Native toCanada
RegionNorthwest Territories, Nunavut
Ethnicity3,110 Inuvialuit
Native speakers
680, 22% of ethnic population (2016 census)[1][2]
Latin script, Syllabics[3]
Official status
Official language in
Northwest Territories,[5] Nunavut[6]
Regulated byInuvialuit Cultural Centre[7] and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
Language codes
ISO 639-1iu
ISO 639-2iku Inuktitut
ISO 639-3ikt Inuinnaqtun, Western Canadian Inuktitut
Glottologsigl1242  Siglitun
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Inuvialuktun (part of Western Canadian Inuit/Inuktitut/Inuktut/Inuktun) comprises several Inuit language varieties spoken in the northern Northwest Territories by Canadian Inuit who call themselves Inuvialuit.[4] Some dialects and sub-dialects are also spoken in Nunavut.[3][6]

Distribution and varieties

Map of Inuit languages and dialects

Inuvialuktun is spoken by the Inuit of the Mackenzie River delta, Banks Island, part of Victoria Island and the Arctic Ocean coast of the Northwest Territories – the lands of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. It was traditionally subsumed under a broader Inuktitut.[8] Rather than a coherent language, Inuvialuktun is a politically motivated[citation needed] grouping of three quite distinct and separate varieties. It consists of Sallirmiutun (formerly Siglitun; Inuvialuktun proper), the Kangiryuarmiutun dialect of Inuinnaqtun on Victoria Island in the East and the Uummarmiutun dialect of Iñupiaq around Inuvik and Aklavik in the West.[7][9]

Inuvialuktun, Inuinnaqtun and Inuktitut constitute three of the eleven official languages of the Northwest Territories.[5] Inuinnaqtun is also official alongside Inuktitut in Nunavut.[10]

The Inuvialuktun dialects are seriously endangered,[11] as English has in recent years become the common language of the community. Surveys of Inuktitut usage in the NWT vary, but all agree that usage is not vigorous. According to Statistics Canada's 2016 Census 680 (22%) of the 3,110 Inuvialuit speak any form of Inuktitut, and 550 (18%) use it at home.[1] Considering the large number of non-Inuit living in Inuvialuit areas and the lack of a single common dialect among the already reduced number of speakers, the future of the Inuit language in the NWT appears bleak.


Before the 20th century, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region was primarily inhabited by Siglit Inuit, who spoke Siglitun, but in the second half of the 19th century, their numbers were dramatically reduced by the introduction of new diseases. Inuit from Alaska moved into traditionally Siglit areas in the 1910s and 1920s, enticed in part by renewed demand for furs from the Hudson's Bay Company. These Inuit are called Uummarmiut – which means people of the green trees – in reference to their settlements near the tree line. Originally, there was an intense dislike between the Siglit and the Uummarmiut, but these differences have faded over the years, and the two communities are thoroughly intermixed these days.


Writing system

Inuvialuktun and Inuinnaqtun are written in a Latin alphabet and have no tradition of Inuktitut syllabics.[12] However, the dialects spoken in Nunavut, east of the Inuinnaqtun region use syllabics.[3]

Map of Inuvialuktun dialects spoken across the Canadian Arctic


The Inuvialuktun dialects are seriously endangered, as English has in recent years become the common language of the community. Surveys of Inuktitut usage in the NWT vary, but all agree that usage is not vigorous. According to the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre, only 10% of the roughly 4,000 Inuvialuit speak any form of Inuktitut, and only 4% use it at home. Statistics Canada's 2001 Census report is only slightly better, reporting 765 self-identified Inuktitut speakers out of a self-reported Inuvialuit population of 3,905. Considering the large number of non-Inuit living in Inuvialuit areas and the lack of a single common dialect among the already reduced number of speakers, the future of the Inuit language in the NWT appears bleak.

From east to west, the dialects are:

The Inuvialuk dialects spoken in Nunavut (that is, Iglulingmiut, Aivilingmiutut, Kivallirmiutut, and eastern Natsilingmiutut) are often counted as Inuktitut, and the government of the NWT only recognizes Inuinnaqtun and Inuvialuktun. In addition, Uummarmiutun, the dialect of the Uummarmiut which is essentially identical to the Inupiatun dialect spoken in Alaska and so considered an Inupiat language, has conventionally been grouped with Inuvialuktun because it's spoken in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the NWT. Uummarmiutun is found in the communities of Inuvik and Aklavik.

