Here’s a chart that shows the new Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait writing system.

National Inuit org approves new unified writing system

“It is a critical step in Inuit self-determination and taking ownership of our written language”

By Jim Bell

The board of directors that oversees Canada’s national Inuit organization has agreed to move ahead on a long-awaited unified Inuktut writing system.

The system, called Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait, uses Roman orthography—the same alphabet used to write in English—rather than syllabics.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami says that Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait is designed to write the Inuit language, in all its dialects, across all regions of of Inuit Nunangat.

ITK’s board, made up of representatives of its four member organizations, made the decision through a resolution passed unanimously on Sept. 10 at their annual general meeting in Rankin Inlet.

That resolution was moved by Makivik Corp. President Charlie Watt and seconded by Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe.

“It is a critical step in Inuit self-determination and taking ownership of our written language,” ITK President Natan Obed said in a news release.

“Our current writing systems were introduced through the process of colonization. The unified Inuktut writing system will be a writing system created by Inuit for Inuit in Canada.”

ITK says the new writing system can be used to represent the sounds of any dialect spoken in any region.

“This is why it includes sounds from every dialect—including sounds that only occur in a few dialects—so that speakers of every dialect can write their own dialect using Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait according to the words and pronunciation they normally use,” an ITK background document says.

That was also the aim of the old dual orthography system—Qaniujaaqpait (syllabics) and Qaliujaaqpait (Roman orthography)—developed in 1976 by the now-defunct Inuit Cultural Institute, under the leadership of the late Jose Kusugak.

That attempt at a standardized writing system was adopted throughout most regions of what is now Nunavut.

But there are still nine different Inuktut writing systems used across all of Inuit Nunangat, some of which were introduced as early as the mid-1700s.

The new Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait, however, has been developed by Inuit, for Inuit, ITK says.

ITK describes it as an auxiliary system that can be used alongside existing regional orthographies.

“It is important to note that Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait does not replace syllabics—regions can and will continue use of syllabics and other distinct writing systems. There is no expectation that people who already use older writing systems will have to change the way they write,” ITK said.

The great benefit of Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait is that speakers of any dialect from any region can use it while following the pronunciation they use in their region.

“This makes it easier to read each other’s dialects and means Inuktut speakers are able to produce and share materials between regions. Over time, there will be greater consistency in Inuktut language education,” ITK says.

Another benefit is that the new system makes it easier to type and text on electronic devices with no need to create new keyboard layouts.

The Roman orthography also allows the use of sounds like as f, ch, rh, and so on that exist in some Inuit dialects, but don’t have standardized symbols in syllabics, ITK said.

And most younger Inuit in syllabics-using regions already know the Roman alphabet.

At the same time, Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait does not provide for any standard spelling or grammar rules.

“It is simply a standard set of characters standing for the sounds of Inuktut,” ITK says.

The new writing system represents eight years of work, including consultation with elders, teachers and other key users of Inuktut, starting with a recommendation made in 2011 within the National Inuit Education Strategy.

That led to the creation of the Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq Task Group, which became the Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq Development Team.

Those bodies worked for many years on the creation of the new writing system.

The next step is for ITK and regional organizations to put together an implementation committee.

“Implementation plans will be specific to each region’s needs and will look at how Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait will be taught and learned. In the short term, ITK and regional experts will present to interested groups upon request,” ITK said.

Inuktut Orthography Text Co... by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(23) Comments:

  1. Posted by Bemused on

    I’m sorry, this took years to develop? Really? Once the decision was made to use the Latin alphabet it looks like it should have taken part of an afternoon at most.

    • Posted by Flippant on

      Expert! You must have extensive knowledge of all the dialects across all of the arctic regions.

      • Posted by Bemused on

        Once you have the phonology used in a given dialect, rendering it in letters (and not using special ones or diacritics) should have been trivial. The phonology of most dialects has been known for years.

    • Posted by emuse on

      That sounds like a very colonial approach you have there. This process I expect and hope would have involved speaking to people from all the regions across Inuit Nunangat, and not just a select group of people sitting down at a table one day and saying ‘ok, this is how the writing for all Inuktut dialects will be from now on.”

      • Posted by neighbor on

        Really,I agree with you….. no one ever approached our community how the material should be written or read. I am disappointed by the signatories of this big change to part of our language. so, why were ai, pai tai kai, ngai,rai etc. traken off…. it changes our dialect in a way or how we write. Was KI involved in this ? And why was Makivik involved in this language issue without ever consulting the northern communities which very use the ai, pai…what else we don’t know about which is in the works which will effect us without our knowledge in the beginning.

  2. Posted by Inuk Person on

    Qaliujaaqpaititut titiraqattarniaqtuksauliqpugu. Taanna titirausiq takijualungni uqalimaarnaqtuq. Kisiani quviasukpunga Inuit titrausinga asijjikkannijjaarunnirmat.

    ᖃᓂᐅᔮᖅᐸᐃᑎᑐᑦ ᑎᑎᕋᖅᖢᓂ/ᐅᖃᓕᒫᖅᖢᓂᓗ ᐊᔪᕐᓇᖏᓐᓂᖅᓴᐅᒐᓗᐊᖅ.

