In this case, the all-purpose verb-negator -nngit-, but anything ending in t would have suffered the same fate. In Inuktitut, when two morphemes come into contact, the last to arrive gets to make the rules. So this particular morphophonemic rule applies only when -guk comes after something ending in t.
Name withheld to protect the guilty. Given a choice between frightening the student and withholding information, they will always come down on the side of withholding information. Just keep your fingers crossed and hope you never do have to tell someone to do something ending in t.
Awright, come clean now. Would you ever, in your wildest delirium, have guessed that when you attach the termination -guk to a word ending in t,* the result would be -jjuk?
I sure wouldn’t. And the online tutorial† is silent on the subject. So then it becomes a matter of trial and error, achieved by writing down the likely suspects, opening the page in a browser and feeding the words one by one into the Morphological Analyzer. Which, by this time, can spot me coming a mile away, and hastily runs out the back door, leaving only an Apache 500 error message behind.
In this case, it wasn’t only the likely suspects. It was the less-likely but still possible ones. Delete the final t? Insert an i before the termination? Collapse into kk, gg, tt or possibly nn? “No decomposition has been found.” At this point, a mixture of pigheadedness and desperation sets in. I try every single consonant in the alphabet—including the utterly impossible ones—along with those same consonants doubled, throwing in any lawful consonant clusters for good measure. I almost skipped -jj- entirely, stuck as it is between the equally implausible -ll- and -vv-.
Those who are quicker on the uptake than I am may here point out that
t + g = jj
is not that strange a result once you realize that the spelling jj does not necessarily represent a doubled j. It can also represent the consonant cluster tj. Once you know this, it all becomes clear.
Pay dirt. Just don’t ask me what kind of ore they expect to find in -nngijjuk.
OK, but what is this -guk? Why, it’s the singular transitive imperative with third person singular object: “Do something-or-other to him/her/it”. If you multiply it out—three numbers for the person receiving the order, times three persons and another three numbers for the recipient of the intended action—you will find there are twenty-seven transitive imperatives. This makes it possible to say “Why don’t the both of you go vixaxn yourselves” in a single word. Or, more to the point—after all, in Inuktitut you could put the entire Declaration of Human Rights into a single word if you felt like it—you can say it in one verb with one ending.
. . . Except that it turns out I seriously miscalculated, in a good news/bad news sort of way. The bad news is that I’d overlooked the first- and third-person imperatives (“Let them eat cake”), bumping our total from 27 to 81 forms. The first piece of good news is that there aren’t any reflexive forms to bother with; you just stick an intransitive ending onto a transitive verb and it does the job. At worst, you’ll need to slip in an affix. So that whacks off eighteen of your 81 right there. The second piece of good news is that there’s a consistent pattern of matching forms. “Feed us!” is the same word whether you’re addressing one, two or more people, so long as you’re clear on how many need to be fed. If you thought there were two of you and it turns out you miscounted, you’ll need a different word. But your total number of forms to learn has still plummeted back down to 43. Really. I counted.
But don’t start leaping with joy just yet. That modest 43 (plus your basic nine intransitive or nonspecific forms) applies only to the imperative, and to the equally undemanding indicative and interrogative. The other moods—I’ve met seven to date—have a fourth person, pushing the total back up to 58. Call it 70 if you count the intransitive forms. Or at least 66, because there’s a consistent pattern of shared forms. Wouldn’t you rather learn one simple rule instead of four more endings?
I’ll save the Participles (three sets of ’em), alias Conjunctives, for another time. You have to be careful doling out grammatical good news, because there isn’t an awful lot of it.
Happily, -guk comes at the very end of the utterance; everything else has already been taken care of. On the fifteenth syllable, she rested.
This time around, I used
ᓯᖁᒥᒃ + ᓯᒪ + ᒪ + ᙱᑦ + ᒍᓂ = ᓯᖁᒥᐅᒪᙱᒃᑯᓂ
siqumik + sima + ma + nngit + guni = siqumiksimamanngikkuni
That’s: break + completed action + be in a state of + negative + if (it)—that is, third person singular intransitive conditional verb ending. No, there isn’t a separate word for “if”. It’s implicit in the verb. If it rains, I will get wet. ᒪᖁᑉᐸᑦ ᖃᐅᓯᕐᓂᐊᖅᑐᖓ (maquppat qausirniaqtunga). Two words.
