Kalaallisut

Typological sketch

Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) is the official language of Greenland. It belongs to the Inuit branch of the Eskimo-Aleut language family, whose typological features include polysynthesis (in Kalaallisut, hundreds of productive derivational suffixes) and a rich system of inflections. 

Kalaallisut inflectional system distinguishes three word categories: verbs inflect for mood; nouns, for case; particles do not inflect. In addition, pronominal argument inflections distinguish two subcategories of verbs and nouns: intransitive verbs inflect for mood and the subject; transitive verbs, for mood, subject and object; common nouns, for number and case; and relational nouns, for possessor, number and case. Pronominal number inflections (for subject, object or possessor) indicate person, number and current centering status (proximate or obviative, i.e. top-ranked in the center or in the background of attention).

Syntactic dependencies are marked both on the head word (by pronominal argument inflections) and on the dependent phrase (by verbal mood or nominal case inflections). The case system is ergative. That is, intransitve subjects and transitive objects are in the absolutive case (unmarked), in contrast to transitive subjects in the ergative case. In Kalaallisut nominal possessors are also in the ergative case.

There is no grammatical tense, but Kalaallisut moods and derivational affixes express temporal relations as precisely as English tenses (see e.g. Bittner 2005, 2007, 2011, 2014).

Interlinear texts 

The following Kalaallisut texts are classified as easy (E), intermediate (I) or advanced (A). They come from school readers (E or I) or Kalaallisut literature (A) written or translated by native speakers. The English glosses and translations are mine. All texts are transcribed in standard Kalaallisut orthography except that I have replaced the allophones (i.e. predictable variants) [e], [o], [ff] with the respective phonemes /i/, /u/, /v/. For example, standard orthography oqaluttuaa (his story), which reflects the predictable lowering of high vowels before uvular consonants (here, the phoneme /u/ is lowered to the allophone [o] before the uvular stop /q/) is transcribed phonemically, as uqaluttuaa. 

Note to native speakers

Kalaaliuguit nutsikkakkalu kukkunersiorniarlugit piffissaqaruit assut qujamasuutigissagaluarpara. Nutsikkakka pillugit qanoq ikkaluartumilluunniit oqaasissaqaruit allaffigilaarniannga uunga


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© Maria Bittner 2012