Inuit Grammar

Inuit Grammar

The Inuit language, like other Eskimo–Aleut languages, has a very rich morphological system, in which a succession of different morphemes are added to root words to indicate things that, in languages like English, would require several words to express. (See also: Agglutinative language and Polysynthetic language) All Inuit language words begin with a root morpheme to which other morphemes are suffixed. The language has hundreds of distinct suffixes, in some dialects as many as 700. Fortunately for the learners, the language has a highly regular morphology. Although the rules are many, and sometimes very complicated, they do not have exceptions in the sense that English and other Indo-European languages do.

This system makes words very long, and potentially unique. For example, in Nunavut Inuktitut:

ᑐᓵᑦᓯᐊᕈᓐᓇᓐᓐᒡᒌᑦᑐᐊᓘᔪᓐᓐᒐ
tusaatsiarunnanngittualuujunga
I can't hear very well.

This long word is composed of a root word tusaa-to hear – followed by five suffixes:

-tsiaq- well
-junnaq- be able to
-nngit- not
-tualuu- very much
-junga 1st pers. singular present indicative non-specific

Note the consonant sandhi (see Inuit language phonology and phonetics): The /q/ from -tsiaq- followed by the /j/ from -junnaq- becomes /r/, a single consonant taking its point of articulation from /q/ and its manner of articulation from /j/. The /q/ from -junnaq- is assimilated into the /ŋŋ/ of -nngit-, because Inuktitut forbids triple length consonants, and because the morphophonological rules attached to -nngit- require it to delete any consonant that comes before it.

This sort of word construction is pervasive in Inuit language and makes it very unlike English. In one large Inuktitut corpus – the Nunavut Hansard – 92% of all words appear only once, in contrast to a small percentage in most English corpora of similar size. This makes the application of Zipf's law quite difficult.

Furthermore, the notion of a part of speech can be somewhat complicated in Inuit language. Fully inflected verbs can be interpreted as nouns. The word ilisaijuq can be interpreted as a fully inflected verb – "he studies" – but can also be interpreted as a noun: "student".

Because of the language's rich and complicated morphology, this article can present only a limited and unsystematic sample of its features. It is based largely on the Inuktitut dialects of north Baffin Island and central Nunavut. The morphology and syntax of Inuit language varies to some degree between dialects, but the basic principles will generally apply to all of them and to some degree to Yupik as well.

Read more about Inuit Grammar:  Verbs in Main Clauses, Non-specific Verbs, Specific Verbs, Changing Verb Classes, Reflexive Verbs, Verbs in Secondary Clauses, Fourth Person Inflection, Causative, Conditional & Subjunctive, Frequentative, Dubitative, Verb Modifiers, Modifiers of Tense, Ergativity in Inuktitut

Other articles related to "words">inuit grammar":

Inuit Grammar - Ergativity in Inuktitut
... Consequently, the application of the notion of ergativity to Inuktitut, and to many other languages, is somewhat controversial ... Regardless, by analogy with more conventionally ergative languages, the -up, -k, -it endings described above are often called ergative suffixes which are taken to be indicative of the ergative case, while the -mik, -rnik, -nik endings (see Non-specific verbs - Objects) are called accusative ...

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    All the facts of nature are nouns of the intellect, and make the grammar of the eternal language. Every word has a double, treble or centuple use and meaning.
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