Here’s the Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait chart — a writing system for all dialect and all regions. ITK says it does not replace syllabics and that regions can and will continue use of syllabics and other distinct writing systems. ITK also says there is no expectation that people who already use older writing systems will have to change the way they write.

Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait — the product of history and determination

“It is a gift to our children today and the generations to come”

By Mary Simon

I was very pleased to hear the news that the board members of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami unanimously approved the new Inuktut writing system, Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait, earlier this month.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami means “united Inuit of Canada,” and there are few examples more powerful of our people taking united action to ensure the survival of our culture and language. It is a proud moment for me.

In June 2011, when I was president of ITK, we created a bold new vision to transform our education system. We released the national strategy on Inuit education with 10 ambitious recommendations born from a collective vision to see our children thrive in their formal education, while being strong in their Inuit culture and language.

One of the recommendations was to establish a unified writing system for the Inuit language.

It has taken Inuit in Canada decades to get to this point and it is the dawn of a new era.

The passion and dedication of Inuit language keepers throughout all of our communities across Inuit Nunangat made way for Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait. It means that we now have a unified writing system that is compatible for use in all Inuktut dialects.

The introduction of the new writing system will be gradual. It is not meant to take away or replace the writing systems Inuit are currently using in their communities, but rather to be used as a tool alongside existing writing systems that will improve communication between Inuit.

It is a gift to our children today and the generations to come.

I can now imagine a time when Inuit are communicating across Canada and sharing valuable publications and education curriculum, where capacity to develop high-quality education material is no longer an issue and our children are graduating from high school fully bilingual, literarily and verbally.

History has challenged us as a people. Colonization ravaged our ways of life, our familial structures and our language.

But we are here today. We have looked to the past so that we can understand who we are today and why things have come to be the way they are.

I believe that we are now at a crossroads where we can either keep looking back or begin to focus on the possibilities of our future. The adoption of Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait for all Inuit in Canada tells me that we are ready to move forward together.

During the eight years since the launch of the National Strategy on Inuit Education, we’ve been able to adopt the term “Inuktut” to mean all Inuit languages, no matter the dialect.

For me, it has also become a symbol of Inuit unity. It transcends all our artificial political boundaries.

Our language is who and what we are, and the health of our language lies at the core of our well-being.

My hope is that we can use Inuktut in all its beautiful spoken and written forms and move forward with the same determination we put towards our collective land claims.

Mary Simon was president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in 2011 when the organization released its national strategy on Inuit education, which contained a recommendation for the creation of a common writing system for the Inuit language.

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(24) Comments:

  1. Posted by beneficiary on

    Mary, I don’t recall you coming to our region for consultation regarding this big subject. Are you trying to let us forget syllabics and switch to your recommended new qalluijaq. I want to qalluijaq you Mary. If you can understand me. I will never use your new whatever and I don’t intend to teach my children, grandchildren. If i ever become a teacher nor will i teach your new system.

    • Posted by Clown Car on

      If you ever become a teacher? When do you think might happen? *smh*

  2. Posted by neighbor on

    I want to see the inuttitut version story of this subject and one from last friday. I have an elder who really would like to read it in our syllabics. Thank-you

  3. Posted by sacred fear on

    It will be important for ITK to explain and communicate with examples of what the unified writing system is and how will be used. People’s backs are going up (the old timers who are bilingual especially). Many of us learned the ICI dual writing system – 1976 and have had no problems but those who are crying out loud never learned it properly. Their spelling is often inconsistent. Teachers and interpreters have not had much problem teaching the ICI dual writing system but some of them haven’t been the best spellers either. ITK will need to work with the colleges, schools, territorial institutions and leaders to promote the new system. The committee who have been working on the unified system haven’t done a good job in communicating the differences and what it means for everyone on an everyday basis. Actually, the ICI system was never properly rolled out either. The irony of the naysayers is that they barely read and write in Inuktitut (not on a weekly basis). Most people don’t except the interpreters/translators, church people and educators. Church people never really converted to using the ICI system anyway in Nunavut. The bible and hymnbooks are terribly written. Their leaders of the day were driven by the thought of changing the text as going against the sacred word of God. There are a zillion spelling mistakes which have reinforced poor spellers. In some communities, the teachers didn’t learn the new use of syllabic finals properly and thought they were better spellers than the proposed system thereby teaching a couple generations of kids wrong use of some symbols. And, in a facebook post, one of the former ITK president contenders is being harsh with the unified system the most probably to harp about the current president not speaking Inuktitut. LOL

    • Posted by Kenn Harper on

      These are excellent comments by “sacred fear” above.

