An excellent article on Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit (often called Eskimo); via MeFi.

Update (Aug. 2022). I updated the dead link, and thought while I was at it I’d add a chunk from the article, as I usually do:

In English, and in most other European languages, a sentence is a string of beads. Each bead is a tiny little word, and the beads are strung together to make meaning.

I am happy to be here.
Je suis content d’être ici.
Yo estoy contento de estar aquí.

But in Inuktitut the words are like Lego™ blocks, intricate pieces locked together to produce a nugget of meaning.

quviasuktunga tamaaniinnama
(happy + I here + in + be + because I)

How about this word, produced at random: Pariliarumaniralauqsimanngittunga, “I never said I wanted to go to Paris.”

These words are produced by a grammatical system that is much more regular than anything in English. Inuit students like studying grammar. They get pleasure out of seeing the logical flow of something they always took for granted. The grammar is not only precise, it is complex.

In Inuktitut, there are several hundred basic verb endings, as well as variations depending on the sound system. Take, for example, the verb root malik – “follow.”

maliktunga — “I follow”
malikkassik — “because you two follow”
malikkit — “follow them!”
malikkuttikkuk — “if we two followed those two”
malingmangaakku — “whether I followed her”

A simpler example of Inuktitut word-building is ui, a husband. An uiviniq is a former husband. (“Would he have to be dead to be called a uiviniq?” Mallon once asked one of his co-teachers. She paused thoughtfully for a moment and replied, “It would depend on what he had done.”)

I’m also shocked to see that I didn’t bother noting that it was written by Alexina Kublu and Mick Mallon. Sloppy, sloppy twenty-year-earlier me!


  1. Amber lynn says name is amber mother is ida..and i have a sister that lives up north..her name is reoma.. i am 13 years old..and i am trying to learn inuktitut.. i am really trying..and i hope i succed..please e-mail me back at this

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