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FWD [OT but interesting] Arctic people seek common alphabet

From:Barbara Barrett <barbarabarrett@...>
Date:Wednesday, August 14, 2002, 11:46
-------- Original Message --------

Monday, 12 August, 2002, 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK
Arctic people seek common alphabet
By Mike Fox
BBC correspondent in Quebec

Inuit aboriginal people from the Chukotka region of Russia, Canada,
Greenland and Alaska are gathering for a conference in Quebec where they
will discuss whether they can make a common alphabet for their Inuktitut
language and make communication among them easier.
The 100,000 speakers of Inuktitut currently use three different
alphabets -
one based on the Roman one used for English, one on Cyrillic, and
representing Inuktitut syllables.
It also has six regional variations.
The general assembly of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference is held every
The five-day meeting will also discuss environmental issues, including
impact of climate change on Inuit activities.
Although Inuit people live in four different countries, they share a
ancestry, culture and the Inuktitut language, which is thought to have
developed around 7,000 years ago.
Yet even in Canada, there are wide variations in the alphabet used for
writing what until recently was only a spoken language.
Improving communication
The alphabets in Canada were introduced by missionaries.
The distinctive syllabic system was developed by Anglicans, but Inuit in
Greenland, Alaska and Chukotka developed different alphabets, making it
difficult for them to communicate with each other, especially in the age
the Internet.
The importance of this is highlighted by another item being discussed at
conference: how to improve the exchange of news between the communities.
Organisers say Inuit in each country are much better informed on affairs
the south of them than they are on what is happening among their own
The assembly being held in Kuujjuaq, in the far north of Quebec, will
discuss trade, human rights and land claims issues.
It will be the first time they have met since the territory of Nunavut
formed in Canada in 1999, where uniquely, Inuit people are running their
It is a sign that despite the many years of suffering caused by contact
the outside world, the Inuit are at least partly successful in keeping
traditions alive in the twenty-first century.


John Cowan <jcowan@...>