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18 novembre 2010

Standardize or bust!

The idea of Standardizing Inuttitut has been tossed around for quite a few years now, even decades through the ICC. That’s just in Canada however. Greenland has had a standard dialect for decades now, which has been incredibly successful, and has not, as many would have suspected eroded local dialects. ICC Greenland had tried in the past to introduce the idea to ICC in general, but many people regarded it with caution, a lot of people thought it was a way for Greenland to push their dialects on the rest of the Inuit population. I know that Jose Kusugak had tried to introduce it in the Government of Nunavut, but so far I haven’t heard much else on that particular subject. (honestly, I tried to get more info from more people, but a lot of people jut never got back to me)

The first time I heard about the idea, I was immediately dismissive. I didn’t like the idea of potentially losing my dialect to a ‘standard form’… but the more i thought about it, the more i discussed it with my peers and others involved in language preservation in places like Greenland, the more it seemed like a good idea; not only a good idea, but the only real solution to maintaining Inuttitut as a language in the world. [this many languages disappear each year] and I heard somewhere (forgive my looseness of facts here, but the general principal is the same) languages with under 50,000 speakers are doomed to disappear in the next 100 years.

Inuttitut is already being pushed into the margins as conventional education, television, internet and globalization creep into the north and become more and more embedded into daily life.

How many Nunavimmiut have kids who watch TreeHouse and CBC Kids? Now, how many watch Takuginai? See? Children are being exposed to more English, French and even Spanish through mediums that are increasingly unavoidable. And that, ladies and Gentlemen is where the death of a language begins. Your children. Your children are absolute sponges, especially of language and communication systems. If most of what they are given, television, movies, books, music is in English, and Inuttitut forms of media remain unavailable, they will not pick up Inuttitut to the same extent. Sure, you can say you speak it at home, but that’s not enough… I’m sorry to say, but that’s the bitter truth. The reason I write in English and not inuttitut? Because my English speaking father read me English books, taught me the English alphabet, bought me English movies… not because he was trying to eradicate Inuttitut in his daughter. Because that’s all he knew how to do, he’s an English speaker. He would rather have me reading books than playing Barbies. And then there’s concepts in English that simply don’t exists in Inuttitut, or vary from region to region, community to community or household to household even. Like DVD? How the [bleep] do you say that in Inuttitut? Gigabyte? Yea. We need a standard language, and to complement that, a language commission. A body that watches for new words, changes in dialects, new concepts and Creates words in Inuttitut that would be mutually intelligible to all Inuit. Not specific to any region.

Anyway, Language commission is a whole ‘nother story. I’m talking about standardization here. Like, in Greenland, they’ve standardized the West-Greenlandic dialect so that formal education, public broadcasts and government documents are intelligible to the entire population. I was in Greenland last year and you could buy a carton of milk with Greenlandic labels. You could use a bank machine and read Harry Potter in Greenlandic, even Algebra textbooks were in Greenlandic. But I met people from all over, from east, west, north and south Greenland. Each region had their own dialect, and each person could communicate through the standard form. That has unified the nation of Greenland like nothing else could. In Canada, of course there’s that solidarity in all being Inuit. But if a young person from Mittimattaliq and a young person from Puvirnituq and a young person from Nain all had to communicate, they would speak English because they can’t understand each other. I remember filming a Public Service Announcement with Inuit Youth from Nunavut and we all struggled to honour our own dialect, while maintaining a conversation that Inuit from all over could understand.

But then there are those examples of standardization eroding other dialects, like in the recent (1920’s ish) standardization of Italian. Over 1500 dialects were practically lost on younger generations as Television, education and recently, Internet were all presented in the Northern Italian standard. The mistake was that they never documented regional dialects in dictionaries, books or other forms. The only things you could really get were Bibles.

Anyway, back to Inuttitut… I love my ability to speak Inuttitut. I wish more than anything that I could read and write Inuttitut to the same extant as I do English. But I cannot. I am unable. But I believe in the future being bright for the Inuit language and the Inuit people. I believe that this is the way to go. This is the saving grace. Let’s talk about it? JCG


À cause de l'impossibilité de supporter les différentes polices de caractères en syllabiques, les commentaires doivent obligatoirement être rédigés en Anglais, en Français ou en Inuktitut romanisé. Nous sommes désolés de l'inconvénient.

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