Example phrases

English Inuvialuktun pronunciation
Hello Atitu /atitu/
Good Bye Ilaannilu/Qakugulu /ilaːnːilu/ / /qakuɡulu/
Thank you Quyanainni /qujanainːi/
You are welcome Amiunniin /amiunːiːn/
How are you? Qanuq itpin? /qanuq itpin/
I am fine Nakuyumi/Nakuyumi assi /nakujumi asːi/
Good morning Ublaami /ublaːmi/
Yes Ii /iː/
No Naaggai /naːɡːai/
It's cold! Brrr! Alaappa! /alaːpːa/
(an expression used when alarmed or fearful)
Alii /aliː/
See you later Anaqanaallu /anaqanaːlːu/
Wow/Awesome Aqqali /aqːali/
Listen! Ata! /ata/
See you, too Ilaanniptauq /ilaːnːiptauq/
It is like this Imaaniittuaq /imaːniːtːuaq/
Like this Imanna /imanːa/
Whose? Kia? /kia/
Who is this? Kina una? /kina una/
Where? Nani?/Naung?/Sumi? /nani/ / /nauŋ/ / /sumi/
Where are you from? Nakinngaaqpin?/Sumiutauvin? /nakiŋːaːqpin/ / /sumiutauvin/}
How much does it cost? Qanuq akitutigivaa? /qanuq akitutiɡivaː/
How old is he/she? Qanuq ukiuqtutigiva? /qanuq ukiututiɡiva/
What do you call it? Qanuq taivakpiung? /qanuq taivakpiuŋ/
What is the time? Sumukpaung? /sumukpauŋ/
What for? Suksaq? /suksaq/
Why? Or how come? Suuq? /suːq/
What? Suva?/Suna? /suva/~/suna/
Doesn't matter/It is ok Sunngittuq /suŋːitːuq/
What are you doing? Suvin? /suvin/
It can't be helped! Too bad. Qanurviituq! /qanuʁviːtuq/
in fact, actually Nutim [nutim]
Do it again! Pipsaarung! [pipsaːʁuŋ]
Go ahead and do it Piung [piuŋ]
It is cold out! Qiqauniqtuaq /qiqauniqtuaq/
Christmas Qitchirvik /qittʃiʁviq/
Candy Uqummiaqataaq [/uqumːiaqataːq/
Play music Atuqtuuyaqtuaq /atuqtuːjaqtuaq/
Drum dancing Qilaun/Qilausiyaqtuaq /qilaun/ / /qilausijaqtuaq/
Church Angaadjuvik /aŋaːdʒuvik/
Bell Aviluraun /aviluʁaun/
Jewels Savaqutit /savaqutit/
Eskimo ice cream Akutuq /akutaq/
That's all! Taima! /taima/
Siglitun Inuvialuktun snow terms[13] English meaning
Apiqaun first snow layer in autumn that stays
Apusiqqaun first fall of snow
Aqiuyaq small, fresh snowdrift
Masak waterlogged snow
Mauyaa deep, soft snow
Minguliruqtuaq blowing wet snow
Piangnaq good snow conditions for sledge travel


  1. ^ a b Statistics Canada: Aboriginal Population Profile, 2016 Census, Inuvialuit region
  2. ^ Figures are for the Inuvialuit Settlement Region only
  3. ^ a b c d e f Iñuvialuktun/Inuvialuktun/Inuinnaqtun / ᐃᓄᐃᓐᓇᖅᑐᓐ
  4. ^ a b c d Inuvialuktun Dialects
  5. ^ a b Official Languages Act, RSNWT 1988, c. O-1, s. 4 in its 2003 version; PWNHC: Official Languages of the Northwest Territories
  6. ^ a b "Consolidation of (S.Nu. 2008, c.10) (NIF) Official Languages Act" (PDF). and "Consolidation of Inuit Language Protection Act" (PDF). Government of Nunavut. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 16, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Inuvialuit Cultural Centre: Inuvialuit Digital Library – Language Resources
  8. ^ see Official Languages Act, RSNWT 1988, c. O-1, s. 1 in its original version ("Inuktitut" includes Inuvialuktun and Inuinnaqtun).
  9. ^ CBC North Inuvik: Tusaavik with Dodie Malegana (radio programme on demand).
  10. ^ Official Languages Act, S.Nu. 2008, c. 10, s. 3(1) with Inuit Language Protection Act, S.Nu. 2008, c. 17, s. 1(2).
  11. ^ UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
  12. ^ Harper, Kenn. Current Status of Writing Systems for Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun and Inuvialuktun. [Yellowknife, N.W.T.]: Northwest Territories, Culture and Communications, 1992.
  13. ^ "Inuvialuit Settlement Region Traditional Knowledge Report" (PDF). August 2006. p. 6.2. Retrieved 2015-08-22.

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