Inuit Online Culture and The World Wide Web

FRE 1114 Final Paper


Gabrielle Trépanier

University of Toronto

April 2003


Inuit Online Culture and the World Wide Web

1. Introduction
2. Translation…
3. …and the Internet
4. Inuit Culture On-line
5. Inuit Culture and Language Resources on the World Wide Web
6. Research Strategies
7. Online Inuit Resources Search Results
8. Conclusion
9. Bibliography


1. Introduction

Translation is as much a linguistic, as a cultural practice. Changing from one language to another can represent a shift in style, form, but it may also mark a change in worldview. One tool that may be used in tracking these shifts is the Internet. Though still rooted in English, the Web is a multi-language environment that is continually expanding as an international cultural medium. Its potential as a communication network is not yet fully developed, but it contains cultural production from so many groups in so many languages that it seems already very well suited to the needs of translation.

As the number of cultures represented on the Internet grows, rich networks of sites are developing to suit those outside of the Web’s typical North American, European and Asian users. Indeed, some smaller cultures have a proportionally important Web presence. One such interesting case is the Inuit, who both represent themselves, and are often represented by others on the Internet. Present through their own individual or community Web pages, Inuit-related material is also found through cultural institutions like museums or galleries, in language oriented Web pages, or government sites. Not only is their culture being expressed, but it is also being translated. Many official sites, such as those created by the Nunavut government contain English, French and most interestingly, Inuktitut. Indeed, this language receives a good deal of attention online and is starting to be developed as a viable way of communicating on the Web, despite of the fact of a writing system that does not use roman orthography.

The topic of this paper was chosen as an interesting avenue for examining the Web and translation. Included will be a critical discussion of translation and the Web, as well as searching strategies, a brief overview of Inuit culture and a summary of the available online resources. By examining these elements, insight will hopefully be gained as to how the Internet can function as a tool for translation between larger languages like English and French, but also in relation to smaller cultures like the Inuit.


2. Translation…

Both of the topics that will be discussed in this section, translation (as a discipline or as a field of study), and the Internet are complex subjects. To be able to look critically at the Web as a translator’s asset, it is useful to give some thought to the defining characteristics and concerns of both fields.

Translation is not a simple practice. Done in the fullest sense, it involves crossing ideas, sentences, meanings, and codes over from one language and culture into another. In Translating and Being Translated, Umberto Eco identifies some of the considerations that come before translators. For the author, who is reflecting on translations of his own work, "a text (I believe he is especially, but not exclusively, referring to literary efforts,) is a machine conceived for eliciting interpretations" Certain elements which especially require this interpretive effort from translators are defined as equivalence in meaning, comparability versus incommensurability, sameness of reference, and consideration for cultural shift.

Equivalence in meaning is the most basic aspect of translating. In literary situations, it might also be though of a the most base form of translating. As pointed out by Eco, even within one language it is difficult to find synonyms that are truly equivalent, and so between languages, finding the same connotations is especially difficult. Indeed, what becomes lost in translation is rarely the signified object or action, but the connotative significance that comes with words and expressions. That is why translating il pleut with a site like AltaVista’s Babel Fish or will result in the not overly misleading "it rains", while sending an expression like il pleut à boire debout will produce the less helpful "it rains has to drink upright (or standing)".

In this case, "it’s raining cats and dogs" would be better translation. The act of judging relevance of this type is largely an effort to grasp figurative meaning, which Eco refers to as negotiating incommensurability and comparability within translation. Languages are inherently different systems that represent and express even the most common situations in varied ways. However, despite the absence of literal equivalency between "cats and dogs" and "boire debout" (ergo the incommensurability of languages), the expressions are comparable. Although this is a simple example, it indicates how the act of translating requires more than equivalency. It engages the translator’s knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, but it also challenges his or her intertextual, psychological, and narrative competence and sensitivity.

