Nfld. & Labrador

Written Inuktitut to be standardized across Canada

Representatives from each area in consultation with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami are going over the language letter-by-letter in order to create one, official written version.

First draft expected sometime in 2018

Sarah Townley is one of the people working to standardize Inuktitut in Canada. (Katie Breen/CBC)

There are changes coming to the way Inuktitut is written.

Local spellings are being standardized across Canada's four Inuit regions — including Nunatsiavut, Labrador. 

Representatives from each area, in consultation with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, are going over the language letter-by-letter in order to create one, official written version.

"All the regions are losing some of their writing systems… So it's not just one region that we're focusing on," said Sarah Townley, one of the people representing Nunatsiavut's way of spelling.

All the regions are losing some of their writing systems- Sarah Townley

Everyone is compromising.

As an example, Nunatsiavut uses a k where other regions use a q and the q is becoming the official way to note the sound.

The word hill — pronounced hawk-hawk — is spelled kakKak by Labrador Inuit. It'll change to qaqqaq.

Hopes to grow the language

"It's going to be a lot easier for people that's learning Inuktitut," said Townley.

Syllabics will continue to be used in the regions they're currently used in, according to Townley, but they won't be included in the standardized version of Inuktitut. (Twitter/@ITK_CanadaInuit)

She feels standardization will help grow the language, as regions will be able to share resources.

"Where the Labrador Inuktitut is dying out slowly, a lot of people are not really using it they way they used to," she said.

"In the school system now, once they have that grasp of it, it's going to flourish, I believe."

Regions to continue their own spellings

Townley said the standardized writing system will be used to communicate across regions, but local spellings can — and will — still be used in their respective areas.

That'll be the case for syllabics, she said — a form of the written language that looks like symbols and isn't used in Labrador.

She doesn't fear it will fade out because she feels the form will continue in regions that currently use it.

Time consuming process 

The process has taken more than three years. 

Townley expects the first draft of the standardized language will be released sometime in 2018.

The group is meeting again in Inuvik later this month.

"Once we hear back from the community with their concerns, or their additions or their deletions … we then meet again and discuss this to see what would be the best solution."

"I'm thinking a lot of it will be accepted."