Digression: It should not have surprised me to learn that there are a lot of ways to get wet in Inuktitut:
ᐃᑉᑕᖅ (iptaq-) soaked or saturated with water
ᒪᓴᒃ (masak-) saturated with water
ᓯᑦᓯᖅ (sitsiq-) saturated
ᖃᐅᓯᖅ (qausiq-) wet
ᐊᐃᓚᖅ (ailaq-) damp, wet with dew etc.
ᒥᒃᓱᒃ (miksuk-) damp (of a hairy, furry or fuzzy surface)
ᓴᕋᑦ (sarat-) damp or clammily moist (for example, damp with sweat)
ᐋᔪᖅ (aajuq-) moist (“as skin or garment brought in from outside”)
ᑭᓂᐸ (kinipa-) damp or moist
Fortunately there are also several ways to get dry. There is even a progress-report verb to let you know how the drying-out is going:
ᓯᕆᐊᖅ (siriaq-) partly dry, getting dry
ᓯᕐᓕᖅ (sirliq-) dry, finished drying (of a deerskin)
ᓴᓗᐊᖅ (saluaq-) (to have its liquid or moisture content) dried out, evaporated
ᑎᒡᔪᖅ (tigjuq-) (to) have evaporated
ᐸᓂᖅ (paniq-) dry
As I was saying . . . You have to use intransitive endings to give the verb ᓯᖁᒥᒃ (siqumik) its passive sense of being broken, rather than breaking something else. I’m not complaining. Intransitive endings come in modest sets of nine or, at worst, twelve, while the transitive ones . . . let’s not think about those.
It is possible I should really be using the fourth-person form -ppat, but it doesn’t feel right. I mean, something in the first word has to refer forward to the second word, or you wouldn’t know what not to fix.
When I first attacked this phrase, I proceeded directly from ᓯᖁᒥᒃ (siqumik) to -uma-, resulting in ᓯᖁᒥᐅᒪ (siqumiuma). Where’d the k in siqumik go? The following piece, -uma-, ate it. That’s why I picked the variant with initial u: it’s easier to see that something has gone away. Later, I realized that this would probably come out meaning “It is being broken right now as we speak”. So I went back and dug up -sima- to stress that it—whatever it is—has already (been) broken. As a bonus, -sima- leaves the preceding consonant entirely unharmed. Affixes in s tend to be considerate this way. They may eat or forcibly assimilate a preceding t, but rarely do anything worse.
To follow it up, I switched to the -ma- variant. You don’t have to. But given a choice, always go with leading consonants and final vowels; the result comes out tidier. If -uma- or -ma- or anything else in that location ended with a consonant, the following -nngit- would eat it. Vowels on the other hand tend to be safe, unless there are too many of them piled up together—and if you’re going to be that greedy, you’re only getting what you deserve.
Wildly superfluous disclaimer: I’m pretty sure -ma-, with either spelling, is not the right affix at all. Our nameless object didn’t simply break a while back (the newly added -sima- part). It’s still broke. But this is not the result of ongoing action. Call it, uhmm, ongoing inaction. Haven’t found an affix for that yet.
Thanks to that series of open syllables, the revised word carries on uneventfully until the very last junction—at which point the final t of -nngit- merges with the leading g of -guni to yield kk. It doesn’t have much choice. You’re not allowed to have voiced and unvoiced consonants smack up against each other. There’s a variety of possible fixes; this is one of them. Take your de-voicing from the first consonant, your position from the second, and they average out to kk.
ᓈᒪᒃ + ᓇᖅ + ᙱᑦ + ᒍᒃ = ᓈᒪᖕᓇᙱᔾᔪᒃ
naamak + naq + nngit + guk = naamangnanngijjuk
Second word: repair + cause + not + do (the previously footnoted imperative). But stand aside, because the morphophonemic rules have work to do. The k in naamak- assimilates to the n in -naq-, turning into ng, because you are also not allowed to have a nasal side by side with a non-nasal. The n in -naq- is unscathed, but the q is quietly eaten by -nngit-. You will realize by now that there are far worse fates for a consonant than being unceremoniously eaten. And, finally, the t in -nngit- gets together with the g in -guk to form -jjuk. Well, obviously. What else could they do?
