Central Alaskan Yup'ik is a language of the Eskimo-Aleut family, spoken in southwestern Alaska by over 10,000 people. Like other languages in the family, Yup'ik has much to contribute to the study of valency-changing derivation, particularly because of its explicit specification of grammatical relations and its wealth of valency-changing devices. The roles of participants in events and states are distinguished both by case suffixes on nouns and by pronominal suffixes on verbs. The language is highly polysynthetic, with hundreds of derivational suffixes, many of which affect argument structure. The rich inventory of valency-changing devices provides a fruitful basis for cross-linguistic comparison, showing us ways in which such devices can vary in their semantic, syntactic and discourse effects.
The basic grammatical structures of the Eskimoan languages are well understood, thanks to pioneering work on Greenlandic by Egede (1750, 1760), Kleinschmidt (1851), and many others working with Eskimo-Aleut languages since that time. Fine descriptions of Yup'ik are now available, especially Woodbury (1981), Jacobson (1984, 1995), Miyaoka (1984, 1987, 1996 and 1997) and Reed, Miyaoka, Jacobson, Afcan and Krauss (1977). These works have proven invaluable in the investigation of the structures discussed here. Additional studies are in Mithun (1996). Material cited in the present work comes primarily from conversations among members of the Charles family and their friends of Bethel, Alaska, especially Nick Charles (NC), Elena Charles (EC), George Charles (GC) and Elizabeth Charles Ali (EA).
Basic morphological structure
Yup'ik words are classified as either uninflected (particles) or inflected (nouns and verbs).