Inuvialuktun Modal Suffixes

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: social sciences, linguistics, language, Inuvialuit

Principal Investigator: Berthelin, Signe Rix (2)
Licence Number: 15698
Organization: Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Licensed Year(s): 2015 2014
Issued: Jul 02, 2015
Project Team: ?Research Assistant (Culture expert, Co-editor of popular scientific materials, from ISR)

Objective(s): To study how to talk about ‘modal meanings’ in Inuvialuktun.

Project Description: Every language has its own system for talking about things. The Principle Investigator (PI) wishes to study how to talk about ‘modal meanings’ in Inuvialuktun. Examples of modal suffixes in Uummarmiutun are 'huknaq', ‘viaq’, 'lla', 'rakrari' and 'rukrau'. English examples are 'must', 'might' and 'can'. I am interested in studying a) what we say if we use suffixes like 'viaq' or 'rukrau' in a sentence, and b) the differences between these abstract suffixes. Modal words in all languages are very abstract, and they are difficult to translate into another language. This makes modal suffixes interesting and important to language learners and linguists. The project contributes to the body of recorded knowledge about Inuvialuktun by collecting and systematizing Elders’ knowledge about a complex and important aspect of the Inuvialuktun dialects.

The PI would like to also record stories and knowledge in Siglitun and Kangiryuarmiutun and ask the authors to help translate them. If the person who shares the story approves, the stories will be used for research on Siglitun, Kangiryuarmiutun, and Uummarmiutun, and the copies will be given to the Inuvialuit Cultural Resources Centre (ICRC) and to libraries in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR).

The PI will ask participants to describe a situation for an Inuvialuktun sentence, and to come up with explanations they find suitable for the sentences. The researcher will also ask how to say certain things in Inuvialuktun, such as (1) and (2), and I will ask for differences between words, such as in (3):

1. Stacey and Peter each got a piece of caribou. But the dog took Stacey’s piece. Peter offers Stacey the rest of his piece. How does he say ‘you can have this’ in Siglitun?
2. Your car is broken, and won’t run. You need to get it fixed, so that you can get to work. You know you will be late for work, so you call your boss. What do you say to your boss in Kangiryuarmiutun?
3. In which situation can we say aniviaqtuq? Can we say anihungnaqtuq in that situation too?

Each interview will last one hour (more or less), and the PI will ask for permission to record the interviews. In that way, the PI can hear the interview again when they return home.

The following products will come out of the research:
Based on the knowledge shared by Elders, the researcher wishes to produce clear descriptions of Inuvialuktun modal suffixes for Inuvialuktun learners. The descriptions of course have to show the nuances and beauty of the language. An Elder and Inuvialuktun Teacher – suggested ‘suffix-circles’ as a way of presenting research results for learners. Each suffix-circle includes several example sentences and short explanations of what the sentence means. A translation of an Inuvialutun word into English does not always give the full story about the meaning of that word. The deep and detailed knowledge collected among Inuvialuktun speakers for this project will be presented in the shape of suffix-circles. Suffix-circles for Uummarmiutun modals are currently under development, and drafts are shared with Inuvialuktun teachers and the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre. The drafts are currently in use in the Inuvialuktun classes. All suffix-circles will be shared with the ICRC, Inuvialuktun teachers, the Aurora Research Institute and any other person or institution who would like a copy.

Stories shared by Elders in Uummarmiutun which are recorded, transcribed and translated. These stories are shared with the ICRC, and later they will also be available at libraries in the ISR including the Aurora Research Institute Library for public use. Copies of the stories will also be stored in the Alaskan Native Language Archive. In this way, people from across the Arctic – and the world – can hear how Inuvialuktun is spoken, do linguistic research, and learn from what the participants tell.

Copies of the PhD thesis will be given to the ICRC, the Aurora Research Institute Library and the Alaska Native Language Archive, and to people or institutions who would like a copy.

The researcher would like to present to the community at ARI and to give presentations at East 3 Secondary School.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 10, 2015 to December 21, 2015.