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Western Canadian Inuktitut
Native toCanada
RegionNorthwest Territories, Nunavut
Ethnicity3,110 Inuvialuit
Native speakers
1,150, 37% of ethnic population (2016 census)[1]
Latin script
Official status
Official language in
Northwest Territories
Regulated byInuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Language codes
ISO 639-1iu
ISO 639-2iku Inuktitut
ISO 639-3ikt Inuinnaqtun, Western Canadian Inuktitut
Glottologwest2618  Western Canadian Inuktitut
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Inuvialuktun, also known as Western Canadian Inuktitut, and Western Canadian Inuktun, comprises several Inuit language varieties spoken in the northern Northwest Territories and Nunavut by Canadian Inuit who call themselves Inuvialuit.

Inuvialuktun is spoken by the Inuit of the Mackenzie River delta, Banks Island, part of Victoria Island and the Arctic Ocean coast of the Northwest Territories – the lands of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. It was traditionally subsumed under a broader Inuktitut, and there is no consensus which dialects belong to which language. Rather than a coherent language, Inuvialuktun is a politically motivated[citation needed] grouping of three quite distinct and separate varieties.

Inuvialuktun (which consists of Siglitun (Inuvialuktun proper), Inuinnaqtun,[2] and Natsilingmiutut)[3] and Inuinnaqtun constitute two of the eleven official languages of the Northwest Territories.[4][5] Inuinnaqtun is also official alongside Inuktitut in Nunavut.[6] With the exception of Natsilingmiutut they are written in a Latin alphabet and have no tradition of Inuktitut syllabics.[3]

Before the 20th century, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region was primarily inhabited by Siglit Inuit, who spoke Siglitun, but in the second half of the 19th century, their numbers were dramatically reduced by the introduction of new diseases. Inuit from Alaska moved into traditionally Siglit areas in the 1910s and 1920s, enticed in part by renewed demand for furs from the Hudson's Bay Company. These Inuit are called Uummarmiut – which means people of the green trees – in reference to their settlements near the tree line. Originally, there was an intense dislike between the Siglit and the Uummarmiut, but these differences have faded over the years, and the two communities are thoroughly intermixed these days.


Distribution of Inuit language variants across the Arctic. The Inuvialuktun dialects are spoken across northern Canada west of Hudson Bay; here they are purple, khaki, green, and light blue.

The Inuvialuktun dialects are seriously endangered, as English has in recent years become the common language of the community. Surveys of Inuktitut usage in the NWT vary, but all agree that usage is not vigorous. According to the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre, only 10% of the roughly 4,000 Inuvialuit speak any form of Inuktitut, and only 4% use it at home.[7] Statistics Canada's 2001 Census report is only slightly better, reporting 765 self-identified Inuktitut speakers out of a self-reported Inuvialuit population of 3,905. Considering the large number of non-Inuit living in Inuvialuit areas and the lack of a single common dialect among the already reduced number of speakers, the future of the Inuit language in the NWT appears bleak.

From east to west, the dialects are:

The Inuvialuk dialects spoken in Nunavut (that is, Iglulingmiut, Aivilingmiutut, Kivallirmiutut, and eastern Natsilingmiutut) are often counted as Inuktitut, and the government of the NWT only recognizes Inuinnaqtun and Inuvialuktun.[3][5] In addition, Uummarmiutun, the dialect of the Uummarmiut which is essentially identical to the Inupiatun dialect spoken in Alaska and so considered an Inupiat language, has conventionally been grouped with Inuvialuktun because it's spoken in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the NWT. Uummarmiutun is found in the communities of Inuvik and Aklavik.[8]

Inuvialuktun phrases[edit]

