AP NEWS

Alaska native language spelling bee runs for record time

April 16, 2019

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska native language spelling bee set a record for the time taken to produce a winner, a report said.

The Statewide Yup’ik Spelling Bee for Beginners in Anchorage April 13 started with 18 contestants at 11 a.m. and did not name the top three finishers until after 3 p.m., KYUK-AM reported Monday.

“They were all very strong spellers,” said organizer Freda Dan. “That was the problem.”

Angniun Opriann Lomack, a sixth grader from Akiachak, spelled every word she was given in the first round.

The competition to break a tie for second and third place came down to two contestants who each spoke a different dialect of Yup’ik. Akagarallaria Auna Friday of Chevak eventually took second place and Allirkaar Richelle Phillip of Akiachak finished third, officials said.

Yup’ik was still mostly a spoken language a few decades ago and not many people knew how to write it, causing disagreements on spelling. The efforts of many Yup’ik linguists and elders were needed to produce the Modern Yup’ik Dictionary, officials said.

The contest began eight years ago to help students learn to write the language, Dan said.

“I remember I used to read the old version of the Yup’ik, and then I see this new modern Yup’ik is way different than the old language we used to read when we were little kids,” she said.

The contest rules do not allow elimination for a misspelled word and contestants continue spelling new words until it is clear who has spelled the most, officials said.

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Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org