The idea of comparability in translation also extends itself to what Eco calls sameness in reference. This is important when the literal content is secondary to the overall meaning. To quote Eco’s example, having someone articulate the words "It is very cold here" is an obvious statement about the temperature of the speaker’s environment. However, in full context, should it have been said strictly in the hope of getting someone to close a window, then the translator could replace "Il fait très froid ici" with "Il fait un temps misérable aujourd’hui" and preserve the intent of that phrase.

Meaning and reference can also be wholly coloured by something larger than narrative or intertextual elements. A translator’s task goes beyond correct language; translation is truly a shift between two cultures, or as Eco describes it "between two encyclopedias" This kind of shift is celebrated by postmodernists who highlight ‘the

textuality of knowledge, its local, embedded, contextual quality (…) the richness and complexity of local meanings of folk practices and beliefs, and particularly (…) ironic meaning and intention in everyday practice"

To practice translation while being sensitive to cultural specificities is a difficult skill to acquire without any direct experience of the other culture. Even small or simple details, like the correct translation of monsieur can vary quite a bit depending on the situation of the original, and the target language of the translation. As such, two neighbours in Paris could easily address each other with a "Bonjour, Monsieur", while in English (Good day, Sir) or in Italian (Buongiorno, signore) these exact translations would at once seem excessively formal.

These nuances are all part of the translator’s role of coping with larger cultural shifts, such as important changes in worldview. This part of translation resonates with theories of linguistic relativity, like those set out by Whorf. As much as languages are affected by culture, some linguists suggest that the structure of language itself can also influence the way a culture arranges reality. Differences in grammatical or semantic structure are seen as apt to produce differences in the way speakers organize experience, in essence that language "conceals a metaphysics"

Whorf, and others, also argue that differences in cultural metaphysics do not allow for classification of languages, in terms of richness, usefulness or any other such socially contrived standards. Indeed, languages are different but, "different languages are equally valid in describing the observable phenomena of the universe." This is similar to Eco’s incommensurability of languages. Beyond the difficulties of sorting out intertextual differences, in the frame of linguistic relativity each language is seen as the medium best suited to reflect its own profound cultural worldview. Translation can, at this point, come to seem almost impossible.

What is really involved is difficulty or indeterminacy of correlation. It is just that there is less basis of comparison- less sense in saying what is good translation and what is bad- the farther we get away from sentences with visibly direct conditioning to nonverbal stimuli and the farther we get off home round.

Despite such considerations, there is still support for the notion of cultural communication, which encompasses but is not limited to, the practice of translation. Indeed, linguistic relativity does not seek to show that other cultures are not understandable, but that no transcendent criteria can allow for a neutral evaluation of another’s culture. However, other cultures can be accessed. Indeed, the source of the most pertinent cross-cultural understanding is said to come from the process of learning another’s language.


3. …and the Internet

Given the above description it becomes obvious that the act of translation requires more than a working knowledge of the source language. Translators need resources to help them negotiate meanings, references, and cultural context. The question that leads this paper is therefore the following: Is the Internet a good or different tool for translation? At first glance it seems like a less reliable dictionary, coupled with a much less organized encyclopaedia. There is also the consideration that grammatical rules, as well as basic spelling, are not always a priority on the Web.

Translation can require quite fine and specific knowledge to be able to shape a new text that suits the original. Indeed, for Walter Benjamin the act of translation is, among many other things, a way of marking the "after-ripening" of a written work. In the simplest terms, this means that unlike the original, which is ever unchanging and moves through time as a complete and historically fixed work, translations are very much alive and change to suit the period and the place of their own inception.

These same qualities, aliveness and changeability, are also a good description of the Internet. While printed books are fixed (dictionaries do change over time, but not as quickly), the Web is constantly in motion. This is first of all due to the reality of the Internet as a non-lieu. Unlike other sources of information that are geographically bound, the Web erases or muddies a sense of distance and locality. All points and all cultures seem immediately accessible at all times, so that even places that are in truth quite difficult to reach can have a presence around the globe. Already, this can be seen as a recommendation to translators, who can quickly connect themselves to parts of the societies and cultures from which they may be attempting to work.

