Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

November 4, 2000 - Issue 22

Inuit Language to Incorporate Modern Words
by Mary Vallis National Post
Inuit translators in northern Quebec are preserving an ancient language by enhancing it with modern terms.

Science, CD player and robot are among the words that will soon have official Inuktitut translations following an annual meeting of Inuit elders, translators and interpreters in Nunavik, Quebec's arctic region.

Many medical terms, legal concepts and technological words are missing from the language. English words have slipped into Inuktitut speech as a result and Inuktitut words have been stretched past their original meanings.

At the annual terminology workshop -- a two-week intensive meeting hosted by Avataq, Nunavik's cultural institute -- a small group of people collaborated to find relevant Inuktitut words.

"Everyone speaks Inuktitut in Nunavik," said Sylvie Côté Chew of Avataq. "It's not an endangered language, but people really want to counter its erosion. They want to speak it accurately and carry their language forward in its wholeness."

The project also ensures Inuit who do not speak English can be represented in court or understand medical concepts without the fear of incorrect translation.

This year, a common Inuktitut word for cancer, kagguti, was drastically changed after elders said it was inaccurate. The term originally referred to a dog affected by parasites.

The new phrase, piruinnaaq aartiqitaugunnatuq, refers to "something that grows inside a person and can try to be fixed," said Minnie Natartuk, co-ordinator of Avataq's language program.



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