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Kalaallisut, The Language of Greenland



A lecture on the Greenlandic language given by Dartmouth IGERT faculty member Lenore Grenoble, the Carl Darling Buck Professor of Slavic Linguistics at the University of Chicago, was broadcast on the Sorosoro website, an organization dedicated to preserving and documenting disappearing languages. Dr. Genoble described the history of Greenland and its people and the place of Greenlandic language (Kalaallisut) within the tri-lingual Greenlandic society (Kalaallisut, Danish, and English). Mastery of these languages is considered important to Greenland’s global participation.

Climate change is altering the lifestyles and economic future of Greenlanders. Melting ice may create opportunities for mineral extraction, farming, and fishing. Increased revenues may allow more governmental autonomy from Denmark. Greenlanders must be ready to face the many challenges and opportunities ahead due to climate change, and they consider language skills a key component in environmental and economic self-determination.

IGERT fellow Simone Whitecloud and Grenoble spent part of August 2011 interviewing Greenlanders about their language and documenting the Kalaallisut names for native plants. Their work was presented at the 2nd International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation (ICLDC) in 2011 (“An interdisciplinary approach to documenting reconstructed knowledge: Plants and their uses in Greenland”).