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Some Ethnolinguistic Notes on Polar Eskimo


Stephen Leonard

This book serves as an insightful ethnographic introduction to the language and oral traditions of the Inugguit, a sub-group of the Inuit who live in north-west Greenland. A unique work, it encompasses an overview of the grammar of Polar Eskimo – a language spoken by about 770 people – as well as a description of their oral traditions (drum-dancing and story-telling) and the most extensive glossary of the language compiled to date. The book presents the Polar Eskimo language in the orthography established by the author in conjunction with the local community in Greenland, an extremely difficult task for a language made up of such an aberrant phonology and with no written tradition. By exploring their ways of speaking and ways of belonging, Leonard provides an original ethnographic interpretation of the nature of Inugguit social organization and their world-view. Some Ethnolinguistic Notes on Polar Eskimo will serve as an invaluable resource for linguists who specialise in the Eskimo-Aleut group and will be of much interest to anthropologists working in the Arctic region.


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Chapter 2. The Phonology of Polar Eskimo


Chapter 2 The Phonology of Polar Eskimo The phonology of Polar Eskimo is taxing, and far more problematic than the other Greenlandic dialects. One of the reasons for this is the appar- ent lack of consistency in pronouncing certain phonemes. Occasionally, the same informant would pronounce the same phrase in different ways at different times. There are marked distinctions between variety A and variety B speakers, but the articulation of certain phonemes such as the glottal stop and the heavily uvularised /r/ seems to differ from speaker to speaker within variety B, in particular. To give an idea of the realisation of the various phonemes, there fol- lows below a short story written by myself describing a real encounter with a polar bear in the month of March 2011 whilst living in Savissivik. An incomplete phonetic analysis is provided. This story was read out on Kap York Radio and was well received in the sense that it was understood. The story is written using the orthography that I use in the glossary: Qanornauk unikkaajaaqtunga-ajoq? Nalorhorruiga, kihiani ammaqa unikkaarin- ialujaaralarikka qanga uanga taimani hior’ddermik Haviggivimmi i’ddulinga, aukta nanorruaq nunaqarvimmut qani’ddiartoraa. Pihoqtut, uanga nanomik takugamahorulugguugama. Tupinnanngitsoq, uanga tuluk. Uanga februarimmi Haviggivimmut tiki’qqaartunga. Hamani, januarimi, februarimilu piniartorruit qan- gali a’qqanik mar’dduk nanut piniarqaartut. Unnuakkut, pingahut, hini’ddunga qanga ite’qqaartunga pihortut Qaor’ddoqtoq kahuttortoq. Tupaqihunga aukta takorngale- qihunga. Qaor’ddoqtoq oqaqtoq uanga tassanngakkut anijaartunga pihortut hilami, Haviggivimmi, nanorruaq. Nanoq, hunaa. Uanga aperihunga pilugginnartutit? Nalunngikiiga qanoq inugguit ha’dduqittaihut. Hilami, ikkeernartorruaq, kiassuheq minus fem aukta traavi. Uanga annoraamik kamahu’dduni...

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