Grammar » 1. The Basic Structure of Inuktut

In English, the basic unit of meaning is the word. Each word (generally) expresses a separate idea:

The dog sleeps under the tree

In Inuktut, the basic units of meaning are roots and affixes.

Roots involve basic vocabulary and always appear at the beginning of words in Inuktut. Here are some examples:
niri- aullaq- tupiq
to eat to depart; leave town tent

Affixes are attached to the end of roots and other affixes. They can never begin a word. Here are three simple affixes:

-tunga -tutit -tuq
I you she / he / it


Roots and affixes cannot be used on their own.  Instead words are built in Inuktut by attaching one or more affixes to a root.  Remember that in most cases, the root is the base of the word and appears at the beginning.

If we add different affixes to the same root, we get different meanings:

aullaqtunga aullaqtutit aullaqtuq
I depart you depart she departs


And if we throw in other affixes, we can change the meaning again.  -lauq- is an affix that indicates that something happened in the past:

aullalauqtunga aullalauqtutit aullalauqtuq
I departed you departed he / she departed
In Inuktut very long words can be put together using many affixes.  We end up with single words that would take an entire sentence to say in English:

qangatasuukkuvimmuuriaqalaaqtunga I’ll have to go to the airport.