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Inuvialuktun


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Inuvialuktun, also known as Western Canadian Inuit, Western Canadian Inuktitut, and Western Canadian Inuktun, comprises several Inuit language varieties spoken in the northern Northwest Territories and Nunavut by those Canadian Inuit who call themselves Inuvialuit.

Inuvialuktun is spoken by the Inuit of the Mackenzie River delta, Banks Island, part of Victoria Island and the Arctic Ocean coast of the Northwest Territories – the lands of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. It was traditionally subsumed under a broader Inuktitut, and there is no consensus which dialects belong to which language. Rather than a coherent language, Inuvialuktun is a politically motivated grouping of three quite distinct and separate varieties.

Inuvialuktun (which consists of Siglitun (Inuvialuktun proper), Inuinnaqtun, and Natsilingmiutut) and Inuinnaqtun constitute two of the eleven official languages of the Northwest Territories. Inuinnaqtun is also official alongside Inuktitut in Nunavut. With the exception of Natsilingmiutut they are written in a Latin alphabet and have no tradition of Inuktitut syllabics.

Before the 20th century, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region was primarily inhabited by Siglit Inuit, who spoke Siglitun, but in the second half of the 19th century, their numbers were dramatically reduced by the introduction of new diseases. Inuit from Alaska moved into traditionally Siglit areas in the 1910s and 1920s, enticed in part by renewed demand for furs from the Hudson’s Bay Company. These Inuit are called Uummarmiut – which means people of the green trees – in reference to their settlements near the tree line. Originally, there was an intense dislike between the Siglit and the Uummarmiut, but these differences have faded over the years, and the two communities are thoroughly intermixed these days.

Inuvialuktun
Western Canadian Inuktitut
Native to Canada
Region Northwest Territories, Nunavut
Ethnicity 3,110 Inuvialuit
Native speakers
1,150, 37% of ethnic population (2016 census)
Language family
Eskimo–Aleut

  • Eskimo
    • Inuit
      • Inuvialuktun
Dialects
  • Natsilingmiutut
  • Inuinnaqtun
  • Siglitun
Writing system
Latin script
Official status
Official language in
Nunavut
Northwest Territories
Regulated by Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Language codes
ISO 639-1 iu
ISO 639-2 iku Inuktitut
ISO 639-3 ikt Inuinnaqtun, Western Canadian Inuktitut
Glottolog west2618 Western Canadian Inuktitut

Dialects

Distribution of Inuit language variants across the Arctic

Distribution of Inuit language variants across the Arctic. The Inuvialuktun dialects are spoken across northern Canada west of Hudson Bay; here they are purple, khaki, green, and light blue.

The Inuvialuktun dialects are seriously endangered, as English has in recent years become the common language of the community. Surveys of Inuktitut usage in the NWT vary, but all agree that usage is not vigorous. According to the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre, only some 10% of the roughly 4,000 Inuvialuit speak any form of Inuktitut, and only some 4% use it at home. Statistics Canada’s 2001 Census report is only slightly better, reporting 765 self-identified Inuktitut speakers out of a self-reported Inuvialuit population of 3,905. Considering the large number of non-Inuit living in Inuvialuit areas and the lack of a single common dialect among the already reduced number of speakers, the future of the Inuit language in the NWT appears bleak.

From east to west, the dialects are:

  • Iglulingmiut or North Baffin, spoken on western Baffin Island (contrast South Baffin dialect.)
  • Aivilingmiutut or Aivilik on the northern Hudson Bay shore of the Kivalliq Region
  • Kivallirmiutut or Kivalliq or Caribou on the southern Hudson Bay shore of the Kivalliq Region
  • Natsilingmiutut or Netsilik consists of 3 subdialects: Natsilik proper, Arviligjuaq, Utkuhiksalik
  • Inuinnaqtun consists of 4 subdialects: Kangiryuarmiutun, Coppermine, Bathurst, Cambridge. The Kangiryuarmiutun subdialect is spoken in the small community of Ulukhaktok. Essentially the same as Natsilingmiutut.
  • Siglitun was, until the 1980s, believed to be extinct, but it is still spoken by people in Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour and Tuktoyaktuk.

