Of Duct Tape and Hovercraft

Duct Tape Is Your Friend

ᓱᑉᓗᓯᐅᑦ ᓂᐱᑎᑦᑐᖅ ᐃᓚᓐᓇᐃᑎᐅᔪᖅ (sublusiut nipitittuq ilannaitiujuq)

* I don’t know what he’s complaining about. The first Spike Lee picture is said to have been made for $25,000. Admit­tedly, he was not filming in a region where the ambient climate affects photo­graphic equipment in about the same way as a quick dip in liquid nitrogen.

. . . but so far, only in English.

It’s not for want of trying. The combination

"duct tape" inuktitut

is simply not google-friendly. By the time you’ve eliminated all references to snow­mobile repair, Red Green, and the budget of the latest Zacharias Kunuk production*, there’s not much left.

Duct Tape in the Hansard
Spring 2011

The first round of my search for duct tape took place in the fall of 2010. I eventually figured out that my information was hopelessly garbled, so I have deleted the whole thing to start afresh.

* Except “oxymoron”. Other than that, it has rarely let me down.

You can find almost anything* in the Nunavut Hansard, provided you can handle its eighty-five-megabyte weight. When the alternative is to plod through several hundred day-by-day transcripts, or to do all your searching online at a colossal expenditure of bandwidth, 85 megs looks pretty good. I’m still surprised that my text editor didn’t explode, though. It generally starts complaining as soon as it passes 800K (in a plain-text file, the size of fairly thick book).

In approved Alice’s Restaurant fashion, the Hansard came through for me. In the parallel-translation version of the proceedings for 29 February 2000, I landed on

Repairs are being made with duct tape.
ammalittauq sullulinga sullulillariujaarunniirmat.
ᐊᒻᒪᓕᑦᑕᐅᖅ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖕᒐ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᓪᓚᕆᐅᔮᕈᓐᓃᕐᒪᑦ

fine-tuned in the Official Version to

. . . sullulillariurunrmat.
. . . ᓱᓪᓗᓕᓪᓚᕆᐅᕈᓐᕐᒪᑦ

OK, so it took me half a year to figure out the problem. Problems, dual. We’re not dealing with Spanish here. I ᒪᕐᕈᐃᖅᑕᖅᑐᒍ ᑕᒻᒪᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᔪᖓ (marruiqtaqtugu tammalauqsimajunga), in a pretty spectacular way. Or, if you want to shift the blame, the text ᒪᕐᕈᐃᖅᑕᖅᑐᓂ ᖃᓄᐃᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᔪᖅ (marruiqtaqtuni qanuilauqsimajuq). One mistake is in the Hansard itself; the other was in the computer-generated parallel translation. Let’s get that one out of the way first.

Here’s what the text looked like when the computer first spat it out. The Inuktitut version was unfortun­ately issued in Prosyl, as was every­thing in the Hansard before 2002, but the nearest passing trans­coder took care of that problem before I got here. It also provided the line-by-line parallel—hiccups and all. You win some, you lose some. On balance, we have a winner.

* Except Pangnirtung, which is big enough to have its own repre­sentative, and Iqaluit, which is so vast it has three all to itself. Rankin Inlet, on the other side of Hudson Bay, has two, but it has to share one with Whale Cove.

The speaker is Olayuk Akesuk, representing Cape Dorset (Kinngaq)—and also, moreover, additionally, ᐊᒻᒪᓕᑦᑕᐅᖅ, ammalittauq, when he remembers its existence, the rest of South Baffin.* I’m not saying this to be nasty. When you open a faucet and all that comes out is flakes of rust, it has a way of blotting everything else from your mind. This is not the first time Mr Akesuk has addressed this issue, and it will not be the last.

All mid-word hyphens are mine. If I have rashly put one in the middle of an affix, do not swear at the accredited trans­lators. They are blameless.

