British Scientist in Inuit Language Quest

CAMBRIDGE, England, Aug. 12 (UPI) — A British researcher says he is preparing for a yearlong expedition to Greenland, home of the Inuits, the world’s northernmost settled people.

Dr. Stephen Pax Leonard of Cambridge University will spend a year living with the northernmost Inuits, known as the Inughuits, in Qaanaaq in the far north of the country, the BBC reported Thursday.

Pax plans to learn their dialect, Inuktun, and record and archive the literature, songs and myths of the culture.

For centuries, the Inughuits have lived as hunter-gatherers in the remote region Leonard describes as the “cultural center of Greenland,” but their culture and language are threatened, he says.

“The reason for this is global warming,” Leonard says. “Their lifestyle is almost entirely based on hunting sea mammals … They insist on using the traditional methods of hunting — dog sleds and kayaks.

“And because the ice is thinning it’s becoming much more dangerous to travel and hunt that way,” he says.

At first Leonard will talk to Inughuits in Danish. He said he hopes to become fluent in the language quickly.

Only about 1,000 people speak Inuktun. Leonard said he hopes to record and describe it and then “give it back to the communities themselves in a form that future generations can use and understand.”

“If their language dies, their heritage and identity will die with it.”

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Categorized | Literature, Mammals, Other
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