    It’s not really ‘by Inuit’ because the characters are derived from the old ICI dual writing system. Hopefully our writing system will now be permanent with no more changes. Otherwise, we’re going to have to keep learning new writing systems every time it’s revised.

  3. Posted by Learned on

    “The new writing system represents eight years of work…”

    I can’t even imagine why it took eight years. That is just bonkers.

  4. Posted by Inuktitut ilinniaqti on

    ITK, thank you for your leadership.

  5. Posted by no thanks on

    I refuse to use this new system. I will always write with Inuttitut syllabics. Qaliujaaqpait is not inuktitut. I don’t know why Makivik did not consult us beneficiaries.

    • Posted by Observer on

      “Qaliujaaqpait is not inuktitut”

      Neither is syllabics: it’s an adaptation made by white people of a system created by other white people for a completely different group of non-Inuit people.

    • Posted by Responding on

      You don’t need to change. The article clearly states this is an option so that all dialects can represent their unique sounds and write what they want, while allowing members of other dialects to read it. It means I can write to someone in Greenland and they make out my dialect using consistent sounds. My dialect doesn’t change.

  6. Posted by MONICA A CONNOLLY on

    For a start, I’d like to know what the nine different Inuktut writing systems are and what dialects each is used for.

    • Posted by Raven on

      That’s not going to take you long. Get a map and marker so you can trace the regional dialects as you learn them on the map.

    • Posted by titiraq on

      Someone from ITK correct us if these are wrong:
      1. Nunatsiavut – Labrador
      2&3. ICI writing system since 76 : roman and syllabics
      4 Inuinnaqtun: Kugluktuk and Cambridge – old writing system
      5. Taloyoak
      6. Nunavik
      7 Nunakput – Inuvialuit in NWT
      8. Greenland – writing system
      9. Alaska – Inupiaq

  7. Posted by Inuk Youth of Nunavut on

    “till nine different Inuktut writing systems used across all of Inuit Nunangat, some of which were introduced as early as the mid-1700s.” I personally think that we should have kept our original writing system. If our syllabics have been around since the 1700’s, this writing system shouldn’t have changed. I wonder how the elders think… I understand that you want one language for all Inuit to have a better understanding of the ‘Inuktut’ language but this new writing system looks confusing. How long will this take for Inuit youth to understand and carry this new writing system???? -INUKYOUTH2019

    • Posted by Observer on

      What was meant wasn’t that syllabics have been used since the mid-1700s century, it’s that different writing systems primarily using European alphabets have been used to write Inuktitut since then. Syllabics were invented by James Evans in the 1830s for writing Ojibwe, then in 1840 he adapted it to Cree, and in 1865 John Horden and Edwin Watkins adapted it for Inuktitut. While they were in London, England. So, hurrah! Jolly good for the Inuit to insist that writing developed by Englishmen for religious indoctrination should be the only proper way of doing it!

  8. Posted by Newinuk on

    titigaqatalaugiitsii the way you hear the actual Inuktitut , taimanna tukiisiiqataniagatsii

  9. Posted by Tommy on

    ITK is killing the Inuit language. For the Inuit, by the select few. I still would like to vote for a president of ITK. Inuit have no voice. ITK is now colonizing.

  10. Posted by Jean Denis Belanger on

    How about a copies in Syllabic?
    And down load on Google?


  11. Posted by Darlene on

    Sorry ITK, this is not sitting well with a lot of people. Different dialects , different writing systems and spelling. It is what it is. Just give the support of more tools and funds to support language preservation.

  12. Posted by Amateur Linguist on

    “Just give the support of more tools and funds to support language preservation.”

    Well, that’s one sure way to make sure it dies.

    Greenland has done it successfully because they made the decision that there would be one dialect that would be the official one, the one used in schools and government and media. Does that means some local dialects in smaller communities are likely to die out? Yeah, but with modern communications and travel and less isolation, that was likely anyway (as happens with every other language on the planet: there’s nothing special about Inuktitut). By making that decision, Greenland had security in numbers and were able to take advantage of economy of scale; it’s cheaper to produce a thousand copies of one school textbook than fifty copies in twenty different versions for different dialects. Over time, you had more people who had a common dialect and could speak and write in Greenlandic to each other instead of having to switch to Danish, because otherwise that was the language they actually had in common.

    If you insist on all different dialects and writing styles, there is one thing guaranteed: younger people talking to people in different communities and more easily moving between them will eventually find it easier to use the language and writing they actually have in common, primarily English.

  13. Posted by Jim Hoover on

    I agree that language is important, but more importantly is school attendance and participation, and high school graduation. The Membertou reserve in Sydney, Nova Scotia has an awards dinner each year. If you achieve a certain minimum attendance, I think it is 95% now, you get invited. And, a local business man has also donated bikes to be given to the top attenders. No education and our Indigenous youth are HOOPED. The words DRUGS, ALCOHOL, PRISON, SUICIDE, POVERTY, MURDERED & MISSING come to mind.

  14. Posted by happy to hear this on

    I believe the use of Qaluijaarpait will help preserve and revitallize our language. Publications and books will now be able to be printed in alphabet not syllabics. This way many young people who have not learned the syllabic can now read in Inuktitut, and at the same time strengthening their ability to speak it. Even some who are no longer able to speak it, could learn from this new writing system.
    Greenlanders are strong in their language because they use this system.

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