The Word in Inuttitut

The Word in Inuttitut: Introduction

A word is the smallest complete utterance that has a meaning. The term for word in Inuttitut is uKausik. As we will see, words can be simple or complex inside. We will also see that Inuttitut words differ from those in English because Inuttitut words can sometimes be very long and have the same meaning as an English sentence.

Simple words

Both Inuttitut and English can have simple words. Kimmik ‘dog’ and the English word dog are simple basic words. They cannot be broken down any more.

The words Kimmet ‘dogs’ and the English word dogs are a little more complex. These words can be broken down into:

Kimmi + it
(dog)    (plural)

dog + s

More Complex Words

English words do not get very complex but Inuttitut ones do. Some Inuttitut words are as long and as complex as an English sentence.

ilinniatitaulauKunga ‘I was taught’

Note that this is one word in Inuttitut but three words in English. The Inuttitut word can be broken down into:

ilinnia + ti + tau + lauC + Kunga

(learn)  (make) (be X-ed) (past) (I)


A sentence is a complete thought spoken out loud in language. Usually in English you cannot walk up to someone and make a complete thought with one word. In English you need more than one word.

In Inuttitut though one word is often a complete sentence.

IKalunniasonguKattalauttut ‘They would catch char’

Here we see one word in Inuttitut and four words to translate the meaning into English.

What this means is that when we study Inuttitut words, we are studying part of the grammar of Inuttitut, how sentences are put together. They are composed differently from English words so we need to study what is inside them if we want to learn how they work.

Fluent speakers do not need to study or learn about Inuttitut words because they already know how to use them. They learned as a child and make words without even thinking about it. They might want to study about Inuttitut words if they want to teach their language to adults or teenagers who are learning to speak. Unlike children, older learners often have questions about language.

The Three Inuttitut Word Domains

Roughly we can divide the Inuttitut word into three regions or domains.

Base + (Postbase) + ending

(  ) around Postbase means that it is optional. We don’t have to have one.

We will take a look at each one of these three domains.


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