In English, the basic unit of meaning is the word. Each word (generally) expresses a separate idea:
In Inuktut, the basic units of meaning are roots, affixes and grammatical endings.
|aullaq-||to depart; leave town|
Roots that describe nouns (people, places, animals or objects) sometimes appear on their own:
|inuk||an Inuk; a person|
Generally, though, words are built in Inuktut by attaching affixes and endings to a root.
Here are three simple noun endings:
|-mi||in / at a place|
|-mut||to a place|
|-mit||from a place|
We can add these endings to a noun root to create a word:
|sijjami||at the shoreline|
|sijjamut||to the shoreline|
|sijjamit||from the shoreline|
Verb endings are attached to verb roots that describe actions. Here are three simple verb endings:
|-tuq||she / he / it|
If we add different endings to the same root, we get different meanings:
|aullaqtuq||He / she departs.|
Affixes are pieces of words that appear between the root and the ending. They can never begin a word. Affixes add more information about the noun or verb that is described by the root.
For example -lauq- is a verb affix that indicates that an action happened in the past:
|aullalauqtuq||He / she departed.|
In Inuktut, it is possible to build up very long words by adding a series of affixes between the root and the ending. We can end up with single words that would take an entire sentence to say in English:
qangatasuukkuvimmuuriaqalaaqtunga I’ll have to go to the airport.