Which is where we came in.
Ooh, look what I found while trawling the Hansard on an unrelated quest.
ᐅᖃᕋᔭᕋᒪ, ᓱᕋᒃᓯᒪᙱᑉᐸᑦ ᖃᓄᐃᒻᒪᑦ ᐋᖅᑭᒃᑕᐅᓇᓱᐊᖅᐸ
uqarajarama, suraksimanngippat, qanuimmat aaqqiktaunasuaqpa?
As I would say, if it is not broken, why fix it?
Never mind the “as I would say”. (Modest, isn’t he? The speaker might well say it himself—he might even say it habitually—but so have thousands of others over the years.) Besides, I don’t want to think about how the verb uqaq- “say” gets together with the conditional affix -gajaq- and the (be)causative verb ending -gama to yield something meaning “As I would say”. Bad enough having to untangle that cascade of r’s resulting from two consecutive qg mergers. The resulting sequence “rajarama” really doesn’t look like Inuktitut, does it?
The rest of it unpacks to:
suraq + sima + nngit + pat
That’s surak-, alias suraq-, “to destroy irreparably”, a verb I am about to get very friendly with. It’s followed by—holy smokes! I actually know all three of these—the -sima- we just got done with, the -nngit- ditto, and . . . uh . . . the fourth-person verb ending I didn’t want to use. You win some, you lose some.
qanuit + mat
More breakage. The verb qanuit- is a comparatively modest “malfunction” or “have something wrong”—so modest, in fact, that you can use it in polite greetings. Qanuippit? “Something wrong with you?” elicits the formulaic answer Qanuinngittunga “Nope, not a thing.” Smacks of expecting the worst, but then, polite utterances don’t always bear closer inspection.
In the case of “If it ain’t broke”, the verb is followed by another fourth-person ending, this one in “because...” form. I have no idea what this seemingly extraneous verb is doing in the sentence, so I’m going to guess that it forms a package with the next verb. Whatever happens in those final syllables will happen—or not happen, as the case may be—as a direct result of this ongoing brokenness.
Digression: What a Difference a t Makes.
When I first met this word, I experienced a complete brain shutdown. Not just hopeless confusion—ᓇᓗ- (nalu-) et cetera, which is to say my normal everyday reaction to the Inuktitut language—but a near-complete cessation of activity. The result was the following:
Uh-oh. They’ve lost me. It starts out comfortably enough with aaqqik- “to fix or repair”, and eventually we see light again with something that might be -nasuaq- “trying to”. One small problem. This form is only supposed to come after t or a vowel, and I can’t contort the -tau- or possibly -taq- + -u- into anything suitable. I guess we could pretend the nasuaq is a typo for rasuaq, which is what you’d get if you stuck the more consonant-friendly -gasuaq- variant onto anything ending in q—like -uq-.
As long as you stick to indicatives, interrogatives and imperatives, you don’t have to mess with the fourth person. Maybe the language had an attack of practicality and realized that the two someones are obviously different people. You’re not fixing yourself. Unless you switch to intransitive endings without taking proper precautions.
The ending looks innocuous enough: -pa or -paa, your basic interrogative. Except that aaqqik- is a transitive verb, like tatat-. To find out if someone or something is doing something to someone or something else,* you have to bring out an entirely different ending, -pauk. Or -paak or -paat, depending on how many people are potentially doing the fixing. If a transitive verb like aaqqik-, or tatat-, or suraq-, wants to start fraternizing with intransitive endings, it’s got only two choices. It can add an affix—most often -si-, though aaqqik- prefers a simple i. This, in turn means giving up its final k, due to affixes’ well-documented appetite for final consonants. Or it can give up its active aspect. Abdicate, as it were.
If this happens, we’re no longer talking about fixing something, but about something fixing itself—which doesn’t seem likely—or passively allowing itself to get fixed. Either way it would be left as the subject of the sentence, which it manifestly isn’t. Maybe we can dump the blame on those unidentified syllables in the middle of the word. Sometimes affixes get so greedy, they not only eat the preceding consonant, they devour the original verb’s whole transitivity.
