Grammar
» Roots, Affixes & Endings

The chunks that make up most Inuktut words can be placed into one of three categories: roots, affixes and grammatical endings.

There is a virtually endless combination of roots, affixes and endings that can be put together. So, while Inuktut dictionaries can capture the most common words in the language, they cannot list every word that an Inuktut speaker can produce.

Roots

Every word in Inuktut must have a root. Roots involve basic vocabulary and always appear at the beginning of words. They can describe people or things (nouns), actions or events (verbs) or be descriptive words.

There is a virtually endless combination of roots, affixes and endings that can be put together. So, while Inuktut dictionaries can capture the most common words in the language, they cannot list every word that an Inuktut speaker can produce.

niri– to eat verb root
ataata father noun root
angi– big descriptive root

Affixes

Affixes are parts of words (or word chunks) that usually appear between a root and its ending. They provide more detail about an action or the attributes of a person, place or thing that is being described. In the following word, -jaqtuq- and -lauq- are affixes and -tara is the grammatical ending:

taku + jaqtuq + lauq + tara =
takujaqtulauqtara

I went to see him/her.

nukappiak + kuluk + mut =
nukappiakulungmut

to the little boy

Mittarvingmuariaqalaaqtunga.
I will have to go to the airport.

Stems

A stem is a root plus any combination of affixes before the grammatical ending is added. A root by itself is also a stem.

A stem can be either a noun or a verb. This is determined by the last affix in the stem or the type of root if there is no affix.

Types of Affixes

Affixes can be grouped in one of four categories:

Noun Affixes

These are added to noun stems to produce another noun stem:

nuna
noun stem meaning ‘land’
–lik
someone or something that possesses something
nunalik
someone who owns land; a community
kiinaujaq
noun stem meaning ‘money’
–kkuvik
a place where something is stored
kiinaujakkuvik
bank

Verb Affixes

These are added to verb stems to produce another verb stem:

nattiqsiuq–
verb stem meaning
‘to hunt seals’
–riaq–
to go to do something
nattiqsiuriaqsimatillugik
They (2) were out hunting seals.
–junnaq–
to be able to do something
–junnaq–
to be able to do something
ikajuqtaujunnanngittuuk
They (2) cannot be helped.

Noun Makers

There are affixes that are added to verb stems to make a noun stem:

ilinniaq–
verb stem meaning ‘to learn/study’
–vik
a place where something happens
ilinniaq + vik
ilinniarvik

at the school
sana–
verb stem meaning
‘to work’
–ji–
a person who performs a certain action
sana + ji
sanaji

a worker

Verb Makers

There are affixes that are added to noun stems to make a verb stem:

qulittaujaq–
noun stem meaning ‘parka’
–taaq–
to acquire something
qulittaujaq + taaq + lauq + tunga
qulittaujaqtaalauqtunga

I got a new parka.
unaaq
noun stem meaning ‘harpoon’
–qaq–
to have something
unaaq + qaq + tunga
unaaqaqtunga

I have a harpoon.

unaaqaqtunga

Grammatical Endings

Grammatical endings are added to stems. They provide a range of information, including who is performing a particular action or whether something is singular, dual or plural.

There are grammatical endings that are only added to verb stems and there are others that are only added to nouns stems. Verb stems always require a grammatical ending whereas a noun stem can sometimes stand on its own without an added ending.

–junga I do something verb ending
–gakkit when/because I…you verb ending
–langa let me… verb ending
–lutik while they… verb ending
–mut to someone or somewhere noun ending
–mini in his/her own… noun ending
–ma of my… noun ending

There are a few suffixes (called enclitics) that latch onto the very end of a word, even after the grammatical ending:

Mittimatalingmittauq nattirasukpaktuq
iqalugasukpaklutiglu

 

They go seal hunting and fishing in Pond Inlet as well.

These “add-ons” usually have the function of linking phrases with other phrases.