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Hinge, to make
Word in Alutiiq: CaRniilalirluku
In a sentence: ARapamek aturluteng caRniilalitaarlliit. - They used to use rubber boots to make hinges.
MP3 File: hinge
1829HingeSmBuilding Alutiiq words is a bit like a math equation. Alutiiq is an agglutinative language, which means that words are formed by adding word parts together. Alutiiq grammar is complex, but it is very standardized. Once you know how to build Alutiiq words, there are very few exceptions to the rules. This is different than English. For almost every grammatical rule in the English language there are exceptions!

Verbs are particularly complicated part of Alutiiq speech. In Alutiiq, verbs include action words like paddle, spear, butcher, cook, eat, and think. However, they also include words like red or ugly, terms considered adjectives in English. Often, you can identify Alutiiq verbs by their endings. In Alutiiq dictionaries and lessons, verbs appear with a luni or luku ending. For example, nerluni means ‘to eat’, and kawirlirluni means ‘to be red.’

Verbs in Alutiiq have stems. Speakers follow a set of rule to identify the verb stem. Then, they add the appropriate suffix to show the time frame, the subject, or the object they wish to describe. These suffixes are known as postbases. Interestingly, postbases allow word roots to become nouns or verbs. The word for hinge, used in this lesson, is a good example. CaRniilaliluku, means hinge, or literally to make hinges.

Hinges likely became important in Alutiiq communities in the historic era, when people began to add western-style doors to their sod houses. Using nails and strips of leather or an old rubber boot, people created strong durable supports for hanging doors.

Photo: Sod house door, Old Harbor, 1946-1949. Andrewvitch Collection.
Podcast Available: Hinge
Always, Habitually
Word in Alutiiq: -taar-
In a sentence:

Englaryumataartuq. – He is always smiling.


MP3 File: habitually
HabituallyA suffix is a letter or group of letters that can be added to the end of a word to create a new word. For example, if you add the suffix -able to the word excite, you get excitable! Alutiiq speakers build words with a special kind of suffix known as a postbase. These word parts, or particles, add a great deal of meaning to Alutiiq nouns and verbs and can appear at the end of a word or sandwiched in the middle.

By adding a postbase to a root word, Alutiiq speaks can convey location, quantity, characteristics, actions, and much more. Some postbases act like adjectives. For example, you can add the postbase -ngcuk to the stem word for dog aikur- to create aikungcuk, a small dog. Other postbases transform nouns into verbs and verbs into nouns.

A number of words that occur as independent terms in English appear as post bases in Alutiiq. For example, the Alutiiq language has no standalone word for always. Instead, Alutiiq speakers add -taar- to words, to suggest continual activity or a state of being. Englaryumataartuq. He is always smiling.

This type of word construction reflects the agglutinative character of the Alutiiq language. In Alutiiq, parts of words are added together to form a larger word. Once you know this structure, it is relatively easy to decipher Alutiiq words by identifying the meaning of each word part. Many other Alaska Native languages share this form of construction including Inupiaq, Yup’ik, and Unangan, languages related to Alutiiq, and the Athapaskan languages.

Photo: Boy playing in pail, Woody Island lower lake, Goudie Collection, Woody Island Tribal Council.
Podcast Available: Habitually
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