Are you wishing you could whap me upside the head right about now? What we have here is your basic j/t alternation. Just as you can stick -juq and -tuq (active), -jaq and -taq (passive) onto the end of almost any verb, so too can you use -tau- (-taq- + -u-) anywhere that you can have -jau- (-jaq- + -u-). So your active verb ᐋᖅᑭᒃ (aaqqik-) becomes passive ᐋᖅᑭᒃᑕᐅ (aaqqiktau-) “to get fixed or repaired”. Or, in this case, “try to get fixed or repaired” with the now perfectly intelligible ᓇᓱᐊᖅ (-nasuaq-). It is certainly not the fault of the Inuktitut language that my grammatical notes showed only the -jau- form.
Now that this has been sorted, the -pa or -paa ending makes perfect sense. But, returning to the theme of “You win some, you lose some”, I now have to figure out why it—the unspecified non-broken thing—takes fourth-person endings even though it is, after all, the subject of the sentence.
Incidentally, our friend the Hansard implies that siqumik- doesn’t mean physical breakage at all. It’s “break” in the sense of breaking a rule. But maybe if you are a governmental official, breaking the rules is just as serious as smashing or shattering material objects.
This is not quite as brazen—or as prophetic—as it sounds. At the time, the Department’s responsibilities included the government of the Northwest and Yukon Territories, as well as some even more improbable areas like immigration. Which may shed light on the icky term “Human Resources”. The relevant agency’s full name was Bureau of Northwest Territories and Yukon Affairs, Land, Parks and Forests Branch, Department of Mines and Resources.
In any case, don’t look at me. The US has its own rules, so any potential e-text will have to come from within Canada. Stay tuned.
In the quasi-documentary Qallunaat, there is a scene in which a young woman tries to read out highlights from the famous or infamous Book of Wisdom for Eskimo. I say “tries”, because she is laughing so hard she can barely get the words out—probably the healthiest way to approach the book. It was published by the Department of Mines and Resources* in 1947 and 1949, raising the lovely possibility that its Crown copyright may have expired in 1999. Information on this point has been unexpectedly hard to pin down, which is why the book does not yet exist as an e-text.†
The 1947 edition can be found online in page-image form. The illustrations are present and accounted for, but the Inuktitut—all handwritten—is best described as, well, approximate. The title is ᑎᑎᑐᔭᓯᒪᔪ ᑲᔨᒪᓇᑐ ᐃᓄᑎᑐ ᐅᑲᓯᒪᔪ (tititujasimaju kajimanatu inutitu ukasimaju). It’s like Greek written in Linear B, isn’t it? No long vowels, no syllable-final consonants, no ᕿ (q) or ᖏ (ng). It does have the occasional ᐞ (raised ᐃ), suggesting that the translator learned to write from someone who used this notation for diphthongs in i. Or syllables ending in y or j, depending on how you look at it.
Barring a Crown copyright, Option B is to get all three of the perpetrators—author, translator and illustrator—safely killed off by 1961. So far this can only be said of the translator, Sam (no relation to Norman) Ford, who died in 1950. He was then 70 years old and could perfectly well have died of natural causes, but instead he elected to get killed in an accident. Unfortunately he had made the strategic blunder of allowing his wife to predecease him by a good many years. So this is not one of those stories that begins “Sam Ford lived . . .” and then hits you with an unexpected happy ending.
That’s just the translator, anyway. He’s expendable, as is the illustrator, Betty Kosior. The author . . . well, that’s when it gets interesting. Somewhere along the line, library catalogs got the credits garbled and decided that the author was Cyril Wingnek—a name that does not appear anywhere in the 1947 edition. Or, for that matter, much of anywhere after 1949. Possibly he changed his name, joined a monastery and dropped off the face of the earth.
Or possibly not. Here’s the interesting thing about that “Wingnek” name. If you didn’t know, you’d probably assume it was something Slavic. Turns out it’s Inuit; you’ll generally find it written ᐅᐃᖕᓂᒃ (uingnik). Most people with this name now live in the vicinity of Cambridge Bay, squarely in Inuinnaqtun territory. It is no coincidence that the 1949 version of the book’s translated title—Khaoyimayum titigangit Inuinnangmun—looks more like Inuinnaqtun than vanilla Inuktitut. Well, with the original spelling it looks more like Klingon. But pull some substitutions and it turns into a perfectly respectable qaujimajuup (“of wisdom”).
