the alphabet you will be using to write in Iñupiat. The easiest way to type these letters is to use the Iñupiat keyboard from languagegeek.com. Click here to download and install it onto your computer.


Iñupiat has 24 letters: 21 consonants and 3 vowels. This alphabet is called the achagat.

a, ch, g, Ä¡, h, i, k, l, Å‚, lÌ£,  Å‚Ì£, m, n, ñ, Å‹, p, q, r, s, sr,  t, u, v,  y

Check out this video for pronunciation assistance.

Not enough pronunciation assistance? Here’s another video!


In the Iñupiat dictionaries and grammar book that are available to you the consonants have been organized into a consonant grid.

Stopspt -----› chkq'
ł -----›ł̣s
Voiced Fricativesvl -----›r

For an explanation on the consonant grid, check out the podcast below

Module 1

Welcome to Module 1!

Whether you are an Iñupiat language teacher or a language learner, consider using this and the subsequent modules as a structure for teaching and learning.

In this unit, you will be covering the basics of Iñupiat words and you will begin to construct your own sentences. This is your first big step towards speaking Iñupiat! In these lessons, you be exposed to some linguistics terminology that may seem confusing at first. Do not be discouraged! This terminology is meant help you keep these grammatical concepts organized in your mind. If you are using The North Slope Iñupiaq Grammar, the terminology will also help you to work in tandem with this book.

Ki! Let’s get started! The following topics are covered in this Module.

1.1 Achagat: The Iñupiat Alphabet

1.2  Changing Sounds: Assimilation and Palatalization

1.3  Postbases

1.4  Intransitive Verbs