A digital Inupiaq dictionary is being created by Alaska Native linguists that combines technology, accessibility and language preservation

A digital Inupiaq dictionary is being created by Alaska Native linguists that combines technology, accessibility and language preservation

News Summary:

  • “It will work,” McLean said. ‘People are excited’. Her lifelong work has been to study, translate and preserve the Inupiaq language. Inupiaq has a wide oral tradition and limited written practices. This linguist’s effort comes at a time when only about 5% of Inupiaq speakers are fluent, and there is a growing need for language learning tools and comprehensive educational programs.

  • Edna Ahgeak Paniattaaq MacLean smiles as her granddaughter Sirroun holds a thick book in both hands and carefully places it on the table in front of her. She said, “Several young people and teenagers have told me, ‘I’m trying to learn Inupiaq, but it’s so hard!’” I looked at the dictionary and laughed. In June, MacLean and her two Yup`ik web developers, Christopher Egalaaq Liu and her Lonny Alaskuk Strunk, completed her online Iñupiaq dictionary and word-building app, available at. The project is based on McLean’s Inupiaq dictionary and aims to make language learning in schools and homes, including in rural areas, faster, easier and more accessible.

Launched by the Arctic Slope Community Foundation, the Iñupiaq Online website is the first of its kind on Inupiaq’s North Her Slope dialect and includes a dictionary, word builder, and audio library to hear how words are pronounced offers. “It was designed for everyone,” Liu said. “We help people search for words quickly,” she said. …we made it possible to refer to the underlying grammatical information, if necessary. ”

The verb “eat” has niġi as its stem, which is the part that helps determine the meaning of the phrase. Additional words are converted into various phrase components (postbases, endings, suffixes) and added to stems to build complete phrases. Through the website, the learner can select the postbase (in this case “I want”) and select the correct case of “I” to see the results of “niġisuktuŋa” or “I want to eat”.

According to Liu, about 1,200 unique users of his have visited the site so far. Visitors can find out how words are translated, see plurals of words, change verb tenses, add adjectives to nouns, and more. “Computers were taught to create new words for users based on morphological rules,” McLean said. Here’s how the word builder works: A learner may want to say “I want to eat” and enter the word “eat” into the dictionary.

Similarly, when looking up the word “truck”, learners can add other elements to the original noun to arrive at the phrase “It is a big truck” or “qamutiqpauruq”. “This is just the first step,” McLean said. “There are over 400 suffixes or postbases, but we only worked on 10.”

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