Thursday, 19 January 2012

The flexible structure of Inuktitut

One of the biggest obstacles to the use of Inuktitut in the workplace and the proper development of technical terminologies is the presumption by non-Inuktitut speakers that the Inuit Languages are "primitive" and "backward" by nature, and the lack of technical regard for the inherent possibilities of Inuktitut by Inuit themselves. The presumptuous non-Inuit would be forgivable if they didn't have so much power and influence over the officialdom and governance of Inuit Nunaat and the lives of Inuit; Inuit themselves should realize that insistence on traditions and "purity" of language is a visceral reaction that only helps the death of Inuktitut and Inuit society (ie, has little to do with identity because it is a reflexive political/ideological stance).

The English-speaking world takes undeserved pride that much of the world of business, politics and science is English. Little do they realize that the business terms, political terms and, especially, scientific terms aren't really English at all but rather mainly come from Greco-roman classicism, and even from the Inuit language. I don't see this as a negative but a strength of modernity - that one is able to take from diverse sources to coin new words and concepts.

The structure of Inuktitut is that it naturally allows construction of words and phrases from bare morphemes (or meaning units) at the conceptual and grammatical levels much more readily than "English". With the right systems of nomenclature the possibilities for Inuktitut would surpass English-sounding systems of naming principles and procedures using consistencies in word generation and phonological rules by an inestimable factor. Couple this polysynthetic nature of Inuktitut word construction with a system of prefixing and the possibilities grow even more.

"English" can generate word lists like:

anthropology
anthropogenic
anthropomorphic
misanthrope
philanthropy

all from the same source ἄνθρωπος, Greek for "man" but the "English" constructions are arbitrary (ie, some do not follow grammatical and phonological rules consistently) and therefore have a certain degree of unpredictability and conjugation pattern layouts (consistent vowel deletion/insertion rules do not exist here, for eg).

Inuktitut can do much better. Besides being a genderless language (ie, there is no "he/she/it") Inuktitut is a single source of grammar, morphology and phonology and "specialist" terms can therefore be translated into other fields in a conceptually, logically, mathematically and etymologically consistent manner.

inuliriji
inuk
inuit
inuuvik
inuugami
inuujunniqtuq

all terms having to do with the concept of "person" (ie, not "man", "woman", "child", "it" but all the concept of a (living) person) and each phonological/grammatical change is rational and predictable (ie, one can build upon the basic concept using consistent rules of construct and phonology).

For new technologies and concepts Inuktitut is just as flexible having adapted itself to snowmobiles (and parts thereof) and hunting and building techniques and new materials built up from terms at the conceptual level: -(r)uti-; -jaq-; -nnguaq-; -jaaq-; etc. are adjectival functions embedded into words. New and novel concepts are embraced and encapsulated into the language from either function and/or form of the "new" thing so the flexibility and adaptability of the language is truly infinite in nature.

With the right information, comprehension and properly laid-out logic systems of first principles/postulates, chemistry, mathematics, finance, politics and/or any field of discourse in which the Nobel Prize are awarded could fall into the realm of Inuktitut. The mathematical nature and elegance of Inuktitut language structure is one of the best ideas out there. No one has just really clued into it.

Jay

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