Moreover, the Web changes because the culture that surrounds it, unlike the one that surrounds publishing, is not hierarchical but functions through interconnectivity. Websites are as valid, or invalid, as they care, seem, or can be found to be. As such, the discourses being produced by any number of sub-cultures receive a different type of recognition and are of a different value than the discourses of printed words.

Indeed, for many the Internet is of value for its capacity to "promote multiplicity, heterogeneity, and immediate, if temporary, connections" This multiplicity, in terms of translating cultural meanings, is important: "To the millions who have been drawn to into it, the richness and vitality of computer-linked cultures is attractive, even addictive. There is no such thing as a single, monolithic, online subculture; it’s more like an ecosystem of subcultures, some frivolous, some serious."

The varieties of sub-groups on the Web are especially attuned to the world of popular culture. The lack of hierarchies on the Internet does not preclude the presence of traditional high culture, but it does place it on more or less same level as fan sites and astrology sale pitches. Indeed, there is no true unification of culture on the Web. The networked structure prevents high culture from assuming its traditional role of homogenization, and as such the distinction between high and low is less important.

For translators working to grasp the terminology of pop culture, the Web might be the ultimate encyclopaedia. Changes occur in the languages of these sub-cultures very quickly and the Internet is an excellent way of tracking them. However, it might be a mistake to only consider the Web as a source for "low culture" translation. Indeed, this mixing of high and low, near and far, has spread out from the Internet to the point that "The printed book is no longer the only or necessarily the most important space in which we locate our texts and images."

Moreover, reading on the Internet is quite different from reading out of a book, both in relation to content and to accessing information. Hierarchies of expertise do not necessarily exist in terms of what is said on any given subject on the Web. Access to information is faster, can be much more specific, and is made from a usually larger, or at least more diverse, pool of data than what can be found through books or journals. Indeed, the Internet is a system with incredibly easy access to millions of pages of information. However, this access is somewhat unstable and it remains impossible to ever form a clear idea of what exactly is out there. Unlike other information sources, no one group is responsible for the content of the Web. While libraries are collecting bodies with specialized selection criteria, the Internet remains a wholly chaotic accumulation of information, coming from as many sources as there are people capable of putting together a Website.

For translators, much of what has been described can be seen as quite a benefit, but with some important reservations. The topic taken up in the following section is meant to determine some of these advantages, and will probably reveal some of the limitations. The choice of Inuit culture as a topic comes out of a desire to evaluate how the Web can be of use in translations of culturally specific terms that lie outside the mainstream context. It is also convenient for looking beyond the usual languages examined in instances of Web-assisted translation, which in my case have been French and English. However, because I have no special knowledge of Inuktitut, the search is limited to words that have found their way from Inuit culture into the lexicon of Southern (in relation to the Inuit) North America.


4. Inuit Culture and Inuit Online

The Inuit do not fit perfectly into high, low, or mainstream culture, either on the Internet or in real life. That is not to say that they do not participate, only that they do so from a very different perspective, and a very different locality. They are a growing cultural force both in Canada and internationally, part of a group of circumpolar aboriginal peoples that are making themselves heard and known to the world. For a small group, the Inuit number in the thousands, their presence on the Internet is quite strong. Often presented in English, many Websites featuring their culture also contain titles or full texts in Inuktitut. Although by no means the only language found in the Canadian North, Inuktitut is thriving as one of the official languages of Nunavut. Indeed, many sites dedicated to this newest territory are offered in three languages.

Inuktitut, which translates as "to speak like an Inuk" is the common name of a group of closely related dialects spoken by the Inuit. It has two written forms, one of which is highly adaptable to the Internet, while the other is not quite so immediate a fit. Although northern aboriginal languages have a long history as oral forms of communication, writing systems are fairly recent additions. The Inuit are able to write their language both with roman orthography, which in Inuktitut is Qaliujaaqpaait and through a system of syllabic characters called or Qaniujaaqpait. In French or English, these systems are most commonly referred to as roman orthography or syllabic Inuktitut (l’alphabet romain ou l’Inuktitut syllabaire).

