The Nunatsiavut Writing System

Standardized Orthography

It is important to keep in mind that Inuktut and English use the roman writing system in different ways. The same letter may represent different sounds in Inuktut and English (for example the letter j).

Another important difference is that Inuktut has a standardized orthography.  This means that, in general, each roman letter in Inuktut only represents one sound. And for each sound in Inuktut there is only one way to write it. If you know how the Inuktut writing system works, you will know how to pronounce each word that you see written. This makes learning Inuktut considerably easier.


Inuktut has three basic vowel sounds:  i    u    a

All Inuktut speakers, regardless of dialect, use both short and long vowel sounds. Long vowels make the same sound as short vowels but are pronuounced for twice the amount of time. This is important because the difference between a long and a short vowel can change the meaning of a word:

  panik with short i sound, means daughter
  panek with long  i sound, means two daughters.

Whereas other Inuktut dialects write long vowels by doubling the letter (ii, uu, aa), Nunatsiavumiutitut speakers write long vowels this way: 

i:  Long i sound (ii) is written with e : tukisiven? Do you understand?

u: Long u sound (uu) is written with o : pualok two mittens

a: long a sound (aa) is written with â : mânna  now

Vowels can also be combined:

au aullaKtuk
ai aivik
ia niaKuk
iu niuvipvik
ui  tuik



The Nunatsiavut writing system has 14 consonants:

    b   g   h   k   m   n   p   s   t   v   r   K   ng   tl

Note that ng and tl are considered single sounds even though they are written with two letter.

The following consonants are pronounced differently than in English:

j is pronounced like the English y in the word yak  

r This sound is not made in English but is similar to the way r is pronounced in French. It sounds like a slight gargle at the back of the throat.  In Nunatsiavut, this sound is only heard in words borrowed from German.


K vs k

A very common sound in Inuktut is written with an upper case K by Nunatsiavummiutitut speakers. In most other Inuktut dialects, this sound is written with a q

The sound is produced at the back of the throat. To begin, close your throat with the very back of your tongue, as if you were about to pronounce a g. Release air as if you were pronouncing a k.

This sound is always written as an upper case K, even if it appears in the middle of a word.  

In Nunatsiavummiutitut, lowe case k always makes the same sound as a k in English.



The combination tl is considered a single consonant sound. Put your tongue in the same position as you would to pronounce an l. Without using your vocal cords, breathe out, as if you were pronouncing an sh