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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 4. Towards a Polar Eskimo Orthography


Chapter 4 Towards a Polar Eskimo Orthography SWG was written from the mid-nineteenth century to 1973 using the Kleinschmidt orthography. The spelling reform in 1973 replaced the with and the diacritics marking long vowels and geminates were got rid of, and the vowels and consonants were duplicated. The result accord- ing to my informants was that words became much harder to spell and many of the words simply became too long. Living in a digital age, this has actually become a problem because we are left with a language which does not lend itself to texting or subtitles. It is clear that even today the spelling reform had not been entirely accepted in north-west Greenland and the orthography used in the glossary of this book reflects that to some degree. That is to say the occasional word might be written with a word final (or initial) and not a . Even qa’ddunaa was sometimes writ- ten as kadluna. Whilst one wishes to remain as consistent as possible in the representation of phonemes, the old spellings have been kept in a very small number of cases where several attempts to write a certain word down used the spelling. The orthography that I use in this book is the one that I established in conjunction with 12 months’ worth of discussions with local people on the matter. It seems it is impossible to establish a spelling system that everybody will accept, but I think this is the closest one can get to it...

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