About This Place
Central Alaskan Yup'ik or just Yup'ik (also called Yupik, or Central Yup'ik) is a Yupik language of the Eskimo language family, in turn a member of the Eskimo–Aleut language group, spoken in western and southwestern Alaska. Both in ethnic population and in number of speakers, Central Alaskan Yup'ik is the largest of the languages spoken by Alaska Natives. Central Alaskan Yup'ik lies geographically and linguistically between Alutiiq and Central Siberian Yupik. The use of the apostrophe in Central Alaskan Yup'ik, as opposed to Siberian Yupik, denotes a long p. The word Yup'ik represents not only the language but also the name for the people themselves (yuk, 'person,' and pik, 'real'.) Of a total population of more than 23,000 people, more than 14,000 are speakers of the language. Children still grow up speaking Yup'ik as their first language in 17 of 68 Yup'ik villages, those mainly located on the lower Kuskokwim River, on Nelson Island, and along the coast between the Kuskokwim River and Nelson Island.
The difference between Yup'ik and Iñupiaq is roughly the same as the difference between Spanish and French. Yup'ik should not be confused with the related language Yupik.
A syllabary known as the Yugtun script was invented for the language by Uyakoq, a native speaker, in about 1900, although the language is now mostly written using the Latin alphabet. Early linguistic work in Central Yup'ik was done primarily by Russian Orthodox, then Jesuit Roman Catholic and Moravian Church missionaries, leading to a modest tradition of literacy used in letter writing. In the 1960s, Irene Reed and others at the Alaska Native Language Center developed a modern writing system for the language. Their work led to the establishment of the state's first school bilingual programs in four Yup'ik villages in the early 1970s. Since then a wide variety of bilingual materials has been published, as well as Steven Jacobson's comprehensive dictionary of the language and his complete practical classroom grammar, and story collections and narratives by many others including a full novel by Anna Jacobson.