Greenlandic language

Greenlandic is an Eskimo–Aleut language with about 57,000 speakers, mostly Greenlandic Inuit people in Greenland. It is closely related to the Inuit languages in Canada, such as Inuktitut. The main variety, Kalaallisut, or West Greenlandic, has been the official language of the Greenlandic autonomous territory since June 2009; this is a move by the Naalakkersuisut to strengthen the language in its competition with the colonial language, Danish. The second variety is Tunumiit oraasiat, or East Greenlandic. The language of the Thule Inuit of Greenland, Inuktun or Polar Eskimo, is a recent arrival and a dialect of Inuktitut.
Greenlandic is a polysynthetic language that allows the creation of long words by stringing together roots and suffixes. Its morphosyntactic alignment is ergative, meaning that it treats the argument of an intransitive verb like the object of a transitive verb, but distinctly from the agent of a transitive verb.
Nouns are inflected for one of the eight cases and for possession. Verbs are inflected for one of the eight moods and for the number and person of its subject and object. Both nouns and verbs have complex derivational morphology. Basic word order in transitive clauses is subject–object–verb. Subordination of clauses is done by the use of special subordinate moods. A so-called fourth-person category enables switch-reference between main clauses and subordinate clauses with different subjects. Greenlandic is notable for its lack of a system of grammatical tense, as temporal relations are normally expressed through context, through the use of temporal particles such as "yesterday" or "now" or sometimes through the use of derivational suffixes or the combination of affixes with aspectual meanings with the semantic aktionsart of different verbs. However, some linguists have suggested that Greenlandic does mark future tense obligatorily. Another question is whether the language has noun incorporation, or whether the processes that create complex predicates that include nominal roots are derivational in nature.
When adopting new concepts or technologies, Greenlandic usually constructs new words made from Greenlandic roots, but modern Greenlandic has also taken many loans from Danish and English. The language has been written in the Latin script since Danish colonization began in the 1700s. The first orthography was developed by Samuel Kleinschmidt in 1851, but within a hundred years already differed substantially from the spoken language because of a number of sound changes. An extensive orthographic reform undertaken in 1973 that made the script easier to learn resulted in a boost in Greenlandic literacy, which is now among the highest in the world.


The Greenlandic language was brought to Greenland with the arrival of the Thule people in the 1200s. It is unknown which languages were spoken by the earlier Saqqaq and Dorset cultures in Greenland.
The first descriptions of Greenlandic date from the 1600s, and with the arrival of Danish missionaries in the early 1700s, and the beginning of Danish colonialism in Greenland, the compilation of dictionaries and description of grammar began. The missionary Paul Egede wrote the first Greenlandic dictionary in 1750, and the first grammar in 1760.
From the Danish colonization in the 1700s to the beginning of Greenlandic home rule in 1979, Greenlandic experienced increasing pressure from the Danish language. In the 1950s, Denmark's linguistic policies were directed at strengthening Danish.
Of primary significance was that post-primary education and official functions were conducted in Danish.
From 1851 to 1973, Greenlandic was written in a complicated orthography devised by the missionary linguist Samuel Kleinschmidt. In 1973, a new orthography was introduced, intended to bring the written language closer to the spoken standard, which had changed considerably since Kleinschmidt's time. The reform was effective and in the years following it, Greenlandic literacy received a boost.
Another development that strengthened the Greenlandic language has been the policy of "greenlandization" of Greenlandic society which began with the homerule agreement of 1979. This policy has worked to reverse the former trend towards marginalization of the Greenlandic language by making it the official language of education. The fact that Greenlandic has become the only language used in primary schooling has meant that today monolingual Danish-speaking parents in Greenland are raising children bilingual in Danish and Greenlandic. Today Greenlandic has several dedicated news media: the Greenlandic National Radio, Kalaallit Nunaata Radioa, which provides television and radio programming in Greenlandic. The newspaper Sermitsiaq, has been published since 1958, and in 2010 merged with the other newspaper Atuagagdliutit/Grønlandsposten, which was established already in 1861 to form a single large Greenlandic language publishing house.
Before June 2009, Greenlandic shared its status as the official language in Greenland with Danish. Since then, Greenlandic has become the sole official language. This has made Greenlandic a unique example of an indigenous language of the Americas that is recognized by law as the only official language of a semi-independent country. Nevertheless, it is still considered to be in a "vulnerable" state by the UNESCO Red Book of Language Endangerment. The country has a 100% literacy rate. As the Western Greenlandic standard has become dominant, a UNESCO report has labelled the other dialects as endangered, and measures are now being considered to protect the Eastern Greenlandic dialect.