puqinnaaq qaujimajuq attar­naijar­simattiariaqar­nirijanganik imiga­ksattiu­vaujunnaq­tuquti­qariaqar­niujurlu imirtartau­qattar­nikkut aturijau­llaringmat nunali­limaattianut. ᐳᕿᓐᓈᖅ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᔪᖅ ᐊᑦᑕᕐᓇᐃᔭᕐ­ᓯᒪᑦᑎᐊᕆᐊᖃᕐ­ᓂᕆᔭᖓᓂᒃ ᐃᒥᒐ­ᒃᓴᑦᑎᐅ­ᕙᐅᔪᓐᓇᖅ­ᑐᖁᑎ­ᖃᕆᐊᖃᕐ­ᓂᐅᔪᕐᓗ ᐃᒥᕐᑕᕐᑕᐅ­ᖃᑦᑕᕐᓂᒃᑯᑦ ᐊᑐᕆᔭᐅ­ᓪᓚᕆᖕᒪᑦ ᓄᓇᓕ­ᓕᒫᑦᑎᐊᓄᑦ. Mr. Puqiqnak knows that a safe and reliable water supply is very important in every community. We are not the only community who has a serious problem with our water supply.

I believe this is the same Mr Puqiqnak who told us about global warming the year before. Mr Akesuk isn’t picking on him for any personal reason. He seems to have been standing in for the regular Speaker (uqaqti) that day, so any comments have to be directed at him.

Snip, snip—but don’t be alarmed. It will all be made clear in the end. Except, possibly the water.

Hamalakkut uqarpang­mata uvattinnut sullulik asijjirtau­jariaqali­laursima­galuarmat 1999-ngutillugu gavamau­tillugit nunat­tiarmut akitujuutinut parnauti­nginnut. ᕼᐊᒪᓚᒃᑯᑦ ᐅᖃᕐᐸᖕᒪᑕ ᐅᕙᑦᑎᓐᓄᑦ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᒃ ᐊᓯᔾᔨᕐᑕᐅ­ᔭᕆᐊᖃᓕ­ᓚᐅᕐᓯᒪ­ᒐᓗᐊᕐᒪᑦ 1999-ᖑᑎᓪᓗᒍ ᒐᕙᒪᐅᑎᓪᓗᒋᑦ ᓄᓇᑦᑎᐊᕐᒧᑦ ᐊᑭᑐᔫᑎᓄᑦ ᐸᕐᓇᐅᑎ­ᖏᓐᓄᑦ. It was explained to me by Timoon Toonoo, Cape Dorset’s SAO, that over the years with the water rushing through that pipe it has worn away the galvanised coating inside the pipe so the iron inside the pipe is now exposed and water causes the iron to rust.

That’s Senior Administrative Officer, for those of you who aren’t up on Canadian acronyms. Skipping forward again:

Hamalakkut sanajingit salumma­qsainasuk­paktuut manngittu­riviniru­juinna­suar­łutik kiviqqajunik sullu­lingmi. ᕼᐊᒪᓚᒃᑯᑦ ᓴᓇᔨᖏᑦ ᓴᓗᒻᒪᖅᓴᐃ­ᓇᓱᒃᐸᒃᑑᑦ ᒪᙱᑦᑐ­ᕆᕕᓂᕈ­ᔪᐃᓐᓇ­ᓱᐊᕐᖢᑎᒃ ᑭᕕᖅᑲᔪᓂᒃ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖕᒥ. One day there was eleven pounds of iron and sediment that had to be taken out of the bottom of the pipe.
pitaqammari­laursima­ngmingmat 11 paunsiul­lutik savirajaraja­rujuit piiqtirtau­laursimajut iqqanganit ammalu kiviurar­simajunik surujurujungnik piijartau­tuinna­muuriaqa­laursima­ngmingmata iqqanganit sulluliup. ᐱᑕᖃᒻᒪᕆᓚᐅᕐ­ᓯᒪᖕᒥᖕᒪᑦ 11 ᐸᐅᓐᓯᐅᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᓴᕕᕋᔭᕋᔭᕈᔪᐃᑦ ᐲᖅᑎᕐᑕᐅ­ᓚᐅᕐᓯᒪᔪᑦ ᐃᖅᑲᖓᓂᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᑭᕕᐅᕋᕐ­ᓯᒪᔪᓂᒃ ᓱᕈᔪᕈᔪᖕᓂᒃ ᐲᔭᕐᑕᐅ­ᑐᐃᓐᓇ­ᒨᕆᐊᖃ­ᓚᐅᕐᓯᒪ­ᖕᒥᖕᒪᑕ ᐃᖅᑲᖓᓂᑦ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᐅᑉ. Also the pipeline itself is not in the best of shape. The Hamlet cannot use spare connectors to repair the pipe anymore.
ammalittauq sullulinga sullulilla­riujaa­runniirmat. ᐊᒻᒪᓕᑦᑕᐅᖅ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖓ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᓪᓚ­ᕆᐅᔮᕈᓐᓃᕐᒪᑦ. Repairs are being made with duct tape.
Hamalakkut asinginnik aturuluu­jarłutik ilaji­simavaktut surajuijaijar­sillutik sullulingmik . . . ᕼᐊᒪᓚᒃᑯᑦ ᐊᓯᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᑐᕈᓘᔭᕐᖢᑎᒃ ᐃᓚᔨᓯᒪᕙᒃᑐᑦ ᓱᕋᔪᐃᔭᐃᔭᕐ­ᓯᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖕᒥᒃ . . . After 20 years the supports for the pipeline are slipping and sliding on the hillside . . .

