The Language of Inuit Indians in the 21st Century

The Language of Inuit Indians in the 21st Century

The language spoken by Canadian Indians (the Inuits) is called Inuktitut and is used over large areas of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. It is considerably old, taking into account that it was used by the paleo-Indians, the ancestors of North-American Indians.

Today, it is spoken by a group of approximately 90,000 – 100,000 people organized in tribes – ancient social hierarchies. There are some small variations of the language spoken in one area or another, but most of the Inuit speakers use 6 vowels, 20-21 consonants and only two types of nouns (some bare, others accompanied by pronominal suffixes). Men speak differently from women who replace the sounds p, t and k with other softer, nasal consonants, namely m, n and ɳ.

Although the Inuit culture is millennia old, one cannot ignore its contact with modern civilization and the English language. The latter is rapidly spreading and the younger Inuit generation speaks today primarily English. The lexical exchanges between the two languages are thus inevitable – from Inuktitut we have the words anorak, kayak, igloo, etc.

The Inuits’ language is in danger because speakers increasingly prefer using English even at home. Those most fascinating nuances of the Inuit language, such as the many senses of the verb to hunt: hunting seals, hunting bears, etc. may consequently also disappear. One can improvise phrases in the Inuit language by joining various ideas and still be understood. For example, for the word satellite there is the equivalent it was made to fly.

Therefore, the job of a translator may also include, as the case may be, aspects of the various archaic cultures of the planet, being forced to thoroughly research and document the issue before translating the material. Such semantic aspects may pose serious problems to translators if they do not take into account the way in which sentences are formed or the way in which Inuit men communicate as compared to women.

By | 2018-01-03T11:56:55+00:00 January 3rd, 2018|Articles|0 Comments