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A linguistic adventure

A linguist from Cambridge University, England, is headed to north-west Greenland to document Inughuit culture and language.

Stephen Pax Leonard will live with the Inughuit people for a year, producing an “ethnography of speaking” to show how their language and culture are interconnected. Their Inuktun dialect is regarded as one of the most “pure” Inuit dialects. The lifestyle of the Inughuit is threatened by climate change, with seal numbers dropping and the ice becoming too thin to use dog sleds.

Leonard’s interest in the Inughuits began 10 years ago when he read Marie Herbert’s book The Snow People, an account of life with the Inughuits, but it is only recently that he learned how imminent the threat is to their way of life and their culture.

“I just hadn’t realised how endangered the community was and this whole culture could simply die, disappear. Normally languages die out because it is parents deciding they don’t want their children to speak it.”

Leonard, who is 36, will have to adapt to many things, not least the extreme temperatures. Although the average temperature is-25C, it can plummet to -40 or soar to zero in the summer. Then there is the arctic darkness, with the sun expected to go down on 24 October and not rise again until 8 March. It is this time of year that elders talk and pass on their stories and poetry. (Source: The Guardian)

It’s great to hear of someone trying to make a real difference to a language, by documenting it and giving it back to the people it belongs to – the Inughuit. Read the full article here.