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Title: Nunatsiavummiutut  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Inuit languages, Eskimo–Aleut languages, Greenlandic language, Inuktitut, Kra (letter), Ulu
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Labrador Inuktitut
Native to Canada
Native speakers (no estimate available)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist List
Inuit dialects. Nunatsiavummiut is the pink in the east.

The Labrador dialect of Inuktitut, known as Nunatsiavummiutut,, Inuttitut,[1] or Inuttut[2] by its speakers, is a Canadian dialect of the Inuit language. It was once spoken across northern Labrador by Inuit people, whose traditional lands have now been consolidated as Nunatsiavut and Nunatukavut.

The language has a distinct writing system, created by German missionaries from the Moravian Church in Greenland in the 1760s. This separate writing tradition, the remoteness of Nunatsiavut from other Inuit communities, and its unique history of cultural contacts have made it into a distinct dialect with a separate literary tradition.

It shares features, including Schneider's Law, the reduction of alternate sequences of consonant clusters by simplification, with some Inuit dialects spoken in Quebec. It is differentiated by the tendency to neutralize velars and uvulars, i.e. /g/ ~ /r/, and /k/ ~ /q/ in word final and pre-consonantal positions, as well as by the assimilation of consonants in clusters, compared to other dialects. Morphological systems (~juk/~vuk) and syntactic patterns (e.g. the ergative) have similarly diverged. Nor are the Labrador dialects uniform: there are separate variants traceable to a number of regions, e.g. Rigolet, Nain, Hebron, etc.

Although Nunatsiavut claims over 4,000 inhabitants of Inuit descent, only 550 reported any Inuit language to be their mother tongue in the 2001 census, mostly in the town of Nain. Nunatsiavummiutut is seriously endangered.


Nunatsiavut uses a variant of the Latin alphabet devised by German-speaking Moravian missionaries, which includes the letter Κʻ ĸ (kra).

Capital letters
 A E F G H I J K L M N O P Κʻ R S T U V W
Lower case
â a e f g h i j k l m n o p ĸ r s t u v w
  • â = aa
  • e = ii
  • o = uu
  • ĸ = q


At one time, there existed two dialects of the Inuttut language. The Inuit that reside south of the Davis Inlet in what is now known as NunatuKavut once spoke a divergent dialect known as "NunatuKavummiutut", indicated by differences in Toponymy.[3] However, due to heavy European immigration into NunatuKavut, this dialect has since become extinct.[3]

The Nunatsiavummiut dialect has survived due to the isolation of the Inuit who reside north of the Davis inlet. There exist two sub-dialects of Nunatsiavummiutut, the northern dialect (spoken mainly in Nain) and the southern dialect (spoken only by a few elders in Rigolet).[4] They differ only in Phonology.

Vocabulary comparison

The comparison of some animal names in the two dialects of Eastern Canadian Inuktitut language:

Inuktitut[5] Nunatsiavummiutut[6] meaning
siksik ᓯᒃᓯᒃ sitsik ground squirrel
qugjuk ᖃᒡᔪᒃ ĸutjuk tundra swan
aarluk ᐋᕐᓗᒃ âlluk killer whale
amaruq ᐊᒪᕈᖅ amaguk gray wolf
isunngaq ᐃᓱᙵᖅ isungak pomarine jaeger
kanguq ᑲᖑᖅ kangak snow goose
tuktu ᑐᒃᑐ tuttuk caribou
tiriganniaq ᑎᕆᒐᓐᓂᐊᖅ tigiganniak arctic fox
umingmak ᐅᒥᖕᒪᒃ umimmak musk ox

German loanwords

The German loanwords[6] used in Nunatsiavummiutut date from the period of the German missionaries of Moravian Church (1760s).

  • ailvat (< Ger. elf) 'eleven'
  • ainsik (< Ger. eins) 'one o'clock'
  • fiarâ (< Ger. vier) 'four o'clock'
  • Fraitâg ( < Ger. Freitag) 'Friday'
  • kâttopalak (< Ger. Kartoffel) 'potato'
  • Metvog (< Ger. Mittwoch) 'Wednesday'
  • Montâg (< Ger. Montag) 'Monday'
  • naina (< Ger. neun) 'nine'
  • sâksit (< Ger. sechs) 'six'
  • senat (< Ger. zehn) 'ten'
  • sepat (< Ger. sieben) 'seven'
  • silipa (< Ger. Silber) 'coin'
  • situnati (< Ger. Stunde) 'hour'
  • Sontâg (< Ger. Sonntag) 'Sunday'
  • Sunâpint (< Ger. Sonnabend) 'Saturday'
  • suvai (< Ger. zwei) 'two'
  • suvailva (< Ger. zwölf) 'twelve'
  • tarai (< Ger. drei) 'three'
  • taraitijik (< Ger. dreißig) '30 odd 30 rifle and ammunition'
  • Tenistâg (< Ger. Dienstag) 'Tuesday'
  • Tonistâg (< Ger. Donnerstag) 'Thursday'
  • viaga (< Ger. vier) 'four'
  • vogik (< Ger. Woche) 'week'


Further reading

  • Smith, L. R., and Sam Metcalfe. Labrador Inuttut – English Glossary. [St. John's]: Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1970.
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