Kumiko Murasugi, Associate Professor in the School of Linguistics and Language Studies and the Institute of Cognitive Science, is assisting Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami‘s (ITK) Atausiq Inuktut Titirausiq Task Group (AIT) in partnership with Prince’s Charities Canada by providing linguistic support for a research tour of the United Kingdom.
The Task Group is composed of three Inuit people from each of the four Inuit regions in Canada, plus the president of the Inuit Youth Council and the National Inuit Language Coordinator. All members come recommended by the Inuit land claim organization of their region.
On tour, Murasugi will assist AIT as they pursue a deeper understanding of the cultural, social, institutional and other factors that supported the revitalization of the Welsh and Maori languages in the UK. They will explore how the ‘best practices’ used to revivify Welsh and Maori languages could be implemented to the development of a unified writing system for Inuktut. This will include an analysis of how Welsh was established in local education systems, engaging in meaningful conversations with the Welsh and Maori people on language rollout, and investigating how a pipeline of fluent speakers was developed to teach, write and publish in the two Indigenous languages. Through these consultations and experiences, Murasugi and AIT plan to apply what they will learn to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s official educational plans and recommendations.
Murasugi has been working with ITK on their standardization project for about three years. She had previously collaborated with ITK’s National Inuit Language Coordinator and was thrilled to be asked to lend her skillset to this project. “Right now the Task Group is at the stage of choosing the symbols for the new, unified writing system,” she explained. “In my role providing linguistic support, I can discuss with them the linguistic implications of their choices or suggest alternatives that they might not have thought of. I also help to inform the academic community about the imperative work that they’re doing.”
ITK believes that a unified writing system will strengthen Inuit unity and culture in Canada and one of the primary objectives of the group is for Inuktut to be the language of operation for organizations, government, and institutions in Inuit Nunangat.
“Ultimately, I am there to aid the team in a support position as they make the crucial decisions. This is truly a project by Inuit for Inuit.”
Since the 1970s, the discussion around promoting and supporting the continued use of the Inuit language in schools across Canada’s four Inuit regions has included a deeply rooted debate regarding introducing a unified Inuit writing system to promote communication across dialects and the development of standardized learning materials. ITK believes that the key to a new era in bilingual education is the ability to produce, publish and distribute common Inuit language materials.
The Itinerary… Which includes tea with the Prince of Wales
The visit to Wales will occur over a five-day period starting with a meeting at Canolfan Bedwyr’s Language Technologies Unit at Bangor University. This will provide an opportunity to learn from the individuals responsible for the terminology standardization projects and also to converge with those responsible for developing the IT tools for the Welsh language.
A session will also be held with the Welsh Books Council, providing the team a chance to learn and discuss the various aspects of the publishing industry and how it was developed in Wales. Following this, the group will visit the University of Wales, Dictionary of the Welsh Language to explore the archives and pursue a conversation on the development of the dictionary and the new technologies being used.
Other functions include a meeting at the Welsh Language Commission Office and with WJEC (an organization providing assessment, training and educational resources in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and elsewhere) to look at a range of assessments and resources through the medium of Welsh. A subsequent meeting will be held at New Zealand House to hear from the Maori regarding their experience with language revitalization.
Spectacularly, on the group’s final day, they will be part of a roundtable session with His Royal Highness, Charles, the Prince of Wales, on language revitalization at his Welsh residence Llwynywermod (TBC).
“I look forward to sharing with them the diversity of research at Carleton, from linguistics and applied linguistic in SLaLS to the Indigenous knowledge atlases developed at the Geomatics and Cartography Research Centre,” said Murasugi. “I’m very excited to see first-hand the efforts and successes of the Welsh people to revitalize and promote their language, particularly through education and technology.”
“And, of course, we’re all looking forward to our meeting and tea with Prince Charles!”