English Inuvialuktun pronunciation
Hello Atitu /atitu/
Good Bye Ilaannilu/Qakugulu /ilaːnːilu/ / /qakuɡulu/
Thank you Quyanainni /qujanainːi/
You are welcome Amiunniin /amiunːiːn/
How are you? Qanuq itpin? /qanuq itpin/
I am fine Nakuyumi/Nakuyumi assi /nakujumi asːi/
Good morning Ublaami /ublaːmi/
Yes Ii /iː/
No Naaggai /naːɡːai/
It's cold! Brrr! Alaappa! /alaːpːa/
(an expression used when alarmed or fearful)
Alii /aliː/
See you later Anaqanaallu /anaqanaːlːu/
Wow/Awesome Aqqali /aqːali/
Listen! Ata! /ata/
See you, too Ilaanniptauq /ilaːnːiptauq/
It is like this Imaaniittuaq /imaːniːtːuaq/
Like this Imanna /imanːa/
Whose? Kia? /kia/
Who is this? Kina una? /kina una/
Where? Nani?/Naung?/Sumi? /nani/ / /nauŋ/ / /sumi/
Where are you from? Nakinngaaqpin?/Sumiutauvin? /nakiŋːaːqpin/ / /sumiutauvin/}
How much does it cost? Qanuq akitutigivaa? /qanuq akitutiɡivaː/
How old is he/she? Qanuq ukiuqtutigiva? /qanuq ukiututiɡiva/
What do you call it? Qanuq taivakpiung? /qanuq taivakpiuŋ/
What is the time? Sumukpaung? /sumukpauŋ/
What for? Suksaq? /suksaq/
Why? Or how come? Suuq? /suːq/
What? Suva?/Suna? /suva/~/suna/
Doesn't matter/It is ok Sunngittuq /suŋːitːuq/
What are you doing? Suvin? /suvin/
It can't be helped! Too bad. Qanurviituq! /qanuʁviːtuq/
in fact, actually Nutim [nutim]
Do it again! Pipsaarung! [pipsaːʁuŋ]
Go ahead and do it Piung [piuŋ]
It is cold out! Qiqauniqtuaq /qiqauniqtuaq/
Christmas Qitchirvik /qittʃiʁviq/
Candy Uqummiaqataaq [/uqumːiaqataːq/
Play music Atuqtuuyaqtuaq /atuqtuːjaqtuaq/
Drum dancing Qilaun/Qilausiyaqtuaq /qilaun/ / /qilausijaqtuaq/
Church Angaadjuvik /aŋaːdʒuvik/
Bell Aviluraun /aviluʁaun/
Jewels Savaqutit /savaqutit/
Eskimo ice cream Akutuq /akutaq/
That's all! Taima! /taima/
Siglitun Inuvialuktun snow terms[9] English meaning
Apiqaun first snow layer in autumn that stays
Apusiqqaun first fall of snow
Aqiuyaq small, fresh snowdrift
Masak waterlogged snow
Mauyaa deep, soft snow
Minguliruqtuaq blowing wet snow
Piangnaq good snow conditions for sledge travel


English has in recent years become the common language of the Inuvialuit. Surveys of Inuktitut usage in the NWT vary, but all agree that usage is not vigorous. According to the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre, only 10% of the roughly 4,000 Inuvialuit speak any dialect of Inuvialuktun, and only 4% use it at home.[7] Statistics Canada's 2001 Census reports 765 self-identified Inuvialuktun speakers out of a self-reported Inuvialuit population of 3,905.



  1. ^ Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics. "Language Highlight Tables, 2016 Census - Aboriginal mother tongue, Aboriginal language spoken most often at home and Other Aboriginal language(s) spoken regularly at home for the population excluding institutional residents of Canada, provinces and territories, 2016 Census – 100% Data". Retrieved 2017-11-17.
  2. ^ Inuinnaqtun (alternate names: Western Canada Inuktun, Western Canadian Inuit, Western Canadian Inuktitut) at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  3. ^ a b c Iñuvialuktun/Inuvialuktun/Inuinnaqtun / ᐃᓄᐃᓐᓇᖅᑐᓐ
  4. ^ Official Languages of the Northwest Territories (map)
  5. ^ a b "NWT Official Languages". Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-08-22.
  6. ^ Consolidation of (S.Nu. 2008,c.10) (NIF) Official Languages Act[permanent dead link] and Consolidation of Inuit Language Protection Act[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b "Aboriginal Languages Initiative Evaluation – Site Visit – Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre (ICRC), Inuvik N.W.T." Department of Canadian Heritage. 15 April 2003. Archived from the original on 26 May 2008.
  8. ^ IRC Language
  9. ^ "Inuvialuit Settlement Region Traditional Knowledge Report" (PDF). August 2006. p. 6.2. Retrieved 2015-08-22.

Further reading[edit]

  • Harper, Kenn. Current Status of Writing Systems for Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun and Inuvialuktun. [Yellowknife, N.W.T.]: Northwest Territories, Culture and Communications, 1992.

External links[edit]