  4. Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

    This is BS, why change who we are. why change what we know. Why not teach the ppl who do not know our language to learn our language, instead of changing what is already there.

    • Posted by iRoll on

      Everything changes, all the time, even language. Every language. I’m sure you’ve learned this by now? It’s better to get on top of the change than to let it roll over you, and if you don’t it will keep rolling over you…

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      Because, and this is brutal realpolitik, the smaller dialects lack the economic, social, or political influence at both the territorial and national level to bring about such a state. This isn’t going to change.

  5. Posted by Sarah Tukalak on

    I’ve always wanted to understand why Nunavut elided some syllables (ai-ngai), their elders clearly remember using these in the past. Nunavik education system ones avoided these syllables also due to shortages of English/French keyboard used.

    And some Nunavik interpreters /translators have succeeded to finally regain them through education system once again.

    These qaniujaarpait also needs to be unified also.

  6. Posted by MONICA A CONNOLLY on

    I spent the weekend poking around the Internet trying to figure out how this ITK system varies from the older ICI one. It is definitely not as big a problem as some people think, but some explanations are necessary.
    Back in 1976, the Inuit Cultural Institute (ICI) came up with a dual writing system for Inuktitut in Syllabics and Roman script. The major difference between it and old-fashioned Syllabics was that it dropped the ᐁ ᐯ ᑌ column and replaced it with ᐊᐃ ᐸᐃ ᑕᐃ, treating the vowel sound as a diphthong -ai-. Nunavik later replaced that column.
    THIS IS IMPORTANT: The new ITK system does NOT change the Syllabics from ICI or Nunavik at all – it is only for Roman typing.
    The ICI system is instantly switchable between Syllabics and Roman or vice versa using a free computer program. It should be fairly simple to deal with the ITK changes,.
    All the ICI Roman letters are included in the new ITK system except & (a Kivalliq sound sometimes written as L with a stroke: Ł, ł).
    There are six new symbols added, which I believe are intended for & and five other sounds which were not included at all in the ICI system: -ff-, -hl-, -shr-, -ch-, -rh-, and the apostrophe as a sound. All of the sounds in the ITK system except the ‘ are letters on the standard English keyboard, which will make typing easier.

    Questions for ITK:
    What sounds from what dialecte are the symbols -ff-, -hl-, -shr-, -ch-, -rh-, ‘ intended to represent? Can you give examples, please?
    Are some of these new sounds not presently used in Syllabics? If so, is it proposed to develop new symbols for them, or just to use the best approximation?
    Why is the order of the letters different from both ICI and traditional syllabics?
    What individuals created the new system? Who are the experts to contact with questions?
    What representatives of different regions approved the new system?

    • Posted by Kenn Harper on

      Why do you say that the apostrophe ‘ is not represented on a standard English keyboard?

      • Posted by MONICA A CONNOLLY on

        I am typing this on the English keyboard of my iPhone. The Letters are the same as on my desktop keyboard, but the apostrophe is on the Number page.

  7. Posted by Nunavummiut on

    Where there consultations with Inuit from all regions? When? Where? I don’t think I would have missed that meeting

    I would go there and stick up for my unilingual mother who only reads syllabics.

    How is this going to affect our daily life? Are all public notices expected now to be in this new format? Who will teach the use of this to 50-60 somethings like my mother? Will there be classes?

    • Posted by Youth on

      I think that that is a good request, to have classes for older folks so they can learn qaliujaaqpait.

      As a young person, I am so so grateful that roman orthography will finally be used.

  8. Posted by Dissatisfied Inuk on

    Mary Simon, I’ve always admired your hard work until now. Hla hli hlu? rha rhi rhu? Going backwards in language? This is a complete disaster! I totally agree with sacred fear. The most vocal people about our Inuktut language are those who show extreme pride in our culture but don’t give a crap about being fluent in reading, writing, and speaking as a whole in Inuktut.

    We need someone like Laakuluk to start a protest on this. Whatever region approved of this can take this home and teach it to their family. Very narrow minded to think that this will work for everyone else! Mary, work hard for Nunavimmiut. You’re ruining the language for Nunavummiut.

    What a shame Canada. Shame ITK. Shame on all of you decision makers. Completely disastrous. You just speeded up language loss.

  9. Posted by Huuqtauq on

    Overall thid writing system works better for pronunciation.

