Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Common alphabet for Canada’s Inuit

Common alphabet for Canada’s Inuit
02 Apr
2016
Canada’s Inuit population is beginning a year-long project to amalgamate its varying written characters in order to create a common alphabet

It may be an exaggeration to believe the claims made by anthropological linguists Franz Boas and Benjamin Lee Whorf that the Inuit have hundreds of words for snow. What is clear is that it has not been helpful for Canada’s 60,000-strong Inuit population to be unable to fully communicate in Inuktut, the Inuit language, thanks to their varying dialects and distinct written characters.

‘Currently there are nine different forms of Roman orthography and four syllabic systems for one language that possesses 12 main dialects,’ explains Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national organisation representing Canada’s Inuit. ‘It has been costly in terms of producing, publishing and distributing common Inuit language materials.’

A unified Inuit writing system will strengthen the Inuit language, help to improve literacy and education across Inuit Nunangat, and strengthen Inuit unity and culture

Therefore, the Atausiq Inuktitut Titirausiq, a task force comprising Inuit Linguists and language experts from each Inuit region, is currently gathering the existing characters used across the four Inuit regions of Canada, in order to begin the arduous process of creating a single alphabet for Inuktitut, with common grammar, spelling and terminology.

‘A unified Inuit writing system will improve mobility and allow consistency in the education system for students and teachers moving from one region to another,’ explains Obed. ‘It will strengthen the Inuit language, help to improve literacy and education across Inuit Nunangat, and strengthen Inuit unity and culture.’

Obed insists that the process won’t compromise or replace any regional or community dialects, and that each region will be able to continue to communicate in their respective dialects using the new common symbols. ‘Writing systems are tools to communicate language – they are not the language itself,’ he says. ‘This will enhance learning and retention of the Inuit language.’

This was published in the April 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

University of Winchester

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    Mexico City: boom town
    Twenty years ago, Mexico City was considered the ultimate urban disaster. But, recent political and economic reforms have transformed it into a hub of...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PEOPLE...

Development

As part of our monthly series of reports looking at…

Explorers

Fifty years since the great Blue Nile was first traversed,…

Explorers

When author Lydia Syson set a historical novel on a…

Development

A new vaccination strategy aims to eradicate peste de petits…

Development

Over 100 years have passed since São Tomé could claim…

Cultures

As one of the biggest displays of Caribbean culture in…

Development

After 130 years in the diamond industry De Beers recently…

Explorers

From Calcutta to the Himalayas, in The Last Englishmen, author…

Development

As part of our monthly series of reports looking at…

Development

Using WhatsApp to monitor and predict deadly landslides in Colombian…

Explorers

During her time in Ghana, Sarah Begum experienced the lives…

Development

An investigation reveals how the illegal export of talc, used…

Cultures

Land rights for the indigenous are still a problem, but…

Development

New statistics suggest rising healthy lifespans in China, at the…

Cultures

The addition of traditional Māori names to Wellington’s urban landscape is…

Cultures

Native American communities in the US are devising their own…

Refugees

Calais’ continuing refugee crisis may not make daily headlines now…

I’m a Geographer

With fellow student Tom Micklethwait, Charles is travelling the route…

Development

As part of our monthly series of reports looking at…