The syllabic writing was adapted for the Inuit by English missionaries at the end of the 19th century. The Reverend James Evans developed the general syllabic chart in 1840, as a way of writing the Cree language. The system is made of approximately sixty characters, each representing a syllable sound. For instance, the "Nu" sound in Nunavut is written with one character in syllabics: "". Parallel to this system, missionaries also taught the Inuit to read and write using roman orthography.

Both forms of Inuktitut are now standardized. Syllabics are common in Nunavut, but Qaliujaaqpaait has also spread to areas such as Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuuttiaq) and Kugluktuk (Qurluqtuq), as well as to Inuit living in Greenland, in the Mackenzie Delta, and in Alaska. In Nunavut, both versions are taught in schools so that people who normally write in syllabics may also use the roman orthography for writing e-mails or working on computers. Several software packages also exist to allow users to download syllabic Inuktitut fonts for both the Internet and word processing. Because of these developments, several Nunavut Websites are produced trilingually, and others are bilingual but with English, syllabics, and roman orthography.

Beyond their language, several other aspects of Inuit culture are found online. Their art scene has been growing importantly in the past 50 years and it now has a fairly important Web presence. Their art developed out of Inuit craftwork, as well as through contacts with the cultures of Southern Canada. The Inuit are especially recognized for their sculptures, tapestries, and prints although this is not the extent of their artistic production. As such, material related to this art scene can be found on museums sites, cultural sites, as well as in Websites connected to commercial and non-commercial art galleries.

Finally, the territory that the Inuit inhabit is extremely vast. Essentially nomadic until the 20th century, the effects of contacts with the South have made the Inuit much more sedentary and have wrought important and often very difficult changes to their way of life. Their culture has however shown itself to be very adaptable, absorbing such things as writing and artwork, and now insuring that the Inuit presence on the Web is not exclusively created by outsiders to their culture. Beyond galleries or travel sites, many community-based Web pages exist, as well as sites that the recent history of the creation of the 3rd Canadian territory of Nunavut in 1999.

In light of this, the following is an overview (which does not at all claim to be comprehensive) of the available online material touching upon the history, the culture and lives of the Inuit peoples.


5. Inuit Culture and Language Resources on the World Wide Web

Arctic History and Culture

The Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic - From Ancient Times to 1902

Iñupiaq Cultural Resources

North - Landscape of the Imagination

Siberian Yupik and Aleut

Welcome to the Sedna Homepage

Arctic and Circumpolar Research

Arctic Cyber Anthropology

The Arctic String Figure Project

Arctic Resources and Links

Community and Cultural Groups (Arctic)

Alaska Native Heritage Center

Avataq Cultural Institute

Inupiaq - Cultural Profile

Kitikmeot Inuit Association

Pauktuutit Inuit Women's Association

Qikiqtani Inuit Association

Tuktu and Nogak Project

Endangered Languages (mentions Inuktitut)

Federal Government (sites with Inuit as topic or content)

French Inuit Resources

Inuit Businesses and Organizations

Inuit Business Directory

Nunavut Tunngavik


Inuit Art Websites


Uqqurmiut Center


Northern Country Arts Arts and Mind

French (bilingual English and French)


Inuit/Inuktitut Education

Inupiaq Studies Curriculum

Satuumavik School

Inuktitut Language and Fonts (Nunavut Language Commission)


Nunacom Font Information

French (bilingual)

Inuktitut News

CBC North

Nunatsiaq News

Museums and Cultural Institutions




Territory Names

Trilingual Sites


6. Research Strategies

The types of information required for this project were both very general, in terms of creating an overview of online content, and very specific as the research focused on actual words and expressions taken from Inuit culture. It almost goes without saying that the quantity of available material on the Web, coupled with its existence as a "chaotic accumulator", should make those using it aware of the need to employ research strategies, and to look critically at most pieces of information that find their way to the computer screen.

