A Look at the Inuktitut Language

Method and Conclusion. See here.

Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.

Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.

Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.

This post will look at the Inuktitut language in terms of how difficult it would be for an English speaker to learn it.

Eskimo-Aleut
Eskimo
Inuit-Inupiaq

Inuktitut is extremely hard to learn. Inuktitut is polysynthetic-agglutinative, and roots can take many suffixes, in some cases up to 700. Verbs have 63 forms of the present indicative, and conjugation involves 252 different inflections. Inuktitut has the complicated polypersonal agreement system like Georgian and Basque. In a typical long Inuktitut text, 92% of words will occur only once. This is quite different from English and many other languages where certain words occur very frequently or at least frequently. Certain fully inflected verbs can be analyzed both as verbs and as nouns.

Words can be very long.

Inuktituusuungutsialaarungnanngittuaraaluuvunga.
“I truly don’t know how to speak Inuktitut very well.”

You may need to analyze up to 10 different bits of information in order to figure out a single word. However, the affixation is all via suffixes (there are no prefixes or infixes), and the suffixation is extremely regular.
Inuktitut is also rated one by linguists one of the hardest languages on Earth to pronounce. Inuktitut may be as hard to learn as Navajo.

Inuktitut is rated 6, hardest of all.

4 Comments

Filed under Applied, Eskimo-Aleut, Inuktitut, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics

4 responses to “A Look at the Inuktitut Language

  1. James Schipper

    Are the words in Inuktivut really long or are they made long by spelling convention? One often hears that German has very long words, but this only seems to be the case because in German, as in all other Germanic languages, all nominal compounds are written as one word. If English did the same, it would have many long words too.

    Lebensversicherungsagentenverein = life insurance agents association, Fremdsprachenlehrer = foreign language teacher, Kriegsgefangenenaustausch = prisoners of war exchange

    All Germanic languages do this:
    En: weapons of mass destruction
    Ge: Massenvernichtungswaffen
    Du: massavernietigingswapens
    Sw: massförstörelsevapen
    Da: masseødelæggelsesvåben

    • Nope, they really are that long? Are you familiar with how agglutinative and especially polysynthetic languages work. Those big long words are formed via particles stuck onto each other one by one via prefixes, suffixes or infixes.

      • James Schipper

        Are those particles really all bound morphemes? Is none of them a word on its own. I wonder where the stress goes in such a long word. I know that in Hungarian, which is also an agglutinating language but not a polysynthetic one, the stress always lies on the first syllable.

        Regards. James

        • Honestly, I am not even sure how that language works and whether any of those morphemes are free or whether they are all bound. I don’t know if there are any single morpheme words in the language. Languages like that just don’t make sense to me.

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