and the other Greenlandic dialects belong to the Eskimo–Aleut family and are closely related to the Inuit languages of Canada and Alaska. Illustration 1 shows the locations of the different Eskimoan languages, among them the three main dialects of Greenlandic.

The most prominent Greenlandic dialect is Kalaallisut, which is the official language of Greenland. The name Kalaallisut is often used as a cover term for all of Greenlandic. The northern dialect, Inuktun, spoken in the vicinity of the city of Qaanaaq, is particularly closely related to Canadian Inuktitut. The eastern dialect , spoken in the vicinity of Ammassalik Island and Ittoqqortoormiit, is the most innovative of the Greenlandic dialects, having assimilated consonant clusters and vowel sequences to a greater extent than West Greenlandic. Kalaallisut is further divided into four subdialects. One that is spoken around Upernavik has certain similarities to East Greenlandic, possibly because of a previous migration from eastern Greenland. A second dialect is spoken in the region of Uummannaq and the Disko Bay. The standard language is based on the central Kalaallisut dialect spoken in Sisimiut in the north, around Nuuk and as far south as Maniitsoq. Southern Kalaallisut is spoken around Narsaq and Qaqortoq in the south. Table 1 shows the differences in the pronunciation of the word for "humans" in the three main dialects. It can be seen that Inuktun is the most conservative, maintaining the "gh" which has been elided in Kalaallisut, and Tunumiisut is the most innovative, having further simplified the structure by eliding the.


Letters between slashes indicate phonemic transcription, letters in square brackets indicate phonetic transcription and letters in triangular brackets indicate standard Greenlandic orthography.


The Greenlandic three vowel system, composed of,, and, is typical for an Eskimo–Aleut language. Double vowels are analyzed as two morae, so they are phonologically a vowel sequence and not a long vowel; they are also written as two vowels in the orthography. The only diphthong in the language is, which occurs only at the ends of words. Before a uvular consonant, is realized allophonically as, or, and is realized allophonically as or, and the two vowels are written e, o respectively. becomes retracted to in the same environment. is rounded to before labial consonants. is fronted to between two coronal consonants.
The allophonic lowering of and before uvular consonants is shown in the modern orthography by writing and as and respectively before uvulars and. For example:


Greenlandic has consonants at five points of articulation: labial, alveolar, palatal, velar and uvular. It distinguishes stops, fricatives, and nasals at the labial, alveolar, velar, and uvular points of articulation. The earlier palatal sibilant has merged with in all but a few dialects. The labiodental fricative is only contrastive in loanwords. The alveolar stop is pronounced as an affricate before the high front vowel. Often, Danish loanwords containing preserve these in writing, although this does not imply a change in pronunciation, for example "beer" and "God"; these are pronounced exactly as.


The Kalaallisut syllable is simple, allowing syllables of V, where C is a consonant and V is a vowel and VV is a double vowel or word-final. Native words may only begin with a vowel or ; they may end only in a vowel or or rarely. Consonant clusters only occur over syllable boundaries and their pronunciation is subject to regressive assimilations that convert them into geminates. All non-nasal consonants in a cluster are voiceless.