Got that? Are we all jumping up and down screaming with excitement? Eventually I stopped jumping and screaming long enough to realize that the text on the left has nothing to do with the text on the right.

* Not all of them unique to Nunavik.

It is possible, of course, that we are dealing with a free-form translation, meaning that duct tape as such doesn’t enter into it at all. But I was not and am not prepared to believe that a language which has almost as many words for “frog”* as it does for “snow”, when their native biome doesn’t even have amphi­bians, would not have even one word for duct tape. In fact I am not prepared to believe that any language anywhere in the world does not have a word for duct tape. We just need to look a little harder.

duct tape
Duct Tape and Hansard Part Company

Time to take a closer look at the text. Among other things, I can’t for the life of me find where Timoon Toonoo is hiding. Twenty whole years also seem to have gone missing; there is neither a numeric “20” nor anything involving avati-. At this point a detour to the Official Version is in order, since we have been working with the day-to-day unofficial “Blues”.

But the final, official text is essentially the same, barring the occasional syllable. In fact, unless I am reading it all upside-down and backward, the Official Version tends to contain more typos and errors than the Unofficial Version. Figuring this out was a whole separate adventure, culmi­nating in one of those “D’oh!” moments that you would prefer not to have had. Conclusion: it is a very good thing we have the full text of the Blues for those early years, because the Official Version from the Prosyl era ranges from confusing to unusable. About which, more elsewhere.

After some serious text-wrangling we come out with (shifted or missing text highlighted):

puqinnaaq qaujimajuq attarnai­jarsima­ttiariaqar­nirijanganik imigak­sattiuvau­junnaq­tuquti­qariaqar­niujurlu imirtar­tauqattar­nikkut aturijau­llaringmat nunali­limaattianut. ᐳᕿᓐᓈᖅ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᔪᖅ ᐊᑦᑕᕐᓇᐃᔭᕐᓯᒪ­ᑦᑎᐊᕆᐊᖃᕐ­ᓂᕆᔭᖓᓂᒃ ᐃᒥᒐ­ᒃᓴᑦᑎᐅᕙᐅ­ᔪᓐᓇᖅ­ᑐᖁᑎᖃᕆᐊᖃᕐ­ᓂᐅᔪᕐᓗ ᐃᒥᕐᑕᕐᑕᐅ­ᖃᑦᑕᕐᓂᒃᑯᑦ ᐊᑐᕆᔭᐅᓪᓚᕆᖕᒪᑦ ᓄᓇᓕᓕᒫᑦᑎᐊᓄᑦ. Mr. Puqiqnak knows that a safe and reliable water supply is very important in every community.
nunalituangunnginnatta angijumik akailutaqaq­tituanguluta imiqtartau­qattarniri­jattinnut. ᓄᓇᓕᑐᐊᖑᙱᓐᓇᑦᑕ ᐊᖏᔪᒥᒃ ᐊᑲᐃᓗᑕᖃᖅ­ᑎᑐᐊᖑᓗᑕ ᐃᒥᖅᑕᕐᑕᐅ­ᖃᑦᑕᕐᓂᕆ­ᔭᑦᑎᓐᓄᑦ. We are not the only community who has a serious problem with our water supply.

As used here, the word “community” is a Canadianism. On the southern side of the 49th parallel, saying “community” when you mean a specific, named munici­pality is mushy realtor-speak—a close cousin to “gated community”, which means walled compound. Before learning this, I once filled out an online registration form that asked for my “community”. I had no idea what they meant, so I put down qallunaaq. This is inarguably true, but it is probably not what they wanted to know.

