Inuit move closer to a single writing system

A two-day gathering gets underway in Iqaluit today that will help Inuit move closer towards a single, unified writing system.

Two-day gathering begins today in Iqaluit

Two children read a book in Inuktitut. The writing on the book's cover is in syllabics. It's one of two widely-used writing systems in Inuktitut, along with roman orthography, which uses many of the same letters as English. (CBC)

A two-day gathering gets underway in Iqaluit today that will help move Inuit closer towards a single, unified writing system.

The Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq task force, launched by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit group, will spend the next two days discussing findings from a series of consultations that saw visits to three communities in Nunavik, three in the N.W.T.'s Inuvialuit region and six in Nunavut.

The goal is to come up with a recommendation to provincial, territorial and Inuit government recommendations on how to standardize the written Inuit language.

Right now, both the spoken and the written language vary widely across the four Inuit regional groups, from the N.W.T. to Labrador.

"We've counted up to 12 main dialects, and of course there are sub-dialects within those main dialects," says Jeela Palluq-Cloutier, who's been leading the task force since it was established.

The written language also varies widely, with some Inuit relying on syllabics originally brought in by missionaries, while others use roman orthography to transcribe the language. 

The project came out of ITK's 2010 national strategy on Inuit education, which sought ways to improve the overall graduation rate. At the time, it sat at approximately 25 per cent.

"There are so many different writing systems being used that educational materials and resources are not easily shared between regions," Palluq-Cloutier said.

She says the goal of this week's summit is to clarify issues surrounding a unified language before the task force makes final decisions or recommendations.

Delegates at the meeting will represent all four Inuit regions of Canada. One delegate from Alaska and one from Greenland will also take part to share their experience.

The meeting, which is closed to the public, wraps up Wednesday.