Greenlandic prosody does not include stress as an autonomous category; instead, prosody is determined by tonal and durational parameters. Intonation is influenced by syllable weight: heavy syllables are pronounced in a way that may be perceived as stress. Heavy syllables include syllables with long vowels and syllables before consonant clusters. The last syllable is stressed in words with fewer than four syllables and without long vowels or consonant clusters. The antepenultimate syllable is stressed in words with more than four syllables that are all light. In words with many heavy syllables, syllables with long vowels are considered heavier than syllables before a consonant cluster.
Geminate consonants are pronounced long, almost exactly with the double duration of a single consonant.
Intonation in indicative clauses usually rises on the antepenultimate syllable, falls on the penult and rises on the last syllable. Interrogative intonation rises on the penultimate and falls on the last syllable.


Greenlandic phonology distinguishes itself phonologically from the other Inuit languages by a series of assimilations.
Greenlandic phonology allows clusters, but it does not allow clusters of two different consonants unless the first one is. In all other cases the first consonant in a cluster is assimilated to the second one resulting in a geminate consonant. Geminate is pronounced and written. Geminate is pronounced. Geminate is pronounced but is written. Geminate is pronounced. Geminate is pronounced and written. is also pronounced and written after.
These assimilations mean that one of the most recognizable Inuktitut words, iglu, is illu in Greenlandic, where the consonant cluster of Inuktitut is assimilated into a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative. And the word Inuktitut itself, when translated into Kalaallisut, becomes Inuttut. The Old Greenlandic diphthong has assimilated to.
The consonant has disappeared when between and or. This means that affixes beginning with -va or -vi have forms without when suffixed to stems ending in.
The vowel of modern Greenlandic is the result of a historic merger of the Proto-Eskimo–Aleut vowels *i and *ɪ. The fourth vowel was still present in Old Greenlandic as attested by Hans Egede. In modern West Greenlandic the difference between the two original vowels can only be discerned morphophonologically in certain environments. The vowel that was originally *ɪ has the variant when preceding another vowel and sometimes disappears before certain suffixes.
The degree to which the assimilation of consonant clusters has taken place is an important dialectal feature separating Polar Eskimo, Inuktun, which still allows some ungeminated consonant clusters, from West and East Greenlandic. East Greenlandic has shifted some geminate consonants, e.g. to. Thus, for example, the East Greenlandic name of a particular town is Ittoqqortoormiit, which would appear as Illoqqortoormiut in Kalaallisut.


The morphology of Greenlandic is highly synthetic and exclusively suffixing, with the exception of a single highly limited and fossilized demonstrative prefix. It creates very long words by means of adding strings of suffixes to a stem. In principle there is no limit to the length of a Greenlandic word, but in practice words with more than half a dozen derivational suffixes are not so frequent, and the average number of morphemes per word is 3 to 5. The language employs around 318 inflectional suffixes and between four hundred and five hundred derivational ones.
There are few compound words, but lots of derivations. The grammar employs a mixture of head and dependent marking: both agent and patient are marked on the predicate and the possessor is marked on nouns, while dependent noun phrases inflect for case. The primary morphosyntactic alignment of full noun phrases in Kalaallisut is ergative-absolutive, although verbal morphology follows a nominative-accusative pattern and pronouns are syntactically neutral.
The language distinguishes four persons, two numbers, eight moods and eight cases. Verbs carry a bipersonal inflection for subject and object. Possessive noun phrases inflect for their possessor, as well as for case.
In this section the examples are written in Greenlandic standard orthography except that morpheme boundaries are indicated by a hyphen.