Come to think of it, “Hamlet” may be a Canadianism too. But it doesn’t mean anything in parti­cular in the US—unless you’re talking about “to be or not to be”—so it isn’t as likely to lead to confusion and misunder­standing.

imirtartauviqa­qattaratta “ti” tasinganit mailiu­lluartumik ungasing­nilingmit, ammalu unurtunik isigangnik ammuaktitau­ttaria­qarłuni nunali­ttinnut. ᐃᒥᕐᑕᕐᑕᐅᕕᖃ­ᖃᑦᑕᕋᑦᑕ “ᑎ” ᑕᓯᖓᓂᑦ ᒪᐃᓕᐅᓪᓗᐊᕐᑐᒥᒃ ᐅᖓᓯᖕᓂᓕᖕᒥᑦ, ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐅᓄᕐᑐᓂᒃ ᐃᓯᒐᖕᓂᒃ ᐊᒻᒧᐊᒃᑎᑕᐅ­ᑦᑕᕆᐊᖃᕐᖢᓂ ᓄᓇᓕᑦᑎᓐᓄᑦ. Our water comes from “T” lake which is about a mile away, and several hundred feet above our community.
imiqartitau­ttaratta sullulikkut ammalu akailuta­qarłuta tamatu­munga sullulinga avatilluanik pigisima­lirattigut arraagunik savirajatuqau­lualirmat manngir­tartuq. ᐃᒥᖃᕐᑎᑕᐅ­ᑦᑕᕋᑦᑕ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᒃᑯᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐊᑲᐃᓗᑕᖃᕐᖢᑕ ᑕᒪᑐᒧᖓ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖓ ᐊᕙᑎᓪᓗᐊᓂᒃ ᐱᒋᓯᒪᓕᕋᑦᑎᒍᑦ ᐊᕐᕌᒍᓂᒃ ᓴᕕᕋᔭᑐᖃᐅ­ᓗᐊᓕᕐᒪᑦ ᒪᙱᕐᑕᕐᑐᖅ. Water is delivered by pipeline and the problem is this line is over 20 years old with galvanised iron.
uqaqtii, tamanna akailutaujuq qaujima­jaujutu­qaulirtuq arragu­kallau­lirtunut. ᐅᖃᖅᑏ, ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᐊᑲᐃᓗᑕᐅᔪᖅ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᔭᐅᔪᑐ­ᖃᐅᓕᕐᑐᖅ ᐊᕐᕋᒍ­ᑲᓪᓚᐅᓕᕐᑐᓄᑦ. Mr. Speaker, this problem has been known for some years.
Hamalakkut uqarpangmata uvattinnut sullulik asijjirtau­jariaqali­laursima­galuarmat 1999-ngutillugu gavamau­tillugit nunattiarmut akitujuutinut parnauti­nginnut. ᕼᐊᒪᓚᒃᑯᑦ ᐅᖃᕐᐸᖕᒪᑕ ᐅᕙᑦᑎᓐᓄᑦ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᒃ ᐊᓯᔾᔨᕐᑕᐅᔭᕆᐊᖃᓕ­ᓚᐅᕐᓯᒪᒐᓗᐊᕐᒪᑦ 1999-ᖑᑎᓪᓗᒍ ᒐᕙᒪᐅᑎᓪᓗᒋᑦ ᓄᓇᑦᑎᐊᕐᒧᑦ ᐊᑭᑐᔫᑎᓄᑦ ᐸᕐᓇᐅᑎᖏᓐᓄᑦ. The Hamlet tells me the pipeline was due for replacement in 1998/99 in the GNWT capital plan.

Taking a wild guess: GNWT means Greater Northwest Territory or possibly Territories. Or Government of, et cetera. In some language, somewhere, it stands for The People In Charge.

