Atiġausit: Nouns

Remember again all those grammar lessons you received as a kid. Remember that a noun is a word that refers to a person, place, thing or idea. Of course, in Iñupiat, nouns look different than English nouns.

Iñupiat nouns come in singular, dual and plural forms. How will you be able to identify Iñupiat nouns? By following these guidelines:

  1. a singular noun can end in any of these letters: a, i, u, n, k, q
  2. all dual nouns end in k
  3. all plural nouns end in t (or ch after a strong i)

Nouns play many roles in Iñupiat sentences. They can be the subject, object, or they can even become the verb of the sentence. In order for an Iñupiat noun to play different roles in a sentence, it either needs to have a postbase attached or it needs to be in a specific noun case. A noun case is a special suffix ending, similar to a postbase. But, unlike a postbase, you can’t attach anything else onto a noun case.

There are 9 noun cases. If you are following the Module schedule, then you’ve already learned about one of the uses of the Relative Case, and one use of the Modalis Case. If you continue with the modules, you will learn about the other noun cases along with other grammar concepts.

If you would like to learn about the functions of all the noun cases, check out the chart linked below.

Iñupiaq Noun Cases


Are you able to identify Iñupiat nouns? Practice here.

Transitive Verbs

To learn about intransitive verbs, go here.

Ok, here’s a quick rundown of what transitive verbs are. Remember that verbs carry action. Intransitive verbs do not transfer the action directly to an object. However, transitive verbs do. Take the English verbs ‘help,’ ‘eat,’ and ‘see.’

‘Ted is helping Barney and Robin.’

‘Marshall is eating three pancakes.’

‘Lily sees a picture.’

Ted-gum ikayuġaik Barney-lu Robin-lu.

Marshall-gum niġigai siḷaavyaich piŋasut.

Lily-m qiñiġaa qiñiġaaq.


In order to create transitive sentences, you need a minimum of three ingredients:

  1. transitive verb
  2. relative noun
  3. direct object

Transitive verbs take endings that are different from intransitive verb endings. These verb endings indicate the person and number. This lesson will cover indicative verb endings.

Remember that you must begin crafting your sentence with a verb stem and complete it with a verb ending. There are a number of postbases that can be added in between, but right now we will focus on this formula:

verb stem + ending = sentence

ikayuq ‘to help’ + ai ‘3rd sing – 3rd pl’ = ikayuġai ‘He/she is helping them.’

niġigai

qiñiġaa

For verb endings, we’ll use a chart similar to the intransitive verb chart.

Transitive Verb Endings

  3rd Person2nd Person1st Person
singulardualpluralsingulardualpluralsingulardualplural
1st Personsingularigaikkaitkaikpiñivsikivsi
dual ikpukivukivukivsigiñivsikivsi
pluralikputivutivutivsigiñivsikivsi
2nd Personsingularinikkiñitiniŋmaivsigukivsigut
dualiksikisikisikivsiŋŋaivsigukivsigut
pluraliksiiksiisiivsiŋŋaivsigukivsigut
3rd Personsingularaaaikaiaatinaasikaasiaaŋaaatigukaatigut
dualaakaikaitaatinaasikaasiaaŋŋaaatigukaatigut
pluralaataikaitaatinaasikaasiaanŋaaatigukaatigut
Assimilate according to the following verb stem-finals:

Vowel: add g + ending
Consonants: add k + ending
k: add k + ending
It (Strong I): palatalize t to ch + ending
q: assimilate q to ġ, add ending

Assimilation Examples:

ai- “to fetch (someone/something)”

Aigiga utkusik.

paqit- “to find (someone/something)”

Paqitkaa tammaqtuaq

SuŋIt- “to not say/do anything (to someone/something)”

Suŋitchaat “They are not saying anything to them”

piḷak- “to butcher (a game animal)”

ullak- “to approach (someone/something)”

ullakkaatin “She is approaching you.”

qiñiq- “to watch, look at, see (someone/something)”

Relative Case: Who’s doing what?

In your transitive Iñupiat sentence, the subject of your sentence must be in the relative noun case. This is different from intransitive sentences, where the subject is in the absolutive case (in other words, no change is made to the noun). To get started, let’s take a look at these two English sentences.

Aalaak sees the Kanauq.

Kanauq is helping her grandmother.

Notice that the endings of the subjects change.

Aalaagum qiñiġaa Kanauq.

Kanaum ikayuġaa aakani.

Remember from the noun case chart, that the marker for the relative case is -m or -gum

Assimilation: these are the assimilation rules for the relative case.

Pay attention to the noun stem ending to see how you add the relative case maker -m or -gum

Vowel (-n finals get changed to -ti and -ñ finals get changed to -si): just add

iglu         iglum

nuviya    nuviyam

aŋun      aŋutim

Weak q: q gets dropped

aġnaq       aġnam

qimmiq    qimmim

Strong consonant (Q or k): add :um

natchiQ   natchiġum

tupiQ       tupqum

for -k endings, k becomes g and then is dropped if it is between two single vowels.

uyaġak     uyaġaum

kamik       kamŋum

Dual and Plural: these words look the same whether they are in the relative case or the absolutive case. Take a look at these examples.

 Absolutive
Singular
Relative
Singular
Relative and Absolutive
Dual
Relative and Absolutive
Plural
'teacher'IḷisaurriIḷisaurrimIḷisaurrikIḷisaurrit
'dog'qimmiqqimmimqimmikqimmit
'tent'tupiQtupiġumtuppaktupqich
'rock'uyaġakuyaġaumuyaġaikuyaġait

Transitive Sentences

Ok, here’s a quick rundown of what transitive verbs are. Remember that verbs carry action. Intransitive verbs do not transfer the action to an object. However, transitive verbs do. Take the English verbs ‘help,’ ‘eat,’ and ‘see.’

‘Ted helped Barney and Robin.’

‘Marshall ate a three pancakes.’

‘Lily sees a picture.’

Ted-gum ikayuġaa Barney-lu Robin-lu.

Marshall-gum niġigai silaavyak piŋasut.

Lily-m qiñiġaa qiñiġaaq.


In order to create transitive sentences, you need a minimum of three ingredients: a transitive verb, a relative noun, and a direct object. Follow the links to learn how to create a transitive sentence.

2.1.1 transitive verb

2.1.2 relative noun

2.1.3 direct object