Alaskan doctoral student creates Iñupiaq Wordle version

Alaskan doctoral student creates Iñupiaq Wordle version
Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 10:18 AM AKST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2022 at 4:28 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The online brain game “Wordle” has caught the attention of many within the past month, and that includes a doctoral student with roots in Alaska.

“I was doing the English Wordle and was really enjoying it a lot,” said Myles Creed, a doctoral student linguistics from the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Creed grew up in Alaska but now attends the university in Canada.

The English version that many play online each day challenges people to guess a random five-letter word in just six tries. For each guess, the game will let contestants know how close they are by highlighting each letter in one of three shades — gray means the letter is not in the word, yellow means the letter is in the word but not in the correct spot, and green means the letter is in the correct spot.

Like many others, Creed caught the Wordle fever in January. Around the same time, he found an online article about one of his colleagues, Aidan Pine.

“I saw a news article that he had created a template to create any Wordle in any language that he’d like,” Creed said.

In just a few days, Creed — with help from Pine and an Iñupiaq language dictionary created by Native speaker Dr. Edna Ahgeak MacLean — launched a version of Wordle in the Alaska Native language, Iñupiaq. The game follows a similar protocol to the original version, except that the word of the day is from the Iñupiaq language.

Since its launch date on Feb. 7, the web page has had over 1,700 hits, according to Creed.

“The opportunity to practice Iñupiaq, even if it’s just one little word or a few words a day, really gives people the opportunity to engage with language,” Creed said.

The words used in the game come from the North Slope dialect of Iñupiaq. The game helps connect people to the Iñupiaq culture and keeps the Native language alive.

“We learn so much about culture through language and so much about culture can only be really accessed through language,” Creed said. “And even if it’s just a few words a day, there’s certain words that are showing up on Iñupiaq Wordle that don’t really have easy translations into English.”

One of the game’s goals is for it to help incorporate more of the language into everyday life. In the past, Iñupiaq language consultant Annauk Olin has helped bring the language into the state’s census and elections material. She said that seeing the language used in everyday concepts of life, from games to Facebook pages, is an important way of incorporating the language more into daily aspects of life.

“As we engage with topics that aren’t necessarily lined up with our culture and way our life, we need a way to communicate in our languages to make them relevant in the modern day,” Olin said.

This is something that has been missing in the community, Creed said.

“We live in Alaska, where there’s 20 different Indigenous languages that are official languages of our state, and we don’t see them represented to the level that they should be. Where they should be represented to the level of English or even more so, being that we are all on Indigenous land,” Creed said.

For Creed, it’s all about helping connect a sleeping language to the next generation.

Those interested in learning more about the Iñupiaq language and culture can visit the grassroots projects page, Ilisaqativut, to learn more.

Correction: This article has been corrected to show that Myles Creed is a doctoral student and does not yet have a Ph.D.

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