Greenlandic distinguishes three open word classes: nouns, verbs and particles. Verbs inflect for person and number of subject and object as well as for mood. Nouns inflect for possession and for case. Particles do not inflect.
WordOqar-poq "he says"Angut "A man"Naamik "No"

The verb is the only word required to build a sentence. Since verbs inflect for number and person of both subject and object, the verb is in fact a clause itself. Therefore, clauses where all participants are expressed as free-standing noun phrases are rather rare. The following examples show the possibilities of leaving out these verbal arguments:
Intransitive clause with no subject noun phrase:
Intransitive clause with subject noun phrase:
Transitive clause with no overt arguments:
Transitive clause with agent noun phrase:
Transitive clause with patient noun phrase:

Morphosyntactic alignment

The Greenlandic language uses case to express grammatical relations between participants in a sentence. Nouns are inflected with one of the two core cases or one of the six oblique cases.
Greenlandic is an ergative language. This means that, instead of treating the grammatical relations as in most European languages where grammatical subjects are marked with nominative case and objects with accusative, the grammatical roles are defined differently. In Greenlandic the ergative case is used for agents of transitive verbs and for possessors. Absolutive case is used for patients of transitive verbs and subjects of intransitive verbs. Research into Greenlandic as used by the younger generation has shown that the use of ergative alignment in Kalaallisut may be becoming obsolete, converting the language into a nominative–accusative language.
Transitive with agent and object:

Word order

In transitive clauses where both object and subject are expressed as free noun phrases, basic, pragmatically neutral word order is AOXV / SXV, where X is a noun phrase in one of the oblique cases. This order is fairly free, though. Topical noun phrases occur at the beginning of a clause whereas new or emphasized information generally come last. This is usually the verb, but it can also be a focal subject or object as well. In spoken language also "afterthought" material or clarifications may follow the verb, usually in a lowered pitch.
On the other hand, the noun phrase is characterized by a rigid order where the head of the phrase precedes any modifiers and the possessor precedes the possessum.
In copula clauses the order is usually Subject-Copula-Complement.
An attribute appears after its head noun.
An attribute of an incorporated noun appears after the verb:

Coordination and subordination

Syntactic coordination and subordination is done by combining predicates in the superordinate moods with predicates in the subordinate moods. The contemporative has both coordinative and subordinative functions depending on context. The relative order of the main clause and its coordinate or subordinate clauses is relatively free, and mostly subject to pragmatic concerns.

Obviation and switch-reference

The Greenlandic pronominal system includes a distinction known as obviation or switch-reference. There is a special so-called fourth person used to denote a third person subject of a subordinate verb or the possessor of a noun that is coreferent with the third person subject of the matrix clause. Below are examples of the difference between third and fourth person:

Indefiniteness construction

There is no category of definiteness in Greenlandic, so the information whether participants are already known to the listener or new in the discourse is encoded by other means. According to some authors, morphology related to transitivity such as the use of the construction sometimes called antipassive or intransitive object conveys such meaning, along with strategies of noun incorporation of non-topical noun phrases. This view, however, is controversial.
Antipassive/intransitive object:


The morphology of Greenlandic verbs is enormously complex. The two main processes are inflection and derivation. Inflectional morphology includes the processes of obligatory inflection for mood, person, and voice. Derivational morphology modifies the meaning of verbs in a way similar to that expressed by adverbs in English. Derivational suffixes of this kind number in the hundreds. Many of these suffixes are so semantically salient that they are often referred to as postbases rather than suffixes, particularly in the American tradition of Eskimo grammar. Such semantically "heavy" suffixes may express concepts such as "to have", "to be", "to say", or "to think". The Greenlandic verb word consists of a root + derivational suffixes/postbases + inflectional suffixes. Tense and aspect is marked by optional suffixes that appear between the derivational and inflectional suffixes.


