Inuktitut Resources

Overview

Inuktitut is a member of the Inuit language family. Inuit languages are spoken across the Arctic from Alaska (where the language is called Iñupiaq) to Greenland (where the language is called Kalaallisut).

In 2019, there were 175 speakers in the NWT.

Inuktitut itself is considered a macrolanguage. Inuktitut was designated as an official language of the NWT with the introduction of the NWT Official Languages Act in 1984. At that time, the term was used for both Western Canadian Inuktitut and Eastern Canadian Inuktitut. Providing that Inuinnaqtun is now an official language itself, the term Inuktitut in the NWT now refers to Eastern Canadian Inuktitut. There are many varieties of Eastern Canadian Inuktitut which is an official language of Nunavut.

Following the creation of Nunavut, the NWT retained Inuktitut as an official language in recognition of the Inuit who remained within the Northwest Territories. In Nunavut, the term Inuktut is now the preferred term to refer to all Inuit languages spoken in Canada.

Speakers of Inuktitut may refer to Inuktitut itself, or one of the many varieties across the Arctic.

Inuktutit speakers are most prominently in Yellowknife, however, Inuktitut speakers can be found throughout the territory. 

International Standards Organization (ISO) codes

  • Inuktitut (macrolanguage) – IKU
  • Eastern Canadian Inuktitut – IKE

Orthographic conventions

Inuktitut has been traditionally transcribed using both Syllabics (Qaniujaaqpait) and Roman Orthography (Qaliujaaqpait). While Inuit organizations have moved towards adopting a standardized Roman Orthography, Syllabics have remained in common usage due to their unique cultural and historic significance.

Qaniujaaqpait Syllabics

Inuit Syllabics is an abugida writing system where the consonant-vowel appears as one unit. Unique among abugidas, the vowel notation is created by rotating or reflecting the consonant, a feature that conserves the number of shapes needed to typeset or memorize. Final consonants are denoted by a superscript version of the -a consonant-vowel combination.

Consonant

-i

-u

-a

final

Consonant

-i

-u

-a

final

vowel only

·

l

p

j

t

v

k

r

g

q

m

ng

n

ł

s/h

 

Qaliujaaqpait Roman Orthography

In 2019, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) approved a new unified writing system that expanded the Roman Orthography of the older 1976 Inuit Cultural Institute (ICI) standard to accommodate dialects across the Inuit Nunangat. The six new symbols are noted by an asterisk below.

Consonants

ch*

ff*

g

h

hl*

j

k

L

ł

m

 

n

ng

p

q

r

rh*

s

shr*

t

v

ʼ *

Vowels

a

i

u

aa

ii

uu

Notes

  • «j» is pronounced like «y» in English and replaces it in Inuinnaqtun and Inuvialuktun.
  • «jj» sounds like «dj» and replaces it in Inuinnaqtun and Inuvialuktun.
  • «q» is pronounced towards the back of the throat.
  • An apostrophe «ʼ» denotes an ejective consonant or may be used as a glottal stop.
  • Consonants may be doubled to be held twice as long.
  • Double «ng» is written as «nng».