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Inuvialuktun is a regional dialect of Inuktitut. It is the language of the Inuvialuit people, who have a distinct cultural identity. Unlike Inuktitut, which is a very strong language, the Inuvialuktun dialect has been in decline for a number of years. The language is rooted in the Beaufort-Delta area of the Northwest Territories, which has had a very long history of contact – through whaling, trapping, and hydrocarbon development – with Western society and the English language.

In the Canada Census, Inuvialuktun is not identified as a distinct language – statistically, it is included with Inuktitut. With the creation of the new Northwest Territories, the status of Inuvialuktun will likely change – it will have to be accounted for as a distinct NWT language.

The Language Report (1992) studied and reported on Inuvialuktun as a separate language. During this study, one hundred and seventy six people from the communities of Inuvik, Sachs Harbour, and Tuktoyaktuk were interviewed.

In Part 2 of this study, the following results were noted.

  • Approximately 31% of the respondents learned Inuvialuktun as a first language.
  • Only 19% indicated that it was now their most fluent language.
  • Only 7% said that it was their home language. English was the home language of 93% of respondents.
  • The most fluent age group was adults 45 years of age and older, with a 70% fluency rate.
  • None of the respondents under the age of 25 were fluent.

Clearly, an alarming language shift has occurred in just two generations - grandparents to grandchildren. With no fluent child speakers emerging (no mother-tongue speakers being raised) this dialect is in serious danger of being lost within the next generation.

According to the Inuvialuktun Language Plan, the following actions must be taken to preserve and revitalize the language.

  • Creating awareness and changing attitudes - the importance of the language must be stressed through language promotion activities (via electronic and print media), increased exposure to the language (signage, public events, etc.), and recognition of elders and other active speakers.
  • Strengthening of existing programs - including pre-school programs, language immersion camps, and teaching of traditional skills (with a language component).
  • Development of new initiatives - such as a master-apprentice program (pairing fluent speakers with individuals who want to learn), family language classes, youth conferences regarding language and culture, language day camps, workplace language training, and language nests.
  • Capacity building - such as providing training in the areas of teaching, linguistics, and translating; terminology development; networking; and strengthening the ICRC.
  • Preservation of traditional knowledge -including the recording and translation of oral histories and the production of resource materials.

chart - Inuviluktun dialect

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