The Words of the Inuit: Underlying Significations under Current Meanings - Louis-Jacques Dorais

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9:00 AM, Friday 4 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
In Inuktitut and other Inuit languages, when lexicological analysis combines morphosemantics (deciphering the original signification of a word through the semantic analysis of its morphemes) with Proto-Eskimo etymologies and other ethnolinguistic tools, it often yields productive results in terms of eliciting potentially meaningful underlying significations. Such significations, even if they are not always recognized as such by current speakers of the language, can provide them with a thesaurus of images generated by their ancestors. In turn, these images, that open a door into the speakers’ deepest cultural identity, may help modern Inuit reconnect with their own collective self. By way of example, the words angakkuq (shaman),

tuurngaq (helper spirit), qaumaniq (shamanic knowledge) and qilaut (shaman’s drum) evoke an intimate and powerful relationship between the angakkuq (etymologically: “who moves about, strains to get free”) and his tuurngaq (“one who has been secured”), established through qaumaniq (“diffusing light”) and the qilaut (“means for securing links and/or invoking spirits”). This relationship may be considered as one instance of what an inuk (human person) is, according to a possible etymology: “an animated being who ‘owns’ and influences other beings.” Therefore, according to the ancestral Inuit worldview plausibly conveyed by words, inuuniq (being a person) might imply that inuit do enjoy a strong degree of agency over their own surroundings, provided they possess the knowledge (e.g. qaumaniq) and tools (e.g. qilaut) relevant to their intended activities.