Like any other spoken language, Inuktitut uses a limited number of sounds out of the hundreds of sounds that a human mouth can produce. In Nunavik, Inuktitut uses exactly 16 basic sounds for differentiating words from one another.
Three of those sounds are easy to pronounce in isolation, without any accompanying sound. They are called vowels.
i u a
The other thirteen sounds are difficult to pronounce without an accompanying vowel. They are called consonants.
p t k g m n s l j v r q ng*
*Note that ng is a single consonant, even if it is written with two characters.
Place of Articulation
Consonants can be classified according to their place of articulation (where the sound is produced in the vocal tract).
Three consonants are articulated with the lips:
Three consonants are articulated with the back part of the tongue:
Five consonants are articulated with the front of the tongue:
Two consonants are articulated with the very back part of the tongue:
Manner of Articulation
Consonants can also be classified according to their manner of articulation (the degree of closure of the vocal tract).
Four consonants are produced with a complete closure of the vocal tract:
Three consonants are produced through the nasal tract (with a complete closure of the vocal tract):
Six consonants are produced with an incomplete closure of the vocal tract:
Nowadays in Nunavik, there is a growing confusion between g and r. This might not be a problem for the clarity of the language, since the number of words distinguished only by these two sounds is very small, maybe null.
Note that some basic sounds are pronounced in a slightly different way depending on their position in a word.
- irniq, ulluq, qanuq, itjujuq, iliranartuq.
With only 16 basic sounds, Nunavik Inuktitut can generate hundreds of thousands of words.