THE LABRADOR INUIT WRITING SYSTEM
Like other Inuktitut dialects, the writing system of Labrador Inuttitut is relatively easy to learn because it is sound-based
(unlike the English writing system which, due to historical reasons, is only partially sound based, e.g. the 'k' in knight
is not pronounced but must be memorized). With practice, anyone can learn to write the words and sentences of Inuttitut based on what they hear. Hearing correctly is the tricky part. Speakers naturally hear the language correctly because they speak the language, even if they do not write it. All Inuttitut writing is based on how speakers pronounce the language. As a learner, you should listen to the speakers and try to write down exactly what the speakers say, using the symbols below. If the speakers can write, they will help you if you can't hear properly. If they can't write, do your best and be glad that you have speakers to listen to!
In the following section, I outline the symbols used in Labrador Inuttitut. The system works in general for Rigolet Inuttitut also. Where there are special Rigolet differences, these will be noted.
Consonants which are the same as in English:
Consonants which are different from English
- See below for more information on Rigolet 'k' below.
Hint: In English there is usually a puff of air produced in making the sounds p, t, k at the beginning of words or syllables. In Inuttitut, as in most other languages, there is no puff of air with these sounds. Try not to produce that puff of air.
- This is a sound similar to v in English but pronounced in the area of the mouth where English g occurs. It is a velar fricative.
- For some speakers in Rigolet this sound will be ts.
- This is a single sound written with two symbols. It is exactly the same sound as in English sang, sung etc. but always occurs in Inuttitut before vowels, as in nigivunga 'I'm eating.' This takes a little practice at first.
- In northern Labrador this sound is like the 'ch' in German buch 'book'. It is a fricative. Listen to speakers say it and try to make the same sound. It is pronounced in the same area of the mouth as English 'k' but is softer. Listen to how Lydia Tuglavina says Kuvianamek in Lydia's Lessons.
- K is always pronounced differently in Rigolet. There it is pronounced as a 'h' sound as in English hat. This sound is easier for English speakers to make.
- This sound is just like the y sound in English year.
Unlike English, Inuttitut in all dialects have geminate or double consonants. These are pronounced by holding the consonant a little longer than a single one. In both northern Labrador and Rigolet you will find:
Mixed consonant combinations:
- This is pronounced like two K sounds of northern Labrador by many people in northern Labrador.
- In Rigolet this is pronounced like two g sounds.
Here things get a little more complicated. In both northern Labrador and Rigolet you will hear the following:
- This sound is written qq in western dialects.
In Rigolet only you will hear the following sets of mixed consonants. These are very similar to what you hear in dialects of Inuttitut to the west.
Inuttitut vowels are pure vowels. There are three basic vowels which have long and short versions, making six altogether. This is pretty much the same across all Inuktitut dialects.
- Sounds like English beet but shorter and purer, like French lit 'bed'
- e (long i)
- o (long u)
- â (long a)
- Note: while Rigolet 'k' is the same as northern Labrador 'k' in most instances, following the vowels a and u (and their long counterparts â and o), the Rigolet k sounds further back in the mouth, like the q in other Inuit dialects. It always stays like k following i (or long counterpart e).