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What’s with this “Wren” thing?
The oldest extant version of the fable
are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology
Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche
Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”)
collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read
(here the east-coast town of Kulusuk), a country
of great beauty and potential, is now truly coming into its own.
In the post-colonial era, Greenlandic is the primary and
only official language, Danish
languages by most Greenlanders.
In Europe and in non-European countries with European heritage, Greenland (Kalallit Nunaat) has been traditionally seen as an extension or appendage of Europe, due to
centuries of Danish rule over the country. Its colonial status was lifted and
Greenland became an integral part of the
of Denmark in 1953. In 1978 it attained home rule status, and in 1985 it was
first governmental entity to leave the European Union. Home rule was extended
effective on June 21, 2009. It is clear that Greenland, albeit formally still
of the Danish kingdom, is fast approaching extensive, if not complete, self-determination.
If it belongs to
any continent, its geography makes Greenland a North American country, perhaps
a subcontinent of North America. (Of course this entails that the Norwegian-Icelandic “Vikings” in fact “discovered” America.) The same applies
heritage. These days, ca. 88% of the country’s population is fully or partly Inuit (“Eskimo”). While the Danish language still predominates
in certain walks of life, including at the University of Greenland (Ilisimatusarfik),
Greenlandic, specifically West Greenlandic (Kalaallisut), is now the only official language of the country, and the vast majority of
proficient in it, most of them natively. Danish and English are acquired as secondary
languages in this country with high educational standards and with a virtually
With about 50,000
speakers, Greenlandic is the demographically largest member of the Eskimo-Aleut
language family that extends from Greenland’s east coast across the north coast of North America
all the way
coast and the Aleutian Islands, with some outliers on the east coast of Siberia
(which is under Russian rule).
has made history by becoming the only
national entity with a Native American language as its sole official national
franca. Greenlandic used to be co-official with Danish. Furthermore, Western Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) and Eastern Greenlandic (Tunimiit oraasiat) used to be treated as two official variants of Greenlandic. Western Greenlandic
has been the only official variant since June
21, 2009. Around the town of Qaanaaq (Thule) in the northwestern part of the
country, a third variant, or perhaps rather language, is used: Inuktun (referred
Avanersuarmiutut in Western Greenlandic), which is fairly closely related to the Inuktitut language
of Northern Canada. The variety of Upernavik on the central west coast of Greenland
major form of Greenlandic. These days almost all speakers of Greenland’s other
are proficient in Western Greenlandic as well. Most are at least somewhat proficient
in Danish, and English is studied in schools as well.
with all of its relatives certain noteworthy structural characteristics:
composing words of numerous morphemes—a feature shared with several other Native
American and also with Paleo-Siberian languages
specifically noun incorporation, whereby nominal components are incorporated into constructions that are essentially
verbal, similar to but usually more elaborate than English cases of
back-formation like “babysit”, “kidnap” and “breastfeed”—a feature again shared with several other Native American and also Paleo-Siberian
also known as ergative-absolutive structure, whereby the subject of an intransitive verb is treated like the object of a
transitive verb but distinctly from the subject of a transitive verb—a feature shared with certain languages of the Americas, Australia, the Caucasus,
as well as with Tibetan and Basque
Greenlandic applies these structural patterns to loanwords as well, the vast majority of
which are of Danish origin.
only on a basic level mutually intelligible with the Western Inuit language varieties of Canada. On top of various diverging native phonological,
lexical and semantic developments among the Inuit varieties, it is loanwords
in Greenland versus
English and French words in Canada) that alienate them from each other by political
borders. Given increasing international Inuit communication, it is conceivable that mutual language exposure will lead toward
improving mutual comprehensibility.
uses the Roman script. In the past, a Greenland-specific orthographic system was used.
It utilized one special character: ĸ for the voiceless uvular stop /q/. Also, it utilized vowel diacritics to indicate
long vowels and following long consonants. In
those of related languages that use the Roman script. (This is similar to
post-colonial Malay and Indonesian adopting the same orthographic principles
while remaining officially separate albeit closely related languages.)
This facilitates international reading comprehension among speakers of Eskimo
languages (although the Roman orthography is merely auxiliary after the official
syllabary in the case of Canada’s Inuktitut). In Greenlandic, the phoneme /q/ is now written q as in related languages, and long sounds are represented by double letters (but
the digraph ng, which stands for /ŋ/, is written nng instead of doubled). A peculiarity of the system is that the voiced uvular fricative
is written r, inspired by the uvular pronunciation of /r/ in Danish. The new system is close
being fully phonemically based. An exception is the use of e and o that before uvular consonants stand for allophones of /i/ and /u/ respectively.
(Greenlandic has three vowel phonemes: /i/, /u/, /a/.) As in related languages,
the digraph llrepresents the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative ([λ], like Welshll but in Greenlandic always long, probably derived from a combination of two consonants).
This sound (both long and short) is found as an areal feature among related
and unrelated languages across
parts of the west coasts of the Americas.
Greenlandic is used
extensively in printing and in broadcasting, lately also increasingly on
burgeoning Greenlandic literary tradition.
and research is conducted and overseen by Oqaasileriffik (The Greenland Language Secretariat), an independent institution under the Ministry of Culture, Education, Research
Church, acting as the secretariat for parliament committees for language
issues. The Oqaasiliortut (Greenland Language Council) is in charge of actual language planning, such as the creation of new expressions.
is still considered an “exotic” language by most people elsewhere in the world, it may well gain some importance
as Greenland is becoming a major destination of adventure travel and eco
tourism as well as a focus point of environmental studies, to say nothing
of its economic
potential thanks in great part to its yet untapped natural resources.
Eskimo-Aleut > Eskimo > Inuktitut > Greenlandic > Western
Historical Lowlands language contacts: Low Saxon (via Danish)
to open the Greenlandic translation: [Click]