Counting in Yup’ik
Central Alaskan Yup’ik (also written Yupik) belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut language family. It is spoken in western and southwestern Alaska by abround 20,000 speakers. Two other Yupik languages are still spoken: the Alutiiq language (also in western and southwestern Alaska) and the Siberian Yupik (in Siberia and on the Saint Lawrence Island).
Yup’ik numbers list
- 1 – atauciq
- 2 – malruk
- 3 – pingayun
- 4 – cetaman
- 5 – talliman
- 6 – arvinglegen
- 7 – malrunglegen
- 8 – pingayunlegen
- 9 – qulngunritaraan
- 10 – qula
- 11 – qula atauciq
- 12 – qula malruk
- 13 – qula pingayun
- 14 – akimiarunrita’ar
- 15 – akimiaq
- 16 – akimiaq atauciq
- 17 – akimiaq malruk
- 18 – akimiaq pingayun
- 19 – yuinaunrita’ar
- 20 – yuinaq
- 30 – yuinaq qula
- 40 – yuinaak malruk
- 50 – yuinaak malruk qula
- 60 – yuinaat pingayun
- 70 – yuinaat pingayun qula
- 80 – yuinaat cetaman
- 90 – yuinaat cetaman qula
- 100 – yuinaat talliman
- 1,000 – tiissitsaaq
- one million – miilicaaq
- one billion – tiissitsaaq miilicaaq
The body language of counting
Yu’pik people start counting on their left hand, from the little finger to the thumb, then change hand. The word for one (atauciq) means what is indivisible, and two (malruk) the one that follows. Three (pingayun) means addendum, and the word for four (cetaman) means spread out (the arm/wings), figuring four fingers spread out. The word for five, talliman, means one arm (deriving from taɫi-, which means arm, flipper), and the word for six, arvinlegen, means cross over, as you need to change hand to go on counting. At eleven, they start counting with the toes of their right foot (the word for ten, qula, means above). The pre-contact word for eleven was athaktok, which means it goes down, showing thus that the counting is now performed with the toes, a meaning lost with the modern eleven word, as qula atauciq means 10 plus 1. The word for nine, qulmgunritaraan, means not quite ten, and nineteen, yuinaunritaraan, means not quite twenty. The word for twenty, yuinaq, derives from yuk, the whole person, as all fingers and toes are now used.
The meaning of some morphemes
Being an agglutinative language, and more specifically an affixally polysynthetic language, Yup’ik adds morphemes, or small linguistic units having a semantic meaning, to other words to modify their meaning. The names of numbers include morphemes too. Here is a list of some of them.
-k is the dual marker, i.e. the marker for the count of two entities.
yuinaak malruk  can be translated as twenty-dual two, hence (20 * 2)
tiissitsaaq [1,000] gives malruk tiissitsaak [2,000] with the same marker.
-t is the plural marker, i.e. the marker for the count of more than two entities.
yuinaat pingayun  can be translated as twenty-plural three, hence (20 * 3)
tiissitsaaq [1,000] gives qulen tiissitsaat [10,000] with the same marker.
-legen means cross over
malrunglegen  is two-cross over, meaning two plus one hand or (2 + 5)
pingayunlegen  is three-cross over, meaning three plus one hand or (3 + 5)
-ata means to cling/adhere; to become attached/together/united and -usiq means manner/custom/habit of; usual way of doing something
atauciq  litterary means the adherence; what is indivisible; attachment; appendage.
malik- means to follow/accompany and -ruq means spot; a unit of, a section or part of
malruk  litterary means the following unit; the one that follows.
Yup’ik numbering rules
Now that you’ve had a gist of the most useful numbers, let’s move to the writing rules for the tens, the compound numbers, and why not the hundreds, the thousands and beyond (if possible).
- As Yup’ik is using a vigesimal system, i.e. a numeral system of base 20, numbers from one to nineteen are specific words, namely atauciq , malruk , pingayun , cetaman , talliman , arvinglegen , malrunglegen , pingayunlegen , qulngunritaraan , qula , qula atauciq , qula malruk , qula pingayun , akimiarunrita’ar , akimiaq , akimiaq atauciq , akimiaq malruk , akimiaq pingayun , and yuinaunrita’ar . As we can see, from eleven to thirteen, we add the digit after the ten, then we nearly arrive to fifteen, and from sixteen to eighteen, we add the unit to fifteen, making the base a mix between a vigesimal system (of base 20) and a quinary system (of base 5): to count up to twenty, we need four steps of five units.
- The tens are built by multiplying twenty and adding ten: qula , yuinaq , yuinaq quala  (20 + 10), yuinaak malruk  (20 * 2), yuinaak malruk qula  (20 * 2 + 10), yuinaat pingayun  (20 * 3), yuinaat pingayun qula  (20 * 3 + 10), yuinaat cetaman  (20 * 4) and yuinaat cetaman qula  (20 * 4 + 10). Numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine are built by saying the ten, then the digit separated with a space (e.g.: yuinaq talliman ).
- The forming of hundreds follows the tens, adding the fifteen word in the calculation. In a base 20 system, the role of 100, the base multiplied by itself (10 * 10), is played by 400 (which is twenty times twenty). Thus we have: yuinaat talliman  (20 * 5), yuinaat qulen  (20 * 10), yuinaat akimiaq  (20 * 15), yuinaat yuinaq  (20 * 20), yuinaat yuinaq talliman  (20 * (20 + 5)), yuinaat yuinaq qula  (20 * (20 + 10)), yuinaat yuinaq akimiaq  (20 * (20 + 15)), yuinaat yuinaak malruk  (20 * 20 * 2), and yuinaat yuinaak malruk talliman  (20 * 20 * 2 + (5 * 20)).
- One thousand is rendered by tiissitsaaq, and the other thousands are made by setting the multiplier before them (e.g.: malruk tiissitsaak [2,000], qulen tiissitsaat [10,000], yuinaat talliman tiissitsaaq [100,000]).
- The word for one million is miilicaaq, and one billion (109) is tiissitsaaq miilicaaq, namely one thousand million, hence putting de facto the Yup’ik language in the group of the long scale users (where every new word greater than a million is one million times bigger than the previous term).
Write a number in full in Yup’ik
Let’s move now to the practice of the numbering rules in Yup’ik. Will you guess how to write a number in full? Enter a number and try to write it down in your head, or maybe on a piece of paper, before displaying the result.
Yup’ik (Central Eskimo) Language Guide (and more!)
Terryl Miller, editors World Friendship Publishing (2006)
Practical Grammar of the Central Alaskan Yup’ik Eskimo Language
by Steven A. Jacobson, editors Alaska Native Language Center (1995)
My Yupik Counting Book: Counting To “10” in Yupik
by Helen Marrs, editors CreateSpace (2009)
Yup’ik Eskimo Dictionary
editors Alaska Native Language Center (1984)
- Culturally negociated schooling: toward a Yup’ik mathematics, by Jerry Lipka, in Journal of American Indian Education, Volume 33 Number 3, May 1994
Alutiiq, and Yup’ik.
Other supported languages
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