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Queen's University

LLCU 101
Beginning Language and Culture I: Inuktitut I (3.0)

[image of Pangnirtung ]

Pangnirtung, uptown
Source: Wikipedia


Semester Times Place Slot
Fall 2013 Tue. 13:00-14:30, Thu. 11:30-13:00 KINGST 205 32

Instructor: Noel McDermott

Course Description

Although Nunavut is Canada’s newest territory different groups have occupied the land of what is now arctic Canada for at least 4000 years: the Arctic Small Tool people (ASTt), the Dorsets (Tunit), the Thule and the present day Inuit. This course is an overview of the history and culture of the Inuit with particular emphasis on their language, Inuktitut, both written and spoken.  The following headings provide a focus for the course: Origins in Myth and Stone, Poetry and Song, Early European Contact, Beginnings of Trade, Whalers, Traders, Missionaries, Writing Systems, Government, the Creation of Nunavut and Contemporary Political and Cultural Themes.

Inuktitut refers to the language of Inuit but its broader meaning is “in the manner of Inuit” and with this in mind we will consider Inuit responses to non-Inuit from the first recorded contact with each other over 400 years ago. This will allow us to view the struggle of contemporary Canadian Inuit for self-determination through the creation of Nunavut as part of a long term process. The preservation of the language, Inuktitut, is one very tangible sign of that determination.

This is not a linguistics course. The main language goal is to familiar students with some Inuktitut vocabulary and basic structures with which they will be able to carry on limited conversation. We will also learn the written form approved by Inuit Tapariit Kanatami, known as the Standard Dual Orthography (syllabic and roman) which is widely used by Inuit in Nunavut and Nunavik. Each lesson will follow a familiar pattern: introduce vocabulary, explain grammar, practice short dialogues, transliterate from syllabic to roman and vice versa and address any questions. The emphasis though serious will not be solemn and we will endeavor to have fun learning Inuktitut.  

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • learn the Inuit and archeologists’ view of the origin of Canada’s northern people.
  • learn about the relationship between the environment and material culture of the early occupiers of the region.
  • be able to describe the origins of modern Inuit.
  • explore the reactions of Inuit to first contact with Europeans.
  • consider the importance of trade to the Inuit and its effect on their way of life.
  • be able to recount some of the changes that Inuit experienced after contact with whalers, traders and missionaries. 
  • describe the movement from the land to modern settlements and the growing dependency of the Inuit on government.
  • describe the key events and conditions both political and social that led to the creation of Nunavut.
  • be able to transliterate Inuktitut from roman to syllabics and vice versa.
  • be able to recognize a list of approximately 300 Inuktitut words.
  • understand the basic structure of Inuktitut grammar.
  • be able to say their name, place of origin and occupation in Inuktitut.
  • be able to ask and reply to simple questions on place, time and activity.
  • be able to engage in a number of short dialogues related to weather, travel, eating, drinking, working, travelling and hunting.  

Instructional Format

Each class will begin with a video or reading on a topic related to Inuit culture or history (see schedule for details) which should generate general discussion. This will be followed by presentation of the language lesson itself. We will follow the Inuktitut programme which is available at no cost on the web. Students are encouraged to prepare for class by going on line to become familiar with the vocabulary and to listen to the dialogues.


There will be three short tests during the course and one essay due at the end. The tests, worth 10% each, will be related to the language component while the essay, worth 70%, may be on any aspect of Inuit history, language or culture which is approved by the instructor.

Course Text

There is no single text for this course.  Readings will be selected from a variety of sources and will be provided by the instructor. The bibliography below is intended to provide guidance for those students who wish to broaden their knowledge of Inuit culture, language and history. Students may find those texts marked with an asterisk particularly informative.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000