The first level of research was an attempt to identify as many aspects of the Inuit culture as existed online. It was important to develop a sense of the breadth of available materials and to complete that with an approximation of how much of the Web content surrounding the Inuit was in English, how much was in French, and how much, if any, was in Inuktitut.

As such, the easiest way to begin was to use a metacrawler, which has the advantage of displaying many levels of results across different related topics. The site used was Kartoo, which functions by questioning many search engines, and selecting what seems to be the most appropriate results. Kartoo then displays its findings on a map organized by subject areas. The query "Inuit" provided groupings like Canada, Aboriginal, Eskimo, Northern, Native, Inuktitut, Ancient, Greenland, Artists, and Land claims. Kartoo presents the results with the possibility of narrowing or focusing the search along the displayed category lines. This is an excellent way of taking a very general search term like "Inuit" and getting at once an overlook of its related topics, and a sense of the quantity of information that is available.

The next step was to explore the identified sites, looking specifically for pages that either featured several languages, or that used (in any language) terms that would as a whole amount to the online Inuit vocabulary. Pages with text like the excerpt presented here were very useful in building a short list of words that could either be indicators or examples of cultural translation concerns (bolding is my own):

Thule people used dogs for hunting and travel, they built and used the seal skin kayak and they used, maybe even invented, the large open skin boat called the "umiak". By Thule times the beautiful and delicate tools and carvings of the Sivullirmiut were replaced by larger and more diverse tools and weapons for use with kayaks, umiaks and sleds. These included whips, harpoons, fishing spears, lances, bows and arrows, fur or skin clothing (including the parka and skin boots), needles and needle cases, the ulu or women's knife, soapstone lamps and pots, adzes, drum parts, snow knives, snow goggles, bow drills and toys. These artifacts express the commonalty of the Thule culture and our recent Canadian Inuit life. Almost all of these items are easily recognizable even by the younger generation of today. nuit_canada/history/ancestors.htm

This research led to the creation of two categories of expressions that seemed to be especially relevant to this type of research. These were firstly Inuktitut words that had found their way into the languages of the south, like kayak, or iglu. Following that, English or French terms were identified that are closely associated with the North, such as Nunavois, and dog team.

This built a base from which to proceed. Using a search engine like Google, it is possible to determine the relative levels of Web content expressed in a number of specific languages. The Advanced Search option can narrow the queries to one language, and the number of hits represent, in a general way, how much is available online. Google does not yet have an "Inuktitut Only" function, but searching for the identified key words did pinpoint Websites that were useful in negotiating some of the translation considerations discussed above, like equivalence in meaning, sameness of reference, comparability and incommensurability, and cultural shifts.

Key Words List:


7. Online Inuit Resources Search Results

Google Searches: April 23, 2003

Inuit (English): 152 000

Inuit (Français): 46 000

Working from the idea of gauging the overall content of the Web as it relates to the Inuit, the most general term was tried first. This gave an essentially accurate portrait of the ratio of English to French sites that exist in this field. Moreover, it also served to confirm that "Inuit" is the correct term to use in both languages. Indeed, this name is a relatively recent addition to the vocabulary of English and French Canada, which used to identify this group as either Eskimos or Esquimaux.


Inuktitut (the Web): 39 900

Inuktitut (Canada) 19 3000

Inuktitut (English): 29 700

Inuktitut (Français): 3 690

The culture surrounding Inuktitut on the Web is not limited to its speakers. Indeed, the word Inuktitut is already something of an outsider’s term, since the Inuit, when writing in roman orthography spell the name of their language Innuinaqtun.

The majority of interesting sites found regarding Inuktitut tended to be official government sites, either federal or territorial. It was within those created in Nunavut that the majority of the French content regarding the language was found. Indeed, the Nunavut sites were often trilingual, and constructed in such a way as to allow the Web user to switch between pages bearing the same information in English, French, roman orthography, and syllabic Inuktitut, such as the following, taken from the site of the Language Commission in Nunavut: Quanaqquhi, Merci, Thank You.

