Monday, December 1, 2008

Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit

I you are a member of one of the world's majority languages like Chinese, English, French, Spanish and so on, then the idea that a day might come when no one speaks your language anymore seems a bit odd. Let's face it, speakers of these languages never give a thought to their language disappearance. Alas, this isn't the case for many other languages. In North America, almost all of the indigenous languages have disappeared. Only a few of the hundreds of languages formerly spoken on the continent are holding their own, and even these feel threatened. One of these surviving languages is Inuktitut spoken in various dialects across the North American arctic region from Alaska to Greenland.

Recently, Canada's northern territory, Nunavut, passed new legislation intended to strengthen and protect Inuktitut, the language of the majority. I'm glad to see this move. I'm a real believer that a language is a way of seeing a landscape - both real and imagined - through the eyes of another culture. What better way to understand Nunavut, it's people and their environment, than through their language? So bravo, Nunavumiut, you've not only helped yourselves, but given the rest of us a gift as well!

Sadly, but somewhat typically, the Conservative party presently running Canada has announced that they won't be bound by the language legislation. How's that for pretending you were appointed to rule from above rather than elected by citizens from below? Given recent events in Ottawa, that perception may be coming to a sudden end!


Silbs said...

I recently posted about Denmark easing their controls on Greenland and wonder if that speaks well for preserving the Inuit culture and language.

Michael said...

Surely when a people have access to the levers which control their future, the more it strengthens their ability to determine what that future will be like. So good for Greenland!