Greenlandic verbs inflect for agreement with agent and patient, for mood and for voice. There are eight moods, of which four are used in independent clauses and four in subordinate clauses. The four independent moods are: indicative, interrogative, imperative, optative. The four dependent moods are causative, conditional, contemporative, and participial. Verbal roots can take transitive, intransitive or negative inflections, so that all eight mood suffixes have these three forms. The inflectional system is further complicated by the fact that transitive suffixes encode both agent and patient in a single morpheme, requiring up to 48 different suffixes to cover all possible combinations of agent and patient for each of the eight transitive paradigms. As some moods do not have forms for all persons, the total number of verbal inflectional suffixes is about 318.
Indicative and interrogative moods
The indicative mood is used in all independent expository clauses. The interrogative mood is used for posing questions. Questions with the question particle immaqa "maybe" cannot use the interrogative mood.
Table 5 shows the intransitive indicative inflection for patient person and number of the verb neri- "to eat" in the indicative and interrogative moods. The indicative and the interrogative mood each have a transitive and an intransitive inflection, but here only the intransitive inflection is given. Consonant gradation like that in Finnish appears to show up in the verb conjugation.
nerivunga "I am eating"nerivunga? "Am I eating?"
nerivutit "You are eating"nerivit? "Are you eating?"
nerivoq "He/she/it eats"neriva? "Is he/she/it eating?"
nerivugut "We are eating"nerivugut? "Are we eating?"
nerivusi "You are eating "nerivisi? "Are you eating? "
neripput "They are eating"nerippat? "Are they eating?"

Table 6 shows the transitive indicative inflection for patient person and number of the verb asa- "to love".
First person subjectSecond person subjectThird person subject
*asavarma "You love me"asavaanga "He/she/it loves me"
asavakkit "I love you"*asavaatit "He/she/it loves you"
asavara "I love him/her/it"asavat "You love her/him/it"asavaa "He/she/it loves him/her/it"
*asavatsigut "You love us"asavaatigut "He/she/it loves us"
asavassi "I love you "*asavaasi "He/she/it loves you "
asavakka "I love them"asavatit "You love them"asavai "He/she/it loves them"
Imperative and optative moods
The imperative mood is used to issue orders. It is always combined with the second person. The optative is used to express wishes or exhortations and is never used with the second person. There is a negative imperative form used to issue prohibitions. Both optative and imperative have transitive and intransitive paradigms. There are two transitive positive imperative paradigms: a standard one, and one that is considered rude and is usually used to address children.
Conditional mood
The conditional mood is used to construct subordinate clauses with the meaning "if" or "when".
Causative mood
The causative mood is used to construct subordinate clauses with the meaning "because", "since" or "when"; it is also sometimes used with the meaning of "that". The causative is also used in main clauses to imply some underlying cause.
Contemporative mood
The contemporative mood is used to construct subordinate clauses with the meaning of simultaneity. It is only used if the subject of the subordinate clause and of the main clause are identical. If they differ, the participial mood or causative mood are used. The contemporative can also be used to form complement clauses for verbs of speaking or thinking.
Participial mood
The participial mood is used to construct a subordinate clause describing its subject in the state of carrying out an activity. It is used when the matrix clause and the subordinate clause have different subjects. It is often used in appositional phrases such as relative clauses.


Verbal derivation is extremely productive, and Greenlandic employs many hundreds of derivational suffixes. Often a single verb will use more than one derivational suffix, resulting in very long words. Below are given some examples of how derivational suffixes can change the meaning of verbs.
-katak- "be tired of"
-ler- "begin to/be about to"
-llaqqik- "be proficient at"
-niar- "plans to/wants to"
-ngajak- "almost"
-nikuu-nngila- "has never"
-nngitsoor- "not anyway/afterall"