    My question which I’ve never received an answer to is why was the j and jj created when we have the y and j in the roman orthography.

    Makes more sense to use the latter which is a total of 2 strokes over the old of 3.

  10. Posted by The federal government on

    Taimatuuq gavamajuakkunni titirarniarmijut Inuktut qaniujaaqpaititut.

    Hopefully the federal government will start using Inuktut roman orthography as well.

  11. Posted by taima on

    This looks like someone’s desperate attempt to try to save Inuinnaqtuun, by risking Inuktitut.

  12. Posted by Kenn Harper on

    I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. ITK has explained very clearly the reasons for the adoption of Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait as a Unified Orthography for Inuktut. Their press release says clearly, “The new orthography will be implimented as an auxiliary system alongside the existing orthographies used regionally.” That statement makes it clear that it is not meant to replace existing systems used regionally. Syllabics is used in Nunavik and most of Nunavut – the new Qaliujaaqpait is not meant to replace it. Labrador and Inuinnait have their own Roman orthographic system – this is not meant to replace it. The Qaliujaaqpait ratified in 1976 was a good system but it did not represent some of the sounds of a few dialects like Nattilingmiutut and Utkuhiksalingmiutut – this revision does. However, this revision does not touch Syllabics (Qaniujaaqpait) which still under-represents those different sounds in those two dialects. The new Qaliujaaqpait differs very little from the 1976 version. If anything, it improves on it. One of the goals was to avoid the use of any diacritics, so that it can be typed on a normal computer or typewriter keyboard in Roman – it succeeds in that. The claim that the 1976 Qaliujaaqpait was being well used is false. The Kitikmeot had diverged from it and gone their own way with some “non-standard” ways of writing in Roman. Labrador had diverged from it and adopted its own Roman orthography which continued to use the Moravian “K” for “q” and used a 5-vowel system wherein “e” represented “ii”, and “o” represented “uu”. The press release does not say that these non-standard systems will be replaced; in fact it expressly says that regions can continue to use their own systems. But ITK will undoubtedly use this system in Roman to communicate across regional boundaries. That’s what it is for. The claim is made that there was no consultation in coming up with this revised system. In fact, there was an inter-regional committee of Inuit and a great deal of consultation. The 1976 system was also, in my opinion, created by Inuit, working with non-Inuit linguists. In theintervening years ,therehas developed a perception that that 1976 process was not Inuit-driven. Whether that is true or not doesn’t matter – that was the perception. The revised system has been demonstrably Inuit-driven. The fact that certain people were not consulted and feel they should have been does not mean that there was not adequate consultation. Now Inuit should get behind it and use it for the purpose for which it was developed – as an auxiliary system. Will it eventually replace the non-standard Roman systems used in the Kitikmeot and Labrador? It’s too soon to tell. But it may. And if it does, it will enhance the possibility of meaningful inter-regional written communication. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

  13. Posted by Ms.Tupak on

    This is a bad gift to the children for it’s not going to save the language. It’s “English” letters. At least Syllabics was created to serve Inuit. The Inuit and cree helped develop it.

    We are sick and tired of being told what to do .

    • Posted by Herbie on

      English letters aren’t English, they are Roman and they are much more universally used. You can still use syllabics, you know that right?

  14. Posted by inuk on

    It’s like telling Chinese people to start using different writing system so that other’s can understand. Im sure they would not like it too! Why change ours? we need to keep it no matter what!

  15. Posted by Tamar Mukyunik on

    9 years ago ? ! Didn’t even know about it until now and I don’t like the new additions. It now looks like some scientific coding. Kivalliq representatives, I discourage this, but would like the INUKTUT writing system the same unchanged. I myself have no problem reading, writing, speaking, and typing syllabics and I don’t understand what you mean sacred fearing man mean by ICI never properly really rolled it out. They didn’t do a good job? I absolutely disagree! Kihivit ihumagiyaqaqtutit ti’a. Qauyimayutit piliriryuatiamiatqimakmata piliriyiulautqqimayut ICI-mit qauyimangmaakatit kituuningitnik. There, used the original qaliuyaaqpait writing system since I don’t have the syllabics installed and for all to see how long it takes to type them all out when not using Nunacom or Pigiarniq font, and umm, . . . for English readers to speak it out in their heads. Taima. Matnauvuhi uqalimaalaurappi.

    • Posted by Jeannie on

      I agree with you 100% I won’t stop teaching the original syllabic

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