I tend to think of Harper as Suffix Guy, but he has other talents as well. One of them is this newspaper column. I stumble across it now and then, though I’ve never got in the habit of reading it regularly. I find I just don’t have much tolerance for folktales about villages that were cursed for 800 years because someone unknowingly ate the meat of a seal whose great-grandseal once looked at a menstruating woman.
Um. I may have conflated two different stories there. But you get the idea.
I didn’t figure this out for myself. After back-burnering it for a year or so, I decided to revive the question. This time I dumped it on our incomparable reference librarian. She did not have far to look, because in the meantime the Book of Wisdom had showed up as the subject of two consecutive Kenn Harper columns* in Nunatsiaq Online.
Harper wasn’t able to scrape up much more information, though he does point out helpfully that one reason the syllabic title reads like gibberish is that it is missing a syllable. (He doesn’t say which one, leaving us with another of those “Can you spot the difference?” puzzles.) And it turns out there’s an unimpeachable reason for Wingnek’s absence from the 1947 edition. He wasn’t the author at all; he was just one more translator. He’s responsible for the Kling— er, Inuinnaqtun, which wasn’t added until that second edition. Oh, and those Wingneks in Cambridge Bay? Some of them are his descendants.
The wonky syllabics can’t be blamed on Ford either. He did his translation in Roman and handed off to yet another guy—the wholly uncredited Alex Stevenson—who did his best with the syllabics. This explains much.
Finally I have to thank Harper’s article for pointing out a line I’d overlooked:
[The King] does not wish you to become lazy and expect to receive goods any time. You are to continue to work hard at hunting and trapping, teaching your children to be good hunters and workers.
ᑕᒪᑯ ᐊᒋᔪᑲᒍᔪ ᐃᑲᔪᒥᔪ ᐳᓕᓯᑯᓂ ᐃᓕᓂᓗ
ᑭᑐᑲᓯᓂᓗ ᐊᑎᓗ ᑭᒐᓗᐅᑉ ᐅᑲᓯᒪᒪ ᑕᑯᓄᐊ
ᐱᑯᓗᑭ ᑕᒪᑯᓂᒐ ᐱᔪᒪᔭᓯᓂ ᐱᔪᒪᒪᓕᒐᓯ.
ᑭᒐᓗ, ᐃᓕᓯᓂ ᐃᑭᐊᓱᒍᔨᒋᑐ ᐊᑎᓗ ᑲᒐᑐᐃᓇ
ᐱᔪᒪᔭᓯᓂ ᓱᑐᐃᓇᑯ. ᑌᒪᓴᓇ [really] ᐱᓇᓱᐊᑐᓴᐅᕗᓯ
ᒥᑭᒋᓄᓗ ᐅᒪᔪᓄᓗ. ᑕᒪᑯᐊᓗ ᑭᑐᒐᓯ ᐃᑭᓱᑯᒋᓗᒋ
ᐅᒪᔪᓄ ᓱᑐᐃᓇᓄ ᐊᓱᒍᕙᒍᓯ.
Out of the mouths of babes, sucklings and qallunaat.
I was reminded of the Book of Wisdom because in mid-2011 I ran into a perfect replica of both its prose style and its implicit assumptions about the reader’s intelligence, from a slightly unexpected quarter. Here we are on the Questions and Answers page of the Nunavut government’s Uranium Is Your Friend site. These are their fonts and colors, assuming for the sake of discussion that you have either Century Gothic or Verdana on your computer. In case you don’t, I added a “sans-serif” fallback—and I did not force a point size of 14, as they did. You have to draw the line somewhere.
What is Uranium?
Uranium is a metal that is common in the Earth’s crust, just like copper, lead and zinc. Uranium is different than these other metals, however, because it slowly changes into other metals. This process is called radioactive decay. As uranium decays to other metals it emits energy known as radiation, as well as radon gas. This process of radioactive decay occurs naturally in uranium.
What is uranium used for?
Uranium mined in the world today is commonly used as fuel for generating electricity in nuclear power plants. It is also used for specialized medical equipment. Uranium can be used to produce nuclear weapons, but uranium mined in Canada cannot be exported for this use.