kisumukkiaq pijjutiqar­łutik qanui­liutau­launngimmat. ᑭᓱᒧᒃᑭᐊᖅ ᐱᔾᔪᑎᖃᕐᖢᑎᒃ ᖃᓄᐃ­ᓕᐅᑕᐅ­ᓚᐅᙱᒻᒪᑦ. For some reason it never happened.
(tusaajikkut) maannaujumi akai­lutaujut sullulingmut piujunniir­pallia­tuinnarmat. (ᑐᓵᔨᒃᑯᑦ) ᒫᓐᓇᐅᔪᒥ ᐊᑲᐃᓗᑕᐅᔪᑦ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖕᒧᑦ ᐱᐅᔪᓐᓃᕐ­ᐸᓪᓕᐊ­ᑐᐃᓐᓇᕐᒪᑦ. (interpretation) Now the problem with the pipeline is getting worse.
uvannut nalunaiqtaulaur­simangmat ᐅᕙᓐᓄᑦ ᓇᓗᓇᐃᖅᑕᐅ­ᓚᐅᕐᓯᒪᖕᒪᑦ It was explained to me by Timoon Toonoo, Cape Dorset’s SAO, that over the years with the water rushing through that pipe it has worn away the galvanised coating inside the pipe so the iron inside the pipe is now exposed and water causes the iron to rust.
(interpretation ends) Water has caused the iron to rust in the pipe so we have iron in our water
ammalu manngiqturivinir­lukunik pitaqaqattalirmat piijarniku­viniru­jungnik savirajaviniru­jungnik imattinnuar­talirming­matattauq. ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᒪᙱᖅᑐᕆᕕᓂᕐ­ᓗᑯᓂᒃ ᐱᑕᖃᖃᑦᑕᓕᕐᒪᑦ ᐲᔭᕐᓂᑯᕕ­ᓂᕈᔪᖕᓂᒃ ᓴᕕᕋᔭᕕᓂᕈᔪᖕᓂᒃ ᐃᒪᑦᑎᓐᓄᐊᕐᑕ­ᓕᕐᒥᖕ­ᒪᑕᑦᑕᐅᖅ. and we have pieces of rust flaking off and getting into our water as well.

At this point, the best explanation is that we have rust getting into the translation, with pieces of it flaking off and getting into the text, resulting in significant parts being worn away. Or maybe the translator recently quarreled with Mr Toonoo and is taking revenge by writing him out of history.

Skipping along from headword to headword:

uvannut “to me”

nalunaiqtaulaursimangmat = nalunaq “confusion”, -iq- “remove” . . . “it was explained”

ammalu “and”

manngiqturivinirlukunik = manngiq “rust” . . .

* Oh, all right. Two. But I don’t think Mr Akesuk feels inclined to do either one to the water pipes.

Even allowing for the quirks of legislator-speak, “It was explained to me and rust” is not, well, any human language. Not even Inuktitut. Maybe the translator has a cat. And maybe if we ignore that “rust” word it will go away, taking its indecipherable string of affixes along with it. That ᑯᓂᒃ (kunik) at the end of the word conveys only one meaning* to me—and I doubt it is what the water pipes are doing, or what Mr Akesuk would like to do to them.

Hamalakkut sanajingit salumma­qsainasuk­paktuut manngitturi­viniru­juinnasuar­łutik kiviqqajunik sullulingmi. ᕼᐊᒪᓚᒃᑯᑦ ᓴᓇᔨᖏᑦ ᓴᓗᒻᒪᖅᓴᐃ­ᓇᓱᒃᐸᒃᑑᑦ ᒪᙱᑦᑐᕆᕕᓂᕈ­ᔪᐃᓐᓇᓱᐊᕐᖢᑎᒃ ᑭᕕᖅᑲᔪᓂᒃ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖕᒥ. Hamlet employees try to clean this rust out of the system by flushing the pipe at the bottom, recently five pounds of rust was taken out of the bottom of the pipe line.
pitaqammarilaursimang­mingmat 11 paunsiullutik savirajara­jarujuit piiqtirtau­laursimajut iqqanganit ammalu kiviurar­simajunik surujuru­jungnik piijartau­tuinnamuuriaqa­laursima­ngmingmata iqqanganit sulluliup. ᐱᑕᖃᒻᒪᕆᓚᐅᕐ­ᓯᒪᖕᒥᖕᒪᑦ 11 ᐸᐅᓐᓯᐅᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᓴᕕᕋᔭᕋᔭᕈᔪᐃᑦ ᐲᖅᑎᕐᑕᐅ­ᓚᐅᕐᓯᒪᔪᑦ ᐃᖅᑲᖓᓂᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᑭᕕᐅᕋᕐᓯᒪᔪᓂᒃ ᓱᕈᔪᕈᔪᖕᓂᒃ ᐲᔭᕐᑕᐅᑐᐃᓐᓇᒨᕆᐊᖃ­ᓚᐅᕐᓯᒪᖕᒥᖕᒪᑕ ᐃᖅᑲᖓᓂᑦ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᐅᑉ. One day there was eleven pounds of iron and sediment that had to be taken out of the bottom of the pipe.
ammalittauq sullulinga sullulilla­riujaa­runniirmat. ᐊᒻᒪᓕᑦᑕᐅᖅ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖓ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᓪᓚ­ᕆᐅᔮᕈᓐᓃᕐᒪᑦ. Also the pipeline itself is not in the best of shape.

