Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Inuktitut Grammar: a sketch

1. Noun Endings

There are eight basic noun (or case) endings in Inuktitut.

Noun-Ø                 unmarked nouns
Noun-mi              locative case: at, in, on                                 singular -mi/plural -ni
Noun-mik           accusative case: object of a                         singular -mik/plural-nik                             transitive verb

Noun-mit            ablative case: from, than                             singular -mit/plural-nit
Noun-mut           allative case: to, for, with                            singular -mut/plural-nut
Noun-(u)p          genitive case: possessive,                            subject of a double pronominal

Noun-kkut          translative case: through,
                             by (way of)

Noun-tut             equative case: like, as, in                              the manner of

The noun endings and the verbal moods in Inuktitut do away with word/phrase order that necessitate strict English SVO word order.
The noun declensions roll out this way:
Absolutive          Noun-Ø
An unmarked noun serves as a subject of an intransitive verb, or verb phrases with single-pronominal endings:
For single-pronominal endings (whether singular, dual or plural):
una inuk-Ø tikirataaqtuq umiakkut                         'this person arrived by boat’
ukuak inuuk- Ø tikirataaqtuuk umiakkut               ‘these two (persons) just arrived by boat’
ukua inuit- Ø tikirataaqtut umiakkut                     ‘these (many) people just arrived by boat’
For intransitive verbs:
Jaani inngiqtuq                                                            ‘Johnny is singing’
Saali siniktuq                                                               ‘Saul is sleeping’
qimmiq qiluktuq                                                         ‘the dog is barking’

An unmarked noun serves as an object of verb phrases that have double-pronominal endings .

For double-pronominal endings (again, whether singular, dual or plural):
Qulittaliup takujanga inuk                           ‘Qulittalik sees a person’                                 inuk – singular
Qulittaliup takujangik inuuk                       ‘Qulittalik sees the (two) people’                   inuuk – dual
Qulittaliup takujangit inuit                         ‘Qulittalik sees the (many) people’                inuit – plural

Locative               Noun-mi/-ni

The locative case denotes where something is located in space or time: in, on, or at.
Iqalungni nunaqaqtunga                              ‘I live in Iqaluit’                                                -Iqaluit is plural
natirmi siniktuq                                             ‘s/he is sleeping on the floor’
July-mi tuvaisuuq                                          ‘the sea ice breaks up in July’

8:30-mi iqqanaijariaqpaktuq                      ‘s/he goes to work at 8:30

Accusative          Noun-mik/-nik
This grammatical marker denotes the object of a transitive verb.
qimmirmik takujunga                                    ‘I see a dog’

uqalimaagarnik ajjaqsijutit                         ‘you are carrying books’

marruungnik nattilauqtuq                           ‘s/he caught two seals’

Ablative               Noun-mit/-nit

The ablative case denotes a direction ‘from’ spatially or temporally, or as a comparative.

ullaamit unnumut angunasusuut                ‘from dawn to dusk they’re out hunting’

 Iqalungnit tikilauqtuq                                   ‘s/he arrived from Iqaluit’
Jaanimit takiniqsaujutit                                 ‘you are taller than Johnny’
Allative                                Noun-mut/-nut

The allative case denotes direction ‘to/towards’ spatially or temporally, or the recipient, or instrument of an action.

Iglulingmut aullarniaqtunga                       ‘I will be travelling to Iglulik shortly’
ilinniaqtinut piliriaksat angirrami            ‘homework for the students’
ullaamit unnumut angunasusuut             ‘from dawn to dusk they’re usually out hunting’
qalurautimut aputaijaijuq                           ‘s/he is removing the snow with a shovel’
Genitive              Noun-up/-p
The genitive case has two grammatical functions: to denote the possessor, and as a subject of a double-pronominal ending.
As a subject marker in double-pronominal endings:
Qulittaliup takujanga tuktu                         ‘Qulittalik sees a caribou’
Qulittaliup takujangik tuktuuk                  ‘Qulittalik sees two caribou’
Qulittaliup takujangit tuktut                      ‘Qulittalik sees many caribou’
The genitive case is used to distinguish the subject (-up) from the thing owned or from the other person in the relationship (-nga):
Joanasiup nulianga                                         ‘Joanasi’s wife’
Jaipitiup qamutaujanga                                 ‘Jaipiti’s snowmobile’
Pujjuup ataatagijaanga                                 ‘I am Pujjuut’s father’
Translative         Noun-kkut

The primary function of the translative case denotes ‘going through’ something―whether material substance, living beings, natural or psychological phenomena.

sikukkut ingirrajut                                           ‘they are travelling on the sea ice’
aksururnaqtukkuutuq                                    ‘s/he is experiencing psychologically-trying times’
sullulikkut pisuktunga                                   ‘I am walking down a hallway’
The translative case can also denote the means of movement or travelling:
qangatasuukkut tikittut                                ‘they came in by airplane’
qimuksikkut aullaqtugut                               ‘we (many) are travelling by dogteam’
Equative              Noun-tut
The equative case denote how things are similar, or how things are done (ie, in what manner).
Inuktitut ilinniaqtunga                    ‘I’m learning Inuktitut’                  -literally, learning (to speak) in
                                                                                                                       the manner of Inuit
iglutut angitigijuq                             ‘s/he is as big as a house’
iliktut isumajunga                            ‘I think like you do’                         -ie, in full agreement
Exercises 1

This is an excerpt from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Underline the case endings that you recognize.


Leon Werth-mut
Asajaukainnarumavunga surusirnut uuvinga uqalimaagarmik
uqalimaarniaqtunut taanna turaaqtigumagakku innauliqtumut.
Pijjutiqattiaqpungali taapsuminga: silarjualimaami piqannirilaarigakku.

 -hint: there should be six instances of case endings

Insert the right case ending for these phrases.
‘in Iqaluit’                           Iqalung___                               ‘from the house’              iglu___
‘to the boy’                        nukappia___                            ‘on a person’                     inung___
‘by snowmobile’              qamutauja___                           ‘for women’                       arna___
‘from the trees’                napaaqtu___                             ‘to the people’                 inung___

‘Johnny’s’                           Jaani___                                    ‘I see a dog’                        qimmir___ takujunga

‘I see (many) dogs’         qimmir___ takujunga

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