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Pluralization

People learning the Alutiiq language commonly ask, “How do I make a word plural?” In English, speakers often add an s to a noun to indicate more than one item. For example, one bear becomes many bears. The addition of an s tells us that there are at least 2 bears, but perhaps 3, 4, or even 10!

In Alutiiq creating a plural noun is trickier but provides more information. Most Alutiiq nouns end in q. The q tells us the noun in singular. For example, wiinaq means a sea lion. To create a plural for wiinaq, however, you have to know how many sea lions you want to discuss. If an Alutiiq speaker wants to say that she saw two sea lions on a rock in the harbor–wiinaq takes the dual form–wiinak. In this instance the q at the end of the word becomes a k to indicate a plural of two.  If however an Alutiiq speaker wants to say that Kodiak is home to many sea lions, a different type of plural is needed. Here, the q at the end of wiinaq becomes a t–creating the word wiinat. This word tells us that there are at least three sea lions, or perhaps many more.  Wiinaq – one sea lion (singular);  Wiinak–two sea lions (dual);  Wiinat –three or more sea lions (multiple).

wiinaq - wiinak - wiinat 

sea lion - two sea lions - three+ sea lions

 Nouns Ending in Q

As a general rule, Alutiiq nouns ending in q are singular.  Those ending in k are dual (indicating two), and those ending in t are multiple (indicating three or more).

alagnaq

berry

alagnak

2 berries

alagnat

≥3 berries

Nouns Ending in K

Some nouns in Alutiiq end in k instead of q. Alutiiq nouns that end in k do not follow an easily recognizable pattern.  However, their dual and plural forms will have a final letter of k or t respectively.

iqalluk               salmon
iqalluuk              2 salmon
iqalluut ≥ 3 salmon