My question is as simple as that. Does anyone (preferably a native speaker) know how different or how mutually intelligible Inuktitut and Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) are? Both are Eskimo–Aleut languages.

I have a lot of material in Greenlandic, but far less material in Inuktitut and I was wondering if I could learn Greenlandic and still understand and be understood by someone speaking Inuktitut.

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    @ChristopheStrobbe Thanks for the info. Well, in a language learning context it will be that I have a lot of material in Greenlandic, but far less material in Inuktitut and I was wondering if I could learn Greenlandic and still understand and be understood by someone speaking Inuktitut. – Alaric polyglot Dec 26 '16 at 9:48
up vote 5 down vote accepted

They are mutually intelligible to a large degree. I know that from Per Langgård, one of the very few proficient second-language speakers of Greenlandic. He said that when he was in Nunavut, he spoke West Greenlandic, people answered in Inuktitut, and it worked quite well.

So there is a lot in common in basic words and the structure of the two languages. But when it comes to more advanced vocabulary, differences are clear. Greenlandic has a huge number of loan words from Danish, while Inuktitut is obviously influenced by English.

Sometimes the Danish origin of loan words is clear, e.g. sygeplejerske [ˈsyːəˌplɑjˀʌsgə] means ‘nurse’ in Greenlandic, just like in Danish, and sometimes it's harder to find out, as the word is adapted to Greenlandic phonology, e.g. palasi [palasi] means ‘priest’ and comes from Danish præst [pʁasd]. On the other hand, part of modern vocabulary is purely Greenlandic, such as qarasaasiaq [qɑʁasa:siɑq] ‘computer’, and that's probably understandable to speakers of Inuktitut (the Inuktitut version is ᖃᕋᓴᐅᔭᖅ /qarasaujaq/).

When it comes to basic vocabulary, perhaps the clearest influence of Danish is with numbers. Counting from 1 to 20 goes like this: ataaseq, marluk, pingasut, sisamat, tallimat, arfinillit, arfineq-marluk, arfineq-pingasut, qulingiluat, qulit, aqqanillit, aqqaneq-marluk, tretten, fjorten, femten, seksten, sytten, atten, nitten, tyve. As you can see, the Danish numerals are used after 12.

  • Could a comparison be made with the difference between Indonesian and Malaysian? They seem to be pretty similar languages but Indonesian has a significant Dutch (Nederlands) influence while Malaysian has more English influence. – Robert Columbia Dec 26 '16 at 14:15

In addition to the previous answer, I'd like to support the claim that the two languages are very similar. According to the Inuktitut Wikipedia page, Inuktitut and Greenlandic share a common dialect, Inuktun (more commonly known as Polar Eskimo), which "is a recent arrival in Greenland from the Eastern Canadian Arctic, arriving perhaps as late as the 18th century."

A more direct validation of this is found on the Greenlandic Wikipedia page, which states that Greenlandic "is closely related to the Inuit languages in Canada such as Inuktitut."

Given that the two languages share a common dialect that can be understood by speakers of both languages, I'd say Inuktitut and Greenlandic have a high level of mutual intelligibility.

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