Inuktitut is one of the names used to describe language of the Inuit. Different names are used depending on the geographic area, e.g. Kalaallisut for the main language of Greenland; Inuttut for Labrador; Inuvialuktun for the MacKenzie Delta area; and I˝upiaq for the language spoken in Alaska. The language has been called Eskimo in English and other languages, and is a member of the Eskimo-Aleut language family. Now many Inuit do not want to be called Eskimo, although in Alaska and some other areas it is still used with no negative association.

These many names are the first indication that although Inuktitut is one language, it is composed of many distinct dialects. Each of these has many, many properties in common with all the other dialects but there are also very important differences in pronunciation, grammar and basic lexical items. Often these differences are great enough that a speaker of one dialect cannot accurately communicate with a speaker of another dialect, although they may get the gist of each other's speech. For this reason, it is advisable to have translations, interviews, etc. done by a member of the community in question and not by a speaker from a distant area.


Alana Johns

tel: 416-978-1761
email: ajohns[at]chass[dot]utoronto[dot]ca

Department of Linguistics
University of Toronto