The other French sources were the francophone communities in the North, and some sites connected to Nunavik, which is the northern area of Québec inhabited by the Inuit. However, English still tends to accompany Inuktitut most often on Websites, in part because it remains the language spoken by the majority of outsiders in the North.

Finally, one very interesting Website marked the degree to which a change of language can carry meaning. The process of official name-changing is still ongoing in the North, both in Nunavut and Nunavik. This process, which is not exactly translation, has exchanged Frobisher Bay for Iqaluit, and Baie-aux-Feuilles for Tasiujaq. The list is available at


Iglu (the Web): 80 200

Iglu (Canada): 624

Igloo (the Web): 210 000

Igloo (Français): 572

Differences in the spelling of foreign words have existed for a long time between English and French. The former has a tendency to keep as close to the source language as possible, while French often transforms words. For the word iglu, which in Inuktitut essentially means "house", this kind of process seems to have taken place somewhat in reverse. Igloo, in both English and French, is an older and common spelling of a word that in mainstream Southern society refers to the image of a rounded snow-dwelling. According to Web searches, there now seems to be official French and English versions of this term, consisting respectively of "Igloo" and "Iglu". Interestingly, the English matches the now standardized Inuktitut roman orthography, while the French seems to have kept the older form.

Deeper differences in meaning are also discernible through the results of various Web searches. Igloo is now used in French contexts as the name of a chain of resorts, while Iglu is also a name associated with Linux computers. Moreover, English translations of Igloo may also use the expression "snow house", like in the examples cited below (bolding is my own).

Le Qaggig était un grand igloo communautaire où les Inuit se rassemblaient et jouaient à des jeux.

''Qaggik' is what they call a big place for Inuit to gather in and play games, which is a big snow house.

These texts are taken from a trilingual site featuring Inuit myths. The availability of these kinds of resources can be invaluable for checking cultural references in context, since even simple words like Iglu can create very complex translation questions.


Kayak (the Web): 1 250 000

Kayak (English): 570 000

Kayak (Français): 107 000

A kayak is, in origin, a small sealskin boat used for hunting in the North. Like the umiak, these crafts have been in existence at least since the time of the Thule, who were predecessors of Inuit culture in the North.

In Websites dealing with Inuit history and culture, kayak is very much a word that belongs along side expressions like ulu, or umiak. That is to say, that these words all belong directly to Inuktitut and that they are meaningful to the Inuit. In the larger World Wide Web however, kayak no longer represents a typical Inuit sealskin boat. Indeed, it is possibly the most commercially viable and visible word to emerge from the North. Its French and English versions are stable and very much outside of any meaningful connection to the Inuit, having become part of the North American sports world. In that sense both kayaks, and the word that identifies them, may be comparable to something like snowshoes that are equally part of aboriginal culture, but exist in English or French environments independently of their source.

Umiak: 3900

Umiak (English): 3200

Umiak (Français): 116

Ulu (the Web): 81 200

Ulu+inuit : 712

Ulu+inuit (francais) 57

Ulu+inuit (English) 636


Unlike kayaks, the umiak and the ulu are still much more closely associated to and representative of Inuit culture. Not as common in Southern cultures, an umiak is a larger open boat made out of skin, and the ulu is a fan-shaped blade traditionally used by women to clean skins. At times translated respectively as "skin boat" and "woman’s knife" both terms also figure unchanged in many Websites from within and without the North.

The following portions of text are also taken the site featuring Inuit myths in English, French and Inuktitut. Once again, these types of easily comparable, and culturally rich site show the potential for the Web as a translator’s resource. The availability of these kinds of resources is quite beneficial for checking cultural references in context (bolding is my own).

When he saw that she had not lied, he gave her the knife and said, "This is now your ulu." The whole camp was envious of the girl who had been the least cared for, for she now owned a metal ulu.

