Nouns and verbs
- are always chunkable,
- always begin with one (and only one) base,
- always contain one (and only one) ending,
- may contain one or several posbases between the base and the ending, ▪ may end with one or two tails after the ending.
We know that there are different types of bases and different types of endings. There are also different types of postbases:
- Noun makers: +ti, +vik, /giaq, …
- Noun extenders: +miuq, /viniq, /aaluk, …
- Verb makers: /liaq-, +siuq-, /qaq-, …
- Verb extenders: /guma-, /gasuk, /gunnaq-, …
- Tense postbases: /lauq-, /rqau-, /langa-, …
- Post-tense postbases: /rquuq-, …
- Negation postbases: /ngngit-, …
- Post-negation postbases: +mmi-, …
In order to understand how these different types of chunks are combined into words, we need to introduce two new notions.
First, the notion of scope.
Within a word, the scope of a chunk is the part of the word over which the meaning of the chunk operates.
The linear order of chunks correlates with their scope: postbases with a more narrow scope appear closer to the base than postbases with a less narrow scope.
Here is the rule to remember:
A chunk has scope over everything to the left in the same word.
In the noun nuna-qa-rqaa-tu-vini-it,
/it has scope over nuna-qa-rqaa-tu-viniq,
/viniq has scope over nuna-qa-rqaa-tuq,
+tu(q) has scope over nuna-qa-rqaaq-,
/rqaaq- has scope over nuna-qaq-,
/qaq- has scope over nuna.
Scope relations can be represented in a number of ways:
In English, scope relations are reversed with respect to Inuktitut.
This is why the order of chunks is often the mirror-image of the order of words in the English literal translation:
It is most often impossible to change the order of postbases in a word. When it is possible, the meaning of the word also changes.
- natsi-vini-lik ≠ natsi-li-viniq
(there is some seal meat) ≠ (there used to be a seal)
- nanu-alu-lik ≠ nalu-li-aluk
(there is a big polar bear) ≠ (there are many polar bears)
Then, we need to introduce the notion of stem.
A stem is a word part that
- consists of one or more chunks,
- begins with a noun base or a verb stem, and
- requires an ending to become a complete word form.
These are the general rules for building nouns and verbs in Inuktitut:
Recursive types of postbases are underlined.
Extenders are highly recursive. Up to five extenders can be encountered successively.
Post-tense and post-negation postbases are few, but some of them are frequent:
A handful of postbases make exceptions to the rules stated above.
- Verb maker /it- always adds to a noun in the locative case.
- Verb maker /uq- always adds to a noun in the allative, translative or simulative case.
Verb extenders +turi-, +niraq-, /guma- and /ujaq- may follow a tense postbase:
Note that Inuktitut has many homophonic postbases: apparent exceptions may not be real. For example, /lauq- can be found to the right of /ngngit-. In this case, /lauq- is not a tense postbase, but a post-negation postbase indicating politeness.