What is Inuktut?

This seems like a straightforward question, but it’s not. The simplest answer is that Inuktut is the Inuit language as it is spoken in Arctic communities throughout Canada. In this book, we use the term Inuktut to describe the Inuit language generally. To avoid confusion, we refer to the dialects spoken in Nunatsiavut as Nunatsiavummiutitut even though speakers there refer to their language as Inuttitut or Inuttut.

Inuktut might best be understood as a spectrum of dialects spoken from Alaska in the west to Greenland in the east. Communities close to one another generally have few problems communicating between dialects, whereas an Alaskan and a Nunatsiavummiuk would have trouble doing so.

Even among communities that share a common dialect, vocabulary and pronunciation may vary from place to place and between generations. Historically, Inuit lived in isolated camps where distinct speech forms evolved. As they settled into permanent communities, speakers of varying dialects often became neighbours in the same hamlet. This mixing has intensified with the modern-day migration of Inuit in search of employment and opportunities in other communities.

Daily life helps break down communication barriers. So, too, does radio and digital media, by exposing Inuktut speakers to a range of dialects spoken throughout Canada.