The main languages spoken in Greenland are the Greenlandic and the Danish languages. Both of them are also the official languages. Students are taught Danish beginning from the early stages in school. As a result, children grow up speaking it as their first language. Greenlanders have been transitioning into the use of their own Greenlandic language from the Danish language in public administration and in conducting public affairs. The Greenlandic language is a member of the Eskimo-Aleut family of languages and is locally known as Kalaallisut. Furthermore, it is a polysynthetic language whose words can be formed with a root, one or more affixes and a suffix. This means that one word in the Greenlandic can be very long.
The Greenlandic language has four region-specific dialects. West Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) is the official language. It is used in learning institutions to complement the Danish and English languages. More than 44,000 Greenlanders in the regions of Nuuk, Sisimiut, and Kangerussuaq speak Kalaallisut. East Greenlandic (Tunumiisut/Tunumiitoraasiat) is spoken by about 3,000 people in the Tasiilaq in Southeast Greenland. The third dialect called North Greenlandic (Avanersuarmiutut) is also known as the Thule dialect or the Polar Eskimo language. It is spoken in the Qaanaaq and Nord regions of north Greenland by about 800 people. It is closely similar to Inuktitut, an Eskimo-Aleut language spoken in Canada. Lastly, the South Greenlandic is spoken by the minority population. It is not commonly used because of the dominance of West Greenlandic.
Some of the common words and phrases of the Greenlandic language are “aluu” which is “hello” or “baaj” for “goodbye.” Greenlandic is a polysynthetic language that continues to evolve. Some of these words may evolve to be obsolete or new and highly descriptive like “qarasaasiaq” which means “computer.” Others can be directly translated such as “naatsiiat” which means “potato” can also be translated to mean “something for which one waits for a long time to grow”.
English is a minority language in Greenland. It may only be understood or spoken by a limited number of people who live in small settlements. Other minority languages include Danish.
This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018
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