And then came Inuktitut (ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ)

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/09/25 19:56 -04:00, original URI:

You know that list of languages, the one that keeps getting bigger all of the time? You know, the one with اردو, മലയാളം, Qhichwa Simi, فارسی, isiZulu, ಕನ್ನಡ, नेपाली, Afrikaans, कोंकणी, Setswana, বাংলা, తెలుగుਪੰਜਾਬੀ, Lëtzebuergisch, and татарча on it?

Well, let's add Inuktitut to the list, because Microsoft has just released a Language Interface Pack for Inuktitut!

Some background info on Inuktitut (courtesy of Soren!):

Number of speakers: 30,000

Name in the language itself:  Inuktitut (a.k.a. ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ)

Inuktitut is, along with English and French, the official language of Nunavut, the largest of the territories of Canada which was created in 1999. Nunavut is spoken by about 80% of the population there as well as all other areas in Canada north of the tree line, like the Northwest Territories where it is official language, too. In Nunavik, a semi-autonomous portion of Quebec, it has legal recognition and enjoys official support.
While for a long time sharing the fate of most indigenous languages in the Americas, namely getting closer and closer to extinction, for Inuktitut the last census data indicate that the number of speakers has stopped declining and might even be increasing in Nunavut.

Because of the huge area in which Inuktitut is spoken (see below), it has a big dialectal diversity. Some scholars even count Greenlandic as a variant, though it is more commonly considered a language of its own.

Inuktitut is an agglutinative language in which a succession of different morphemes are added to root words to express for what other languages need several words or sentences.

Fun facts:

  • Inuktitut is spoken in one of the least densely populated areas of the world: While the area of Nunavut has the size of Western Europe its population is 30,000. Even Greenland has double the density.
  • Inuktitut knows only three vowels (a, i, u), which can be pronounced short or long.
  • How many words are there for snow in Inuktitut? Well, the whole "The Inuit have thousands of words for snow" story is more of an urban legend (and probably based on misunderstandings). But I spare you the linguistic details…


Inuktitut belongs to the eastern group of Inuit, one of the two branches of the Inuit-Aleut (Eskimo-Aleut) language family.


Inuktitut is written either in the Latin alphabet (which was introduced to the region by Moravian missionaries) or the Inuktitut syllabary which is based on the Cree syllabary created by the missionary James Evans. This syllabary got its present form in the 1970s when it was adopted by the Inuit Cultural Institute in Canada.

Isn't it fun to see one of those descriptions for the original issues behind snowclones? :-)



This post brought to you by (U+1403, a.k.a. CANADIAN SYLLABICS I)

# ReallyEvilCanine on 26 Sep 2006 9:37 AM:

I don't know about Inuktitut but many years ago Cecil Adams tackled  the Eskimo (Inuit) words for snow. The word "freaking" in the last paragraph is an apparent substitution to ensure the site gets by various filters; Cecil can be quite liberal with the expletives.

# Charles Bocock on 26 Sep 2006 10:45 AM:

That Cecil Adams article is hilarious.

I certainly have a few "freaking" words to say to Microsoft about them releasing a localization for the Inuits and not for us Brits ;)

# Mihai on 26 Sep 2006 1:14 PM:

Two notes:
- the LIP is not available for download yet
- we do not speak fluently question marks

The two might be related? :-)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 26 Sep 2006 2:08 PM:

It actually is available, and I got the download (though I also got an error saying it was unavailable before the download came up)....

# Mihai on 26 Sep 2006 4:37 PM:

Now it is. When I did the post it was not.

# Charles Bocock on 26 Sep 2006 5:16 PM:

Mihai, are you a speaker?

I just checked Wikipedia:
"reporting 765 self-identified Inuktitut speakers" (2001 Census)

And how many of them run Windows XP?

referenced by

2007/06/15 The last XP LIP? We'll head it off at the Pas[hto]

2007/06/02 Azeri zeriouz LIP releaze

2007/03/03 And it won't cost you an arm[enia] or a leg, either!

2006/12/01 Curious Georg[ian] gets a LIP

2006/10/31 Mapudungun is not a map to a dungeon

2006/10/13 Local experiences in Norway: the Nynorsk LIP!

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