Rare language fact file: Inuktun

Native to: Qaanaaq and other parts of northwestern Greenland

Number of native speakers: 770 (in 2010)

Spoken by: the Inughuit (the Greenlandic Inuit)

Learn some: Greet people by saying ‘aluu’ (hello) and say goodbye with ‘baaj’ (bye).

Interesting facts:

  • Words in Inuktun can be incredibly long and their meaning can be translated into whole sentences in other languages! For example, ‘amirlahiunguqpaghuaqatauqattarhamanngitsurhuugama’ can be translated into English as, ‘because I haven’t taken part in hunts involving many people’.
  • Although it is spoken by relatively few people, Inuktun continues to evolve and new words are created all the time. The word for ‘computer’, for example, is ‘qarasaasiaq’, which translates as ‘artificial brain’.
  • Inughuits used to have a rich oral storytelling culture. However, the rapid modernising of culture in Greenland has led to this being replaced by Danish and English language films, which cannot be subtitled into Inuktun because its words are too long.

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