What makes mining uranium different than mining other metals?
The mining process for uranium is very similar to many other metals. It can be mined in underground mines or open pit mines. Uranium mining produces tailings and other wastes that need to be treated and stored for long periods of time, like the tailings of other mines such as copper, nickel or zinc. Uranium mining is subject to additional regulations due to the unique safety hazards of radiation and radon gas. Safety measures are used to reduce miners’ exposure to radon gas and radiation.
What was that about “unique safety hazards”? Fire that writer! We didn’t plan to say anything about those!
What is radiation?
Radiation is a form of energy. This energy, radiation, can pass through many materials. Everyone is exposed to radiation from both natural and man-made sources, including radon gas, cosmic rays, medical procedures (X Rays) and naturally radioactive metals.
Oh, and let’s not forget shoe stores. Remember those?
If English isn’t your language of choice:
What uutirnaqninngalu paatulimitut ittunit?
Uutirnaqninngalu paatulimitut ittunit ittuq pauwaqtuutitut. Una pauwaqtuut, uutirnaqninngalu paatulimitut ittunit, qaangiutiinarniaqtuq hunavaluknut. Inuit tamaita pittaaqtut uutirnaqninngalu paatulimitut ittunit tamarmit ittunik inuup-piliurhimayanganillu, ukunaniklu uutirnaqninngalu paatulimitut ittunit puyunnganit, ikiarmit hilataami aulapkaitjutinga, aaniarvikmi hanalrutingit (Iksuliirutingit) ittunik qayangnaqtut aryatut auyuq havigalik.
Gosh, I had no idea Inuinnaqtun used the English loanword “What”. Maybe they couldn’t think of a viable synonym for suna, after trying so hard to make every single word and phrase come out completely different from the Inuktitut version.
And, with transliteration added by me—or rather, by your friendly local transcoder—but otherwise as printed:
ᓱᓇᐅᕙ ᓯᓚᐃᓐᓇᒃᑯᑦ ᓱᑲᓐᓇᖅᑐᓕᐅᕐᓂᖅ?
sunauva silainnakkut sukannaqtuliurniq?
ᓯᓚᐃᓐᓇᒃᑯᑦ ᓱᑲᓐᓇᖅᑐᓕᐅᕐᓂᖅ ᐅᒻᒪᖅᑯᑕᐅᔪᖅ. ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᐆᒻᒪᖅᑯᑎ ᖃᓄᐃᑦᑐᑐᐃᓐᓇᒃᑯᑦ ᓅᑉᐸᓪᓕᐊᓂᖃᕈᓐᓇᖅᑐᖅ. ᐃᓄᓗᒃᑖᑦ ᐊᒃᑐᖅᑕᐅᓯᒪᓂᖃᖅᑐᑦ ᑕᒪᑐᒧᙵ ᐃᓅᓂᒃᑯᑦ ᐃᓄᖕᓄᓪᓗ ᓴᓇᔭᐅᓯᒪᔪᒃᑯᑦ, ᐱᖃᑕᐅᓪᓗᒍ ᐳᑉᓚᙳᕈᔾᔨᓂᖅ, ᓯᓚᑐᐃᓐᓇᕐᒥ ᓯᕿᓂᕐᒥ ᐆᒻᒪᖅᑯᑎᒋᔭᐅᔪᒃᑯᑦ, ᐋᓐᓂᐊᖃᕐᓇᖏᑦᑐᓕᕆᔾᔪᑎᒃᑯᓪᓗ (ᐊᔾᔨᓕᐅᕈᑎᒃᑯᑦ) ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓴᕕᕋᔭᖕᓂᙶᖅᑐᒃᑯᑦ.
silainnakkut sukannaqtuliurniq ummaqqutaujuq. inuluktaat aktuqtausimaniqaqtut tamatumunnga inuunikkut inungnullu sanajausimajukkut, piqataullugu publanngurujjiniq, silatuinnarmi siqinirmi uummaqqutigijaujukkut, aanniaqarnangittulirijjutikkullu (ajjiliurutikkut) ammalu savirajangninngaaqtukkut.
I’ve got one question for the web designer. What were you thinking?