How to read syllabics
Don't let Inuktitut syllabics put you off trying to learn the language. They aren't nearly as complicated as they first appear. They can easily be mastered with a couple weeks worth of practice.
Click here to see the syllabic writing system.
The first trick to learning syllabics is to understand that when we use the roman alphabet to write English and French, each letter represents an individual sound.
The difference with syllabics is that each character represents an entire syllable - normally a consonant followed by a vowel.
Inuktitut has 14 consonants, each represented by a particular syllabic character. That character is then rotated clockwise or reversed to represent Inuktitut’s three vowel sounds, i, u and a:
When a vowel (i,u, or a) is not preceded by a consonant, one of the following syllabic characters is used:
|ᐃᖃᓗᒻᒥᐅᑕᖅ||Iqalummiutaq (resident of Iqaluit)|
When a consonant is not followed by a vowel, special characters known as naniit, or “finals” are used. Finals are smaller characters that appear in superscript.
Children learning how to write syllabics are said to be learning their “i, pi, ti’s”. They memorize each column going down the syllabic chart (i, pi, ti, gi, mi, ni, etc.). If you keep this in mind, you will quickly see, the i characters have a vertical orientation, the u characters tend to point to the right and the a characters to the left.
Vowel sounds are often lengthened (drawn out) in Inuktitut. These sounds are represented by a dot that is placed above the syllabic character. In qaliujaaqpait (roman orthography), these sounds are represented by double vowels.
|ᓇᑯᕐᒦᒃ||nakurmiik ||thank you|
Generally, no more than two vowels can appear in a row. The same holds true for consonants - no more than two can appear in a row. When writing Inuktitut words, two finals never appear together.
Pay attention to a few syllabic characters that look like a final plus another character, but are in fact a single character:
Although ng looks like two consonants in roman orthography, linguistically, it is considered one. When ng is doubled, it is written nng in roman orthography and like this in syllabics:
|ᐱᙳᐊᕐᕕᒃ||pinnguarvik (recreation centre)|
Another tricky character is a double q sound. In Nunavut, this sound is written:
In syllabics, the roman letter H is inserted for certain words borrowed from English:
|Hᐋᑭ ||haaki ||hockey|