No wonder it didn’t make sense the first time around. We haven’t even got to the duct tape yet. My current best guess at how to unpack that last behemoth:

sullu (or, if you like, sublu) pipe or duct

-lik something that’s got a pipe or duct, i.e.
sullulik the pipeline

-llarik really, emphatically, I’m not kidding

-u- Hold on to your hats! We’re changing into a verb

-jaaq- negation, in this case “it really isn’t . . .”

-gunniiq- it has finished doing whatever it was doing

-mat everything else in the sentence is happening because of this

Some might quibble that you’re not allowed to introduce a (be)causative if there isn’t a primary verb (indicative, interrogative, imperative) elsewhere in the sentence. But at this point Kinngaq has bigger problems to think about than grammar. Maybe the translator got so wrapped up in the narrative that it all turned into a stream of because, because, because. Or, in legislator-speak, whereas, whereas, whereas.

Hamalakkut asinginnik aturuluu­jarłutik ilajisimavaktut surajuijaijar­sillutik sullulingmik ᕼᐊᒪᓚᒃᑯᑦ ᐊᓯᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᑐᕈᓘᔭᕐᖢᑎᒃ ᐃᓚᔨᓯᒪᕙᒃᑐᑦ ᓱᕋᔪᐃᔭᐃ­ᔭᕐᓯᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖕᒥᒃ The Hamlet cannot use spare connectors to repair the pipe anymore.

The word ᐊᓯᖏᓐᓂᒃ (asinginnik) is interesting. It looks as if it would unpack into a whole string of affixes, but it’s simply the accusative plural of the pronoun ᐊᓯᐊ (asia). For reasons best known to themselves, pronouns tend to be inflected like possessives, even when nothing in the sentence belongs to anything else. This one means “others” or “the others”—of a different kind, not to be confused with ᐱᖃᑕᖏᓐᓂᒃ (piqata­nginnik) or ᐊᐃᐸᖏᓐᓂᒃ (aipa­nginnik), more of the same. These don’t work, so let’s try some­thing completely different. Anyway, the Hamlet—or people throughout the Hamlet, if you want to be gramma­tically scrupulous—can’t use (ᐊᑐᕈᓘᔭᕐᖢᑎᒃ, aturuluujar­łutik) them.

. . . And then, just when you least expect it, they throw in the main verb, ᐃᓚᔨᓯᒪᕙᒃᑐᑦ (ilajisimavaktut). You can tell it’s the main verb because it’s got an indicative -tut at the very end.

ila- “mix or add”

-ji- This is not the usual ji (or ti) meaning a person who does whatever the verb is. They may look identical to the naked eye, but here we’ve got a mandated affix whose only job is to allow the transitive verb root ila- to be used with an intransitive ending.

-sima- completed action (“present perfect”, if you can’t function without Latinate labels)

-vak- often, usually, in general


Curious. Looking at the word from a distance, my money would have been on this one to end up meaning “connector”, with tut as the plural of juq or tuq. But to make it a noun you’d have to slap on an accusative mik—or make something else genitive to take on the agent (“subject”) role. There are a lot of different case endings scattered about, but genitives are conspicuous by their absence. Well, except for the one a few lines back that simply meant of. That doesn’t count. You would also, of course, be left officially verbless—but if the text doesn’t care, why should you?

The final participle, ᓱᕋᔪᐃᔭᐃᔭᕐᓯᓪᓗᑎᒃ (surajuijaijarsillutik), “repair”, is being done to the pipeline, ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖕᒥᒃ (sullulingmik). There’s your accusative. But the sentence isn’t done yet; there’s a whole string of (be)causatives and parti­ciples yet to come. They may be able to force you to start a fresh word, but no power on earth can make an Inuktitut speaker embark on a whole new sentence until he’s good and ready.

    Repairs are being made with duct tape.

Uhm . . . I don’t see any duct tape in there. Do you?