The Inuvialuk dialects spoken in Nunavut (that is, Iglulingmiut, Aivilingmiutut, Kivallirmiutut, and eastern Natsilingmiutut) are often counted as Inuktitut, and the government of the NWT only recognizes Inuinnaqtun and Inuvialuktun. In addition, Uummarmiutun, the dialect of the Uummarmiut which is essentially identical to the Inupiatun dialect spoken in Alaska and so considered an Inupiat language, has conventionally been grouped with Inuvialuktun because it’s spoken in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the NWT. Uummarmiutun is found in the communities of Inuvik and Aklavik.

Inuvialuktun phrases

English Inuvialuktun pronunciation
Hello Atitu /atitu/
Good Bye Ilaannilu/Qakugulu /ilaːnːilu/ / /qakuɡulu/
Thank you Quyanainni /qujanainːi/
You are welcome Amiunniin /amiunːiːn/
How are you? Qanuq itpin? /qanuq itpin/
I am fine Nakuyumi/Nakuyumi assi /nakujumi asːi/
Good morning Ublaami /ublaːmi/
Yes Ii /iː/
No Naaggai /naːɡːai/
Cold! Brrr! Alaappa! /alaːpːa/
*Gasp*
(an expression used when alarmed or fearful)
Alii /aliː/
See you later Anaqanaallu /anaqanaːlːu/
Wow/Awesome Aqqali /aqːali/
Listen! Ata! /ata/
See you, too Ilaanniptauq /ilaːnːiptauq/
It is like this Imaaniittuaq /imaːniːtːuaq/
Like this Imanna /imanːa/
Whose? Kia? /kia/
Who is this? Kina una? /kina una/
Where? Nani?/Naung?/Sumi? /nani/ / /nauŋ/ / /sumi/
Where are you from? Nakinngaaqpin?/Sumiutauvin? /nakiŋːaːqpin/ / /sumiutauvin/}
How much does it cost? Qanuq akitutigivaa? /qanuq akitutiɡivaː/
How old is he/she? Qanuq ukiuqtutigiva? /qanuq ukiututiɡiva/
What do you call it? Qanuq taivakpiung? /qanuq taivakpiuŋ/
What is the time? Sumukpaung? /sumukpauŋ/
What for? Suksaq? /suksaq/
Why? Or how come? Suuq? /suːq/
What? Suva?/Suna? /suva/~/suna/
Doesn’t matter/It is ok Sunngittuq /suŋːitːuq/
What are you doing? Suvin? /suvin/
It can’t be helped! Too bad. Qanurviituq! /qanuʁviːtuq/
in fact, actually Nutim [nutim]
Do it again! Pipsaarung! [pipsaːʁuŋ]
Go ahead and do it Piung [piuŋ]
It is cold out! Qiqauniqtuaq /qiqauniqtuaq/
Christmas Qitchirvik /qittʃiʁviq/
Candy Uqummiaqataaq [/uqumːiaqataːq/
Play music Atuqtuuyaqtuaq /atuqtuːjaqtuaq/
Drum dancing Qilaun/Qilausiyaqtuaq /qilaun/ / /qilausijaqtuaq/
Church Angaadjuvik /aŋaːdʒuvik/
Bell Aviluraun /aviluʁaun/
Jewels Savaqutit /savaqutit/
Eskimo ice cream Akutuq /akutaq/
That’s all! Taima! /taima/

Siglitun Inuvialuktun snow terms English meaning
Apiqaun first snow layer in autumn that stays
Apusiqqaun first fall of snow
Aqiuyaq small, fresh snowdrift
Masak waterlogged snow
Mauyaa deep, soft snow
Minguliruqtuaq blowing wet snow
Piangnaq good snow conditions for sledge travel

Preservation

English has in recent years become the common language of the Inuvialuit. Surveys of Inuktitut usage in the NWT vary, but all agree that usage is not vigorous. According to the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre, only some 10% of the roughly 4,000 Inuvialuit speak any dialect of Inuvialuktun, and only some 4% use it at home. Statistics Canada’s 2001 Census reports 765 self-identified Inuvialuktun speakers out of a self-reported Inuvialuit population of 3,905.



Published in April 2020.









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