Here we are in the fifth session of the first Assembly. On Friday 22 February 2002, the Hon. Ed Picco of Iqaluit (East) sends the week out with a bang with this handsome illustration of the appropriate use of formal address.
Session 1.5 of the Assembly—covering February-March 2001, a few more weeks in May, back again in November-December, and a final round in February-March 2002—was a hard-working one. By February 2002, everyone had to be feeling a bit punchy.
I wish I knew how we got from anniqpanna—Mr Picco’s actual word, inserted into an English speech—to the translator’s aniqpannami. Was the translator so certain the original (English) transcription was wrong, she did not hesitate to change it?
It probably goes without saying that I also wish it meant something rude. But a bit further along in the Hansard, aniqpannami—spelled like that—is used to translate “Hear, hear!” The word occurs only this once, in a context that excludes all possibility of sarcasm. Darn it all.
But wait! Further investigation leads to a dictionary entry suggesting something along the lines of “he got what he deserved” or “serves him right”. All I need is a -pat- to bridge the gap between aniq- or anniq- and the (be)causative verb ending -gami. And, just to ensure that we are all thoroughly confused, there are at least two different verb roots in play. Root no. 1, meaning to breathe or exhale, is always spelled aniq-. Root no. 2, meaning to treasure or value something—shading on into being possessive or stingy about it—might be either aniq- or anniq-, depending on how badly it wants that letter n. Either way there’s no room for a -pat-, because we are now dealing with the infamous gi verbs—or, in this case, gusuk or possibly saq. Says the dictionary (a different one), blithely ignoring the fact that saq isn’t that kind of affix.
If I Do Say So Myself
When the Territory was first established, even the government officials hadn’t fully come to grips with the interface between southern-style political institutions and the Inuktitut language. Here, the Hon. Manitok Thompson of Rankin Inlet (South) answers a question. As interpreted into English and retro-translated into Inuktitut:
—Telecommunications & Technical Services facilities being used by any contractors.
Took the words right out of my mouth.
At least the translator didn’t have to resort to taking his best guess. Public Works et cetera is an official department, so all he had to do was go look up its Inuktitut name. After that, the ᑕᑭᔪᕖᙶᓗᒃ (takijuviinngaaluk) would have come naturally, though the my goodness seems to have fallen by the wayside.
I may need to join it. I’m pretty sure Ms. Thompson is talking about her ᐱᓕᕆᕝᕕᒃ (pilirivvik): the place (-vik) where you do (-liri-) stuff (pi-). And ᐊᑎᖓ (atinga) is simply the fourth-person possessive of ᐊᑎᖅ (atiq), name. And I’m with her as far as the verb root ᑕᑭ (taki), “long”. But when she starts slathering on the affixes I’m lost . . . until I see light again with that decisive ᐋᓗᒃ (-aaluk) at the end. Long, something, something, really long. Maybe she didn’t say my goodness at all. Maybe it’s implicit in the words, like qablunaaruluk below.
Be that as it may, falling by the wayside is obviously a bit of a problem when an “all-weather road” means one you can also use in the summer, when the ground isn’t frozen solid. Drop off beside an ice highway and you won’t have much time to kick back and consider your options. Better pick myself up. It turns out I’ve seen this construction before:
my department’s name
my caribou’s nostrils
are full of worms
Yup, it’s our friend the Possessive Genitive. Except that the -tta ending appears to mean “of our department”. Is this a cultural thing, or was the translator simply getting tired?
Close study of the Hansard reveals that this was at least the fifth or sixth time that Ms. Thompson uttered the name of her department. Maybe she, like the translator, was tired that day. Maybe the interpreter spoke especially slowly, giving her time to dwell over what she had said.
Here is some trivia.
Traditional Inuit culture did not have one of those systems where a group of older women get together, select a man to be chief—and calmly de-select him if he doesn’t do a satisfactory job. For that, you had to go a little further south. For an Inuk woman, “Could be better, could be worse” about summed it up.
When the Territory was getting formally organized, there was a push from some quarters to mandate a 50% female Legislative Assembly. Manitok Thompson was a vocal opponent of the idea. She was rewarded by being the only woman elected to the first Assembly. Funny how that works.
How to Say “Damyankee” in Inuktitut
Instruction provided on 28 March 2001 by the Hon. Jack Anawak of Rankin Inlet (North), speaking through an interpreter. A fascinating feature of the Nunavut Hansard in these early years is that some speakers are flagged as “Interpretation”—in both English and Inuktitut—but it is left to the reader to figure out what language they were originally speaking, and what language it was interpreted into. Unless, that is, you are in on the secret.
In this case, the layered interpretation becomes particularly interesting. Unless someone out there has it all on tape, we’ll never know what Mr Anawak actually said. Instead we’re given a choice between one degree of separation—the on-the-spot interpretation into English—and two degrees of separation—the subsequent Inuktitut translation of the English interpretation. In fact, call it two degrees and three. I doubt the interpreter herself prepared the text; that would be left to some entirely different person. Did they transcribe it on the spot, like a court stenographer, or construct it afterward from recordings? Or both?
It’s very hard to interpret some words like if you say sarimannaq, or naglinaq in Inuktitut,
The interpreter wisely kept certain words in their original Inuktitut—but apparently didn’t confer with the transcriber to make sure they got spelled right. The choice between sarimannaq and sarimanaq I can live with. But naglinaq and naglinniq are different words. Well, different affixes. With slightly different meanings.
sometimes Inuit might say qablunaaruluit, qablunaaruluk, and a non-Aboriginal might not mind hearing that,
qaujimanngimut qanullarik tukiqarmangaaq.