Evil and possibly libelous thought: Is is possible that the translator did not know how to say “duct tape” in Inuktitut, and simply left out the whole sentence in hopes that nobody would notice?

quajaqippalali­tuinnar­limata tisurar­pallia­tuinnalir­łutiglu qaqqamit ᖁᐊᔭᕿᑉᐸᓚᓕ­ᑐᐃᓐᓇᕐᓕᒪᑕ ᑎᓱᕋᕐᐸᓪᓕᐊ­ᑐᐃᓐᓇᓕᕐᖢᑎᒡᓗ ᖃᖅᑲᒥᑦ After 20 years the supports for the pipeline are slipping and sliding on the hillside
ammalu maannaujumi akparsimani­qaummari­lirmat sullulik ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᒫᓐᓇᐅᔪᒥ ᐊᒃᐸᕐᓯᒪᓂᖃᐅ­ᒻᒪᕆᓕᕐᒪᑦ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᒃ and now there are low spots in the pipeline
ammalu imanga nuugunna­illiniku quarsima­tuinna­lirtarłuni ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐃᒪᖓ ᓅᒍᓐᓇᐃᓪᓕᓂᑯ ᖁᐊᕐᓯᒪᑐᐃᓐᓇ­ᓕᕐᑕᕐᖢᓂ and when water sits in the low spots it freezes
ammalu suraksimajuijauti­ksaqtaqarani aaqqikti­ttiaruti­ksarinajar­tanganik sullulingmut quaqtar­tillugu. ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓱᕋᒃᓯᒪᔪᐃᔭᐅᑎ­ᒃᓴᖅᑕᖃᕋᓂ ᐋᖅᑭᒃᑎᑦᑎᐊᕈᑎ­ᒃᓴᕆᓇᔭᕐᑕᖓᓂᒃ ᓱᓪᓗᓕᖕᒧᑦ ᖁᐊᖅᑕᕐᑎᓪᓗᒍ. and there is no reliable method of repairing the pipeline when it is frozen.

Whew. I was starting to worry that the English and Inuktitut would never get back into alignment.

Before I move on, I have to linger a bit over the beginning of that last sentence—

ᖁᐊᔭᕿᑉᐸᓚᓕᑐᐃᓐᓇᕐᓕᒪᑕ ᑎᓱᕋᕐᐸᓪᓕᐊᑐᐃᓐᓇᓕᕐᖢᑎᒡᓗ ᖃᖅᑲᒥᑦ
quajaqippalali­tuinnar­limata tisurar­pallia­tuinna­lirłutiglu qaqqamit

—except that if nobody minds, I’m going to claim there’s a typo in both the Blue and Final versions. I think the first word should start ᖁᐊᔭᕿᑉᐸᓪᓕᐊ (quajaqip­pallia-).

Look at the majestic length of those words. It helps emphasize what the speaker is saying: this process has been going on slowly, inexorably, for twenty years.

The verb roots ᖁᐊᔭᒋᑦ- (quajaqit-) and ᑎᓱᕋᖅ- (tisuraq-) mean to slip and slide, respectively. Here they go in gramma­tical tandem: each is followed by ᐸᓪᓕᐊ (-pallia-), denoting gradual change, and then ᑐᐃᓐᓇᖅ (-tuinnaq-), meaning, among other things, a useless action. For twenty years, the pipeline supports—which seem to be hiding elsewhere in the sentence—have done nothing but slide ever so slowly down ᖃᖅᑲᒥᑦ (qaqqamit), the hillside.


Postscript: The quoted words were delivered on an easy-to-remember date, 29 February 2000. Even if Ottawa coughed up the funds to upgrade the pipeline in record time, by now they’re probably due for a new one again. Remember, we’re talking about supplying year-round drinking water to an area largely surrounded by the Arctic Ocean.

duct tape
Are We Still Friends?

Fasten your seatbelts. Time shift coming up, as we go back to the second half of 2010. There have been no new developments on the “friend” front.

* Especially when they appear to be the only people who didn’t inflict their mission­aries on the region.

Well, never mind the duct tape then. I’ll get back to it. The friend, happily, is all ready to go. Given a choice of words, I picked ilanna. All that took was a bit of exploration to make sure I didn’t inadver­tently say “This roll of duct tape was made by practicing Quakers”* or perhaps “I desire this duct tape carnally.”

