The new Official Languages Act for Nunavut recognizes the Inuit (Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun), English and French languages as the official languages within the territory. Click here for a History of Nunavut's Language Laws.
The Inuit language
The Inuit language includes Inuinnaqtun and Inuktitut.
There are two different ways people in Nunavut write the Inuit language: Qaliujaaqpait (or Roman orthography) and Qaniujaaqpait (syllabics). Most Inuktitut speakers in Nunavut use syllabics to write their language. This writing system is made up of about 60 characters, most of them representing complete syllables. Thus “NU” in Roman orthography is written with one character in syllabics: “ᓄ”. The Roman orthography writing system uses the same letters that are used to write
English or French. Many people who normally use syllabics will also use Roman orthography, especially for writing e-mails or when doing other tasks on computers. The Government of Nunavut’s computers now have the capacity to work in syllabics. Inuinnaqtun speakers almost always use Roman orthography.
In the 2006 census, 64% of respondents reported using the Inuit Language in the home, even though it is the mother tongue of 83% percent of the population. This represents a 12% decline in ten years. This is partly due to a very large youth population, with a median age in 2006 of 23.1 years, compared to Canada’s media age of 39.5 years.
The 2006 Census reported 420 individuals with French as their mother tongue and 1200 claiming to speak it. Nunavut’s capital of Iqaluit is home to a thriving Francophone community. Although close to 800 in Iqaluit reported the ability to speak French, there are many Franco-Inuit families in the city. The French speaking population is served by a school, a daycare, a community radio station, and a cultural centre that is open daily and stages various events throughout the year.
English is very prevalent in regional centres and larger communities and is the de-facto language of government and industry.
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