Self-Determination in Education
Since the 1970s the discussion around promoting and supporting the continued use of Inuktut (the Inuit language) in schools across Canada’s four Inuit regions has included a deeply rooted debate about introducing a unified Inuit writing system to promote communication across dialects and the development of common learning materials.
We can take ownership of our written language. Our current writing systems were introduced through the process of colonization. The unified Inuktut writing system will be the first writing system created by Inuit for Inuit in Canada.
Why Create a Unified System?
The key to a new era in bilingual education is the ability to produce, publish and distribute common Inuktut materials. A unified writing system for Inuktut with common grammar, spelling and terminology, would facilitate the production of these materials and strengthen Inuktut. It would improve mobility and foster consistency in the education system for students, leading to improved literacy and education outcomes across Inuit Nunangat.
A unified writing system will also strengthen Inuit unity and culture in Canada, as it is part of Inuit self-determination.
Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq
The Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq (AIT) Task Group includes language specialists from each Inuit region. It is mandated to research and identify the speech components of Inuktut and the current Inuktut orthographies in use, and recommend an Inuktut orthography that has the best chance of advancing Inuktut far into the future.
History of Writing Systems
Many Inuit learned to write from Inuit who were visiting from other regions and writing spread quickly. Inuit improved and adapted the writing systems that missionaries developed in order to spread Christianity throughout the Arctic.
Mid to Late 1700s
- Mid: Samuel Kleinschmidt, linguist (Roman)
- Late: Moravian missionaries (Roman)
- 1850s: Horden and Watkins adapted Cree syllabics
- 1876: Edmund Peck translated biblical materials (syllabics)
- Late 1800s: Missionaries introduced Roman orthography
Early to Mid 1900s
- Early 1900s: First picture writing and Roman orthography
- Mid 1900s: Gilles Lefebvre (1950s) and Raymond Gagné (1960s) hired by government to standardize Roman orthography
- 1973: Labrador writing reform
- 1976: ICI standard introduced (ratified by ITC)
- 1980: Nunavik’s Avataq Cultural Institute established
- 1984: Inuvialuit (COPE): Standardizes Roman orthography, different from ICI
- 2000: Nunavik: reintroduction of fourth column
- 2009: Nunavut: Natsilik introduces new symbols
- 2010: Nunavut: IUT established
- 2011: ITK forms Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq Task Group
- 2017: Unified language writing system: review current writing systems and orthography and recommend draft spelling rules and symbols
We Want Your InputToday Inuit use nine different writing systems, using both syllabics and Roman orthology
- Are there areas in history of our writing systems that are not identified in the timeline that should be considered to develop the unified writing system?
- Are there key symbols or clusters of symbols that are common across our region and should be considered in a unified Inuit language writing system?
- Land claims organizations, language authorities, and governments will make their own decisions for moving forward. Is there any additional information that should be required before a recommendation is provided?
Thank You to Our Sponsors, Donors, and Partners
ITK would like to thank the following partners for their support in the implementation of the National Strategy on Inuit Education