Le père lui remit un couteau en signe de reconnaissance et lui dit, "ceci est maintenant ton ulu." Le camp au complet envia la jeune fille qui possédait maintenant un ulu en métal, cette même fille dont on ne souciait guère de son sort auparavant.


Dog Team (the Web): 2 500

Attelage de chiens (the Web): 3 950

These translations are interesting because although they are meant to coincide with a single Inuit expression, the terms lack an equivalency of literal meaning. The referent is the same, but the English version is focused on the animals as a group, and the French focuses on what is holding the group together. Since other elements in the "dog team vocabulary" are quite similar, sled is not surprisingly translated as traîneau, this little variation is quite curiosity-inspiring. Was either derived from the Inuktitut, or do these expressions both arrive from separate points?


Nunavois (Français): 55

Nunavut, the name of the latest Canadian territory, and home to the majority of Inuit, is Inuktitut for "Our Land". This name appears to expresses the Inuit sentiment that their lives are very intimately bound to the territory they occupy.

For that reason, it was interesting to note the French creation of a specific gentilé for the inhabitants of Nunavut. Relatively fewer Anglophone communities have developed these types of words that in French hold a connotation of belonging to both a geographical area, and to a culture. As such, the English translation of this expression, found on the Website of the Nunavut Language Commission does not contain the same type of element (bolding is my own):

La plupart des Nunavois utilisent le qaniujaaqpait, c'est-à-dire le syllabaire, pour écrire l'inuktitut.(…) Les orthographes normalisées, le qaliujaaqpait et le qaniujaaqpait, sont désormais enseignées à tous les élèves des écoles nunavoises.

Most Inuktitut speakers in Nunavut use qaniujaaqpait or syllabics to write their language.(…) Both ICI standardized qaliujaaqpait and qaniujaaqpait are now taught to children in all of Nunavut's schools.


Moreover, the two expressions used, Nunavois and "Inuktitut speakers in Nunavut", are not necessarily equivalent, either in literal meaning or in reference. The English version is specifically indicating a group of residents, who are also speakers of a language, while the French essentially encompasses all who belong to Nunavut.

The different options here are culturally loaded, as they relate to the link between person and homeland. Indeed, the second usage of Nunavoises, in talking about Inuktitut schools is less problematic. Both English and French are only meaning to say that the schools are found in Nunavut.

The resolution of which version best explains the relationship between the Inuit and their territory is beyond the capacity of the Internet to entirely reveal. Nevertheless, an indication might be allowed by the fact that not only, as it was mentioned above, does Nunavut means "Our Land", but the Web pages of the Inuit are quite filled with expressions of closeness to their environment. In the end however, these translations probably say more about the perceptions of the source languages that they explain the intricacies of the target culture.


8. Conclusion

Translations are always somewhat imperfect. The loss of meaning, richness and colour that can happen in transferring words and expressions from one culture to another will most probably never truly be avoided. Despite that, the act of translation, the awareness of others that it creates and demands will be forever interesting. Some of the specific concerns of translation were presented in this paper, and they included elements like equivalency in meaning, the incommensurability of different languages, difference in reference, and most importantly shifts in cultural meaning.


Through this paper, a critical look has been attempted at using the Internet, the newest medium to support and communicate the ideas of many different groups and sub-cultures, as a tool in the process of translation. The case used was that of the various aspects of Inuit culture that is found online. This specific topic was interesting because the Websites devoted to the Inuit are a meeting point of three languages, at least three cultures, two writing systems, millions of peoples as viewers, and hundreds of people as contributors.

Overall, the results of the different key words chosen have shown that the Internet is an especially rich source for translators. Its strongest asset is the network structure that allows all different levels of expression to be located. As such, using the Web to fill in a translator’s cultural blanks can be a valid practice. The limitations of this tool are similar to the limitations of much written work, in that it must be used with a critical eye and that it is mostly with some experience of Websites and research strategies that the potential of this instrument is at its highest.



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Harper, Kenn "Writing in Inuktitut: An Historical Perspective", North: Landscape of the Imagination, , 3/25/03

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