Nunavut language commission needed?


For a number of years now I have been quiet about the ever-increasing loss of the Inuktitut language.

Now I feel I must voice my convictions again; it is so important to keep the Inuksitutut language alive and write it accurately. In the past five years I have noticed an increase of misspelling in the Inuktitut language. An example is a notice that I ran across and it says: “Alilajuq uvunga ililugu – put the paper here.”

I support the establishment of Uqausilirijiit Nunavutmi – Nunavut Language Commission. I believe that the work of the Nunavut Language Commission (NLC) could be similar to that of the French Language Commission that is located at the Sorbonne in France. In the 1990s, when I was deeply into advocating for the accuracy in spelling and use of Inuktitut, I got the idea that we could have a similar body to protect the Inuktitut language. NLCs would review the use of existing words, participate in the development of new words as they are required and determine the correct spellings. Its responsibility, would be to help save the Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun languages. The NLC might make a listing of traditional words that are no longer in every day use; they might also have a repository of names held by persons and the meaning of these names.

Traditional names of communities, rivers, and places on the land could be reviewed according to the local pronunciations and dialects. There is a lake called Imnaqtuuq (one with big cliffs) in Inuktitut, 100 miles from Naujaat, where my family and I used to caribou hunt, but it was misspelled and now called Imaqtuuq (has big water). What have we done to change it back to its original name?

Companies and government agencies who want to use Inuktitut words for their businesses or departments could consult with NLC to make sure their company or business name is accurately spelled and truly reflects the meaning they wish to give to it. I believe that this would help to ensure that our language stays alive and vibrant.

The notice that says, “alilajuq uvunga ililugu” is supposed to read, “get your prescriptions here” or “I&uarsautitaarvik”. Our language is a simple language but it is very accurate in its descriptions. It has been like that since time immemorial and we have survived with it. We all must aim to preserve it like that, because it provides us with the knowledge of our past and it will be the strength for our future.

Peter Irniq

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