Time reference and aspect

Greenlandic grammar has morphological devices to mark a distinction between, for example, recent and distant past, but the use of these is not obligatory, and they should therefore rather be understood as parts of Greenlandic's extensive derivational system than as a system of tense markers. Rather than by morphological marking, fixed temporal distance is expressed by temporal adverbials:
All other things being equal and in the absence of any explicit adverbials, the indicative mood will be interpreted as complete or incomplete depending on the verbal aktionsart.
But if a sentence containing an atelic verbal phrase is embedded within the context of a past time narrative, it would be interpreted as past.
Greenlandic has several purely derivational devices of expressing meaning related to aspect and aktionsart, e.g. sar expressing "habituality" and ssaar expressing "stop to". Next to these, there are at least two major perfect markers: sima and nikuu. sima can occur in several positions with obviously different function Rightmost position indicates evidential meaning, but this can be determined only if a number of suffixes are present.
With atelic verbs, there is a regular contrast between indirective evidentiality marked by sima and witnessed evidentiality marked by nikuu. Due to its evidential meaning, the combination of first person and sima sometimes is marked.
In the written language and more recently also in the spoken language especially of younger speakers, sima and nikuu can be used together with adverbials referring to a particular time in the past. That is, they might arguably mark time reference, but not yet systematically.
Just as Greenlandic does not systematically mark past tense, the language also does not have a future tense. Rather, it employs three different strategies to express future meaning:
While the status of the perfect markers as aspect is not very controversial, some scholars have claimed that Greenlandic has a basic temporal distinction between future and nonfuture. Especially, the suffix -ssa and handful of other suffixes have been claimed to be obligatory future markers. However, at least for literary Greenlandic, these suffixes have been shown to have other semantics that can be used to refer to the future via the strategies just described.

Noun incorporation

There is also a debate in the linguistic literature whether Greenlandic has noun incorporation. This is because Greenlandic does not allow the kind of incorporation common in many languages in which a noun root can be incorporated into almost any verb to form a verb with a new meaning. On the other hand, Greenlandic does often form verbs that include noun roots. The question then becomes whether to analyse these verb formations as incorporation or as denominal derivation of verbs. Greenlandic has a number of morphemes that require a noun root as their host and which form complex predicates that correspond closely in meaning to what is often seen in languages that have canonical noun incorporation. Linguists who propose that Greenlandic does have incorporation argue that these morphemes are in fact verbal roots that must obligatorily incorporate nouns to form grammatical clauses. This argument is supported by the fact that many of the derivational morphemes that form denominal verbs work almost identically to canonical noun incorporation. They allow the formation of words with a semantic content corresponding to an entire English clause with verb, subject and object. Another argument is that the morphemes used to derive denominal verbs come from historical noun incorporating constructions that have become fossilized. Other linguists maintain that the morphemes in question are simply derivational morphemes that allow the formation of denominal verbs. This argument is supported by the fact that the morphemes cannot occur without being latched on to a nominal element. The examples below illustrate how Greenlandic forms complex predicates including nominal roots.
qimmeq "dog" + -qar- "have"
illu "house" + -'lior- "make"
kaffi "coffee" + -sor- "drink/eat"
puisi "seal" + -nniar- "hunt"
allagaq "letter" + -si- "receive"
anaana "mother" + -a- "to be"


Nouns are obligatorily inflected for case and number and optionally for number and person of possessor. Singular and plural are distinguished and 8 cases used: absolutive, ergative, instrumental, allative, locative, ablative, prosecutive, and equative. Case and number are marked by a single suffix. Nouns can be derived from verbs or from other nouns by a number of suffixes, e.g. atuar- "to read" + -fik "place" becomes atuarfik "school" and atuarfik + -tsialak "something good" becomes atuarfitsialak "good school".
The fact that the possessive agreement suffixes on nouns and the transitive agreement suffixes on verbs in a number of instances have similar or identical shapes has even resulted in the theory that Greenlandic has a distinction between transitive and intransitive nouns, parallel to the same distinction in the verbs.


There are personal pronouns for first-, second-, and third-person singular and plural. These pronouns are optional as subjects or objects, but only when the verbal inflection refers to such arguments.
First personuangauagut
Second personillitilissi
Third personunauku

Personal pronouns are, however, necessary in the oblique case:


The two grammatical core cases ergative and absolutive are used to express grammatical and syntactical roles of participant noun phrases. The oblique cases express information related to movement and manner.

