Chapter 1: Background to Polar Eskimo Language and Society
Background to Polar Eskimo Language and Society
The people of north-west Greenland call themselves the Inugguit and are a sub-group of the Inuit. The word Inugguit (inugguaq in the singular) is a self-imposed demonym and it means the ‘big or great people’. There is no reason to believe that this name is an historical one, and it appears to have come into use in the twentieth century perhaps in response to an increasingly strained relationship with the political elite in Nuuk. It is more probably an indication of the exceptional level of pride to be found amongst this group that live in this remote corner of Greenland, or just a wish to set them apart from other Inuit groups in the circumpolar region. For the reasons that the Inugguit are the last Inuit in the world to hunt (and largely travel) exclusively by dog sledge (when there is sea ice), some of them feel that in a sense they have a legitimate claim to think of themselves as the last, ‘real’ Inuit. Travelling by dog-sledge across the sea-ice has defined who they are for centuries, and for many a break with this tradition would be more or less unthinkable. But, their language is also a significant part of this pride and sense of identity. They are well aware of the demise of related Inuit dialects across the Arctic region and perceive the gradual switch to English amongst certain Inuit groups as a symptom of...
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