ᖃᐅᔨᒪᙱᒧᑦ ᖃᓄᓪᓚᕆᒃ ᑐᑭᖃᕐᒪᖔᖅ.
not knowing what it means.
Hmm, well, it all depends doesn’t it? When you heard the compound word “damyankee” uttered by a pre-2004 Bostonian, you knew that the adjective was implicit in the noun. But are we here talking about someone who is inherently -ruluk by virtue of being qablunaaq—or someone who personally merits the -ruluk affix, and also happens to be qablunaaq?
Rhetorical question: If you were a southerner married to an Inuk, and you discovered that your spouse had neglected to make sure you knew what the -ruluk affix meant, wouldn’t the said spouse have some Very Serious Explaining to do? An even more interesting question is what you would do if you were a southern boss who discovered that your Inuit subordinates had similarly withheld this piece of information.
I remember in 1993 at the leaders summit there was a motion raised to have the cargo ships come earlier in the fall.
He is not talking about the annual sealift, but about construction materials and supplies. There are no roads in Nunavut*; everything has to be brought in by air or sea. If things arrive too late, you won’t be able to use them until the following year.
Except, of course, the ones leading directly from a mine to the nearest airport. You gotta keep your priorities straight.
So I don’t suggest those tapes be bought by Inuit.
Keep that in mind the next time you are shopping for gifts for your male Inuit relatives.
Incidentally, if nanulik means “a place with lots of polar bears”, I can only say: Better him than me. Fortunately it turns out to be a made-up name for an electoral district in eastern Kivalliq, comprising Coral Harbour—which, as its name indicates, is an island—and Chesterfield Inlet—which is an inlet. The latter is also known as Igluligaarjuk, meaning “place with few houses”. The name is accurate if you’re contrasting it with the booming metropolis of Coral Harbour, alias Salliq. Or Salliit, depending on how many of them you believe there are.
Mr Arvaluk represents a bit over a thousand people—except when, as here, he is wearing his other hat as Education Minister. Then he’s representing the whole Territory. But, to compensate for the sleepless nights, he gets to put “The Honorable” in front of his name. At least he did in 1999. Shortly afterward he was unceremoniously kicked out, on the grounds of having behaved less than honorably. This appears to be a recurring problem. But give them time; it’s a brand-new Territory. It’s hard to abandon traditional offences like assault and domestic violence in favor of respectable grownup ones like bribery and insider trading.
How do you Say “Oscar” in Inuktitut?
On 21 May 1999, the Honorable Ed Picco—the same one who will discourse so eloquently on bingo a few years down the line—eats crow:
Mr. Speaker, traditionally Fridays members make statements of a lighter or more humorous note.
Come to think of it, it is Friday today, isn’t it. Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Picco.
I am not able to do that today,
Are you wondering about that vja? It’s a recurring problem in today’s record, unchanged between the Blues and final version. My best guess is that it’s a typo: } (which becomes ᕝ or syllable-final v in Prosyl) by mistake for ] (one of the long-vowel dots).
as I have to speak to the serious concern that occurred yesterday in this house.
I do believe that’s a historical first. It’s a (be)causative verb form used the way it’s supposed to be used: in a secondary clause. In general, legislators—or their professional translators—seem to throw them in wherever they feel like it. This may explain why I have never succeeded in locating an Inuktitut grammar that is less than 120 years old:* they’ve all been recalled for a reality check, to be followed by a thorough rewrite.
Then again, it may just be the Inuktitut version of prefacing every utterance with “Whereas . . .”
With “not printed in Fraktur” as an optional extra. But the alternatives tend to be worse, so I won’t insist.
After several days of practice, rehearsal and method acting training . . .
. . . atuutiqalaungittut
. . . ᐊᑑᑎᖃᓚᐅᖏᑦᑐᑦ
. . . didn’t work
Incidentally, the Hansard’s translators let you laugh in two different ways: ᐃᒡᓚᖅᑐᑦ (iglaqtut) and ᐃᔭᖅᑐᑦ (ijaqtut). Or, depending on the orthographic whim of the moment, ᐃᒡᓚᕐᑐᑦ (iglartut) and ᐃᔭᕐᑐᑦ (ijartut). In some dialects, the ᐃᔭᖅ- (ijaq-) root means “laugh” in the sense of “scoff” or “jeer”. Can we stipulate that the translators do not speak those particular dialects?
Mr. Speaker I will be picking up the Oscar on the break later today and I invite the members to attend with me.
Do you suppose the translators popped that pi- into piniartara as a placeholder, intending to come back later and fill in a more exact verb? But by the time they’d got done with qai- (come) and pitaaq- (get) there wasn’t much left for a third verb to do:
will shortly (-niaq-, the near but not immediate future)
do something-or-other (-tara, Transitive or Specific verb ending: I . . . it)
*aska + -u- (noun-to-verb converter) + -niraqtau- + -juq. That final -juq, alias -tuq, is generally a verb ending, but here it’s the thing that does all this—in other words, your basic participle or agent. Harper calls it the “gerundive”, but he’s just showing off.
If you really want to split hairs, you can decompose the middle piece into -niraq- (“say that something is . . .”) + -taq- (noun that the preceding verb is done to, aka the passive participle) + -u- again, for a grand total of three noun/verb toggles in six syllables.
Just don’t quote me. Remember, I’m making this up as I go along.
. . . And that’s how you say “Oscar” in Inuktitut.