Kaktovik (Iñupiaq) numerals

The Kaktovik Iñupiaq numerals are a vigesimal (base-20) numerical system created in the early 1990s by middle school students at the Harold Kaveolook school in Kaktovik, Alaska, guided by their teacher, William Bartley. They are used to write numerals in Iñupiaq (Inupiatun), an Eskimo-Aleut language spoken in northern and northwestern Alaska in the USA.

As Iñupiaq has a vigesimal number system, the students found the Hindu-Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3) inadequate. At first they created extra numerals, but found them difficult to remember, so worked together to create this system. These numerals are known as Kaktovik numerals or Kaktovik Iñupiaq numerals. The students taught the system to younger students, who tended to write them all the same height, which gave them their distinctive shapes.

There basic numerals for 0-4, and 5, 10 and 15. They are combined together to represent the other numbers. For example, 6 is a combination of 5 and 1, 6 is 5 and 2, 11 is 10 and 1, and 19 is 15 and 4. The symbol for 15 is a combination of 5 and 10, or 3 5s.

This numerals system has proved popular among the Alaskan Iñupiat, and they are used in language immersion programs. Scores in mathematices have improved significantly as a result. They helped to revive the use of the base-20 counting system, which had been disappearing due the influence of the English base-10 system. In 1996, the Commission on Inuit History Language and Culture officially adopted the numerals. They were added to Unicode in 2022.

Kaktovik (Iñupiaq) numerals

Iñupiaq numerals

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Information about Iñupiaq | Kaktovik (Iñupiaq) Numerals | Phrases | Numbers


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Kaktovik fonts

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Page last modified: 19.12.23


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