Whole sentences in a single word

Greenlandic belongs to the Eskimo family of languages. It is a 'polysynthetic' language, which means that words are formed with a root, one or more affixes and a suffix. A Greenlandic word can thus be very long and can mean what corresponds to a whole sentence in other languages.

Different dialects

The Greenlandic language is roughly divided into four dialects: South Greenlandic, West Greenlandic, East Greenlandic and the Thule dialect. West Greenlandic is the official language which all children learn in addition to Danish and English. In small towns and settlements it is not unusual for only Greenlandic to be spoken and English may possibly be understood or spoken only to a very limited degree. It is therefore a good idea to learn a few words during your trip that can open up for communication.

Greenlandic loan words

Greenlanders are always delighted when visitors try to speak at least a few words of the local language. To make it easy, you can start by learning the words "hello", which is called "aluu", or "goodbye", which is simply "baaj" - and thus are reminiscent of English. These words are loan words that were probably introduced when the Americans came to Greenland during the Second World War.

A descriptive language

As is the case for all languages, Greenlandic continues to evolve, and when loan words are not used, new, highly descriptive words are created. The word 'computer' is 'qarasaasiaq' in Greenlandic, which directly translated means 'artificial brain', whilst 'potato' is called 'naatsiiat' - which actually means 'something for which one waits for a long time to grow up'. The written language and pronunciation are something else again, and can be read about in several of the books on the Greenlandic language that are available on the Internet.

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