Play close attention now:

ᐃᓚᓐᓇ + ᐃᑦ + ᐅ + ᔪᖅ
ilanna + it + u + juq

That’s ᐃᓚᓐᓇᐃᑦ (ilannait), your friend, not to be confused with the identi­cally spelled plural ᐃᓚᓐᓇᐃᑦ (ilannait again). Assuming, of course, there is only one of you. This is not a language that uses one ending when 108 will do. Tack on -u-, a sort of verbal equals sign that magically changes you in mid-stream from noun to verb. And wrap it all up with -juq, a perfectly ordinary, harmless, intransitive, non-specific verb ending.

* Oh, all right. ᓇᐃᐅ. Spoilsport.

Take, for instance, the Avestan for “we are”, mahi. What you see there is the first-person plural ending, cognate with the Sanskrit -masi and lots of other stuff in assorted languages living and dead. But where, you ask, is the verb stem, the “to be” part, matching its Sanskrit cousin s- (already reduced from as-)? Gone. Vanished without a trace. Zero-grade form.

There’s just one catch. Like so many other affixes, -u- eats the preceding consonant. This leaves us with the dreaded Three-Vowel Sequence, in this case aiu. Or, more decoratively, ᐊᐃᐅ.* But this time you can’t simply toss the first vowel of the affix, because then there would be nothing left. There exist languages that will happily do this, leaving you with what linguists call a zero-grade form. Fortunately, Inuktitut is not one of them. Instead, you deploy a different rule: slip in a -ng- to break the vowel sequence: ᐃᓚᓐᓇᐃᖑᔪᖅ (ilanna­ingujuq). Or, in the alternative, instead of deleting the t you expand it to -ti-, making the word ᐃᓚᓐᓇᐃᑎᐅᔪᖅ (ilanna­itiujuq). You can’t just slam a consonant up against an affix and expect nothing to happen.

Two different and mutually exclusive rules. An embarrassment of riches. If there is a meta-rule to tell me which one takes precedence, I have yet to find it. Can’t use the Mae West Principle, because I’ve never had occasion to try either rule before. So let’s go with option B, ᐃᓚᓐᓇᐃᑎᐅᔪᖅ (ilanna­itiujuq), on the solid and unimpeachable grounds that it sounds prettier.

ᖃᓄᐃᑦᑐᑐᐃᓐᓇᖅ ᐃᓚᓐᓇᐃᑎᐅᔪᖅ
qanuittutuinnaq ilannaitiujuq

duct tape

Midway through 2011 it was pointed out to me that I could always make up my own term, using the handy noun-to-noun affix ᓯᐅᑦ -siut, “for use with”. The suggestion came from someone who knows even less Inuktitut than I do—a state not easy to achieve.

The “duct” component is obviously not a problem. The Hansard has water-supply discussions up the wazoo. That gives you your ᓱᑉᓗ (sublu) or, in Big-Island-speak, ᓱᓪᓗ (sullu). Stick on the ᓯᐅᑦ -siut and there you are.

The “tape” part is more flexible, as tape should be. You’ll definitely want the verb root nipi- for general stickiness. Maybe ᓂᐱᑦᑕᔫᖅ nipittajuuq, something that habitually sticks or adheres: medical tape, magnets, you name it. Or ᓂᐱᑎᑦᑕᖅ nipitittuq, something that—says the dictionary—“has an adhesive patch or layer”, like a stamp or band-aid. Break it into its component bits and you’ve got something that causes other somethings to stick.

I should also come clean and confess that I have no idea where I originally came across the form ᐃᓚᓐᓇ (ilanna). Look up “friend” now, and all I find is ᐃᓚ (ila) or ᐃᓚᓐᓈᖅ (ilannaaq). The final q is optional. But thanks to that long aa, “your friend” would collapse to ᐃᓚᓐᓈᑦ (ilannaat) either way. That means we don’t have to spend time debating the ᖑ (ng + u) versus ᑎ (t + i) options. Since the i is gone, you’ve no choice but to keep the final t.

But ᐃᓚᓐᓈᑎᐅᔪᖅ (ilannaatiujuq) just doesn’t sound as nice. Let’s stay with the Form Of Unknown Origin.

ᓱᑉᓗᓯᐅᑦ ᓂᐱᑎᑦᑐᖅ ᐃᓚᓐᓇᐃᑎᐅᔪᖅ
sublusiut nipitittuq ilannaitiujuq

And it’s still two words, dammit. I want one word, and will not rest until I find it.