The instrumental case is versatile. It is used for the instrument with which an action is carried out, for oblique objects of intransitive verbs and for secondary objects of transitive verbs.
It is also used to express the meaning of "give me" and for forming adverbs from nouns:
The allative case describes movement towards something.
It is also used with numerals and the question word qassit to express the time of the clock, and in the meaning "amount per unit":
The locative case describes spatial location:
The ablative case describes movement away from something or the source of something:
The prosecutive case describes movement through something as well as the medium of writing or a location on the body. It is also used to describe a group of people such as a family as belonging to the modified noun.
The equative case describes similarity of manner or quality. It is also used for deriving language names from nouns denoting nationalities, i.e. "like a person of x nationality ".


In Greenlandic possession is marked on the noun which agrees with the person and number of its possessor. The possessor is in the ergative case. There are different possessive paradigms for all of the different cases. Table 4 gives the possessive paradigm for the absolutive case of illu "house". Below are given examples of the use of the possessive inflection, the use of the ergative case for possessors and the use of fourth person possessors.


Greenlandic vocabulary is mostly inherited from Proto-Eskimo–Aleut, but it has also taken a large number of loans from other languages, especially from Danish. Early loans from Danish have often become acculturated to the Greenlandic phonological system, for example the Greenlandic word palasi "priest" is a loan from the Danish "præst". But since Greenlandic has an enormous potential for the derivation of new words from existing roots, many modern concepts have Greenlandic names that have been invented rather than borrowed, e.g. qarasaasiaq "computer" which literally means "artificial brain". This potential for complex derivations also means that Greenlandic vocabulary is built on very few roots which combined with affixes come to form large word families. For example the root for "tongue" oqaq is used to derive the following words:
Lexical differences between dialects are often considerable. This is due to the earlier cultural practice of imposing taboo on words which had served as names for a deceased person. Since people were often named after everyday objects, many of these have changed their name several times because of taboo rules, causing dialectal vocabulary to diverge further.


Greenlandic is written with the Latin script. The alphabet:
To spell loanwords from other languages, especially from Danish and English, the additional letters B, C, D, H, W, X, Y, Z, Æ, Ø and Å are used. Greenlandic uses the symbols "..." and »...« as quotation marks.
From 1851 until 1973, Greenlandic was written in the alphabet invented by Samuel Kleinschmidt. This alphabet employed the special character kra which was replaced by q in the 1973 reform. In the Kleinschmidt alphabet, long vowels and geminate consonants were indicated by means of diacritics on the vowels. For example, the name Kalaallit Nunaat was spelled Kalâdlit Nunât. This scheme uses a circumflex accent to indicate a long vowel, an acute accent to indicate gemination of the following consonant: , i, u] and, finally, a tilde or a grave accent, depending on the author, indicates vowel length and gemination of the following consonant. The letters ê and ô, used only before r and q, are now written ee and oo in Greenlandic. The spelling system of Nunatsiavummiutut, spoken in Nunatsiavut in northeastern Labrador, is derived from the old Greenlandic system.
Technically, the Kleinschmidt orthography focused upon morphology: the same derivational affix would be written in the same way in different contexts, despite its being pronounced differently in different contexts. The 1973 reform replaced this with a phonological system: Here, there was a clear link from written form to pronunciation, and the same suffix is now written differently in different contexts. The differences are due to phonological changes. It is therefore easy to go from the old orthography to the new whereas going the other direction would require a full lexical analysis.

Sample text

Inuit tamarmik inunngorput nammineersinnaassuseqarlutik assigiimmillu ataqqinassuseqarlutillu pisinnaatitaaffeqarlutik. Silaqassusermik tarnillu nalunngissusianik pilersugaapput, imminnullu iliorfigeqatigiittariaqaraluarput qatanngutigiittut peqatigiinnerup anersaavani.
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

Cited literature