Inuktitut syllabics

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Inuktitut syllabics
A stop sign with text in Inuktitut and English. ᓄᖅᑲᕆᑦ the Inuktitut transliterates as nuqqarit.
Languages Inuktitut
Time period
Parent systems
ISO 15924 Cans, 440
Direction Left-to-right
Unicode alias
Canadian Aboriginal
Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics, U+1400–167F (chart)

Inuktitut syllabics (Inuktitut: ᑎᑎᕋᐅᓯᖅ ᓄᑖᖅ [titiʁauˈsiq nuˈtaːq] or ᖃᓂᐅᔮᖅᐸᐃᑦ [qaniujaːqpaˈit][1]) is a writing system (specifically an abugida) used by the Inuit in Nunavut and in Nunavik, Quebec. In 1976, the Language Commission of the Inuit Cultural Institute made it the co-official script for the Inuit languages, along with the Latin script.


The first efforts to write Inuktitut came from Moravian missionaries in Greenland and Labrador in the mid-18th century. In the 1870s, Edmund Peck, an Anglican missionary, adapted the Cree script to Inuktitut. Other missionaries, and later linguists in the employ of the Canadian and American governments, adapted the Latin alphabet to the dialects of the Mackenzie River delta, the western Arctic islands and Alaska.

Inuktitut is one variation on Canadian Aboriginal syllabics, and can be digitally encoded using the Unicode standard. The Unicode block for Inuktitut characters is called Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics.

The consonant in the syllable can be g, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, ng, ł, or absent, and the vowel can be a, i, u, ai (now only in Nunavik), or absent.


The Inuktitut script (titirausiq nutaaq) is commonly presented as a syllabary. The dots on the letters in the table mark long vowels; in the Latin transcription, the vowel is doubled.

Note: An image of the chart is also available.
Short Trans. Short Long Trans. Short Long Trans. Short Long Trans Final Trans
ai i u a h
pai pi pu pa p
tai ti tu ta t
kai ki ku ka k
gai gi gu ga g
mai mi mu ma m
nai ni nu na n
sai si su sa s
lai li lu la l
jai ji ju ja j
vai vi vu va v
rai ri ru ra r
qai qi qu qa q
ngai ngi ngu nga ng
nngi nngu nnga nng
łi łu ła ł


The Makivik Corporation expanded the official version of the script to restore the ai-pai-tai column. The common diphthong ai has generally been represented by combining the a form with a stand-alone letter ᐃ i [example needed]. This fourth-vowel variant had been removed so that Inuktitut could be typed and printed using IBM Selectric balls in the 1970s. The reinstatement was justified on the grounds that modern printing and typesetting equipment no longer suffers the restrictions of earlier typewriting machinery. The ai-pai-tai column is used only in Nunavik.


The Inuit language is written in different ways in different places. In Greenland, Alaska, Labrador, the Mackenzie River delta in the Northwest Territories and in part of Nunavut, it is written with the Latin alphabet (also known as Roman orthography in some regions). In most of Nunavut and in Nunavik, Quebec, Inuktitut is written using the Inuktitut script. At present, Inuktitut syllabics enjoys official status in Nunavut, alongside the Latin alphabet, and is used by the Kativik Regional Government of Nunavik. In Greenland, the traditional Latin script is official and is widely used in public life.

Because the Inuit language is a continuum of only partially intercomprehensible dialects, the language varies a great deal across the Arctic. Split up into different political divisions and different churches reflecting the arrival of various missionary groups, Inuktitut writing systems can vary a great deal.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Balt, Peter. Inuktitut Affixes. Rankin Inlet? N.W.T.: s.n, 1978.

External links[edit]