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Inuktitut Bible translation to be dedicated this spring comment (0)

May 10, 2012


TORONTO — The Bible is by far the most translated book in history. Portions of the Old and New Testaments have been translated into more than 2,500 languages. According to United Bible Societies, the complete Bible has been rendered into 469 tongues as of 2010.

Add Inuktitut to that list.

Later this spring, an entire Bible in Inuktitut, the language of Inuit people and the most widely spoken aboriginal tongue in Canada’s Arctic, will be dedicated at an igloo-shaped church in Nunavut, an autonomous region carved out of the Northwest Territories in 1999.

Begun in 1978, the massive task marks the first time in Canada that a translation of the whole Bible was accomplished entirely by native speakers of the language rather than by white missionaries.

It was kick-started by the late Eugene Nida, considered the father of modern biblical translation, whose major contribution to the field was the concept of “functional equivalence.” Instead of using literal translations, the idea was to convey meaning by incorporating native culture and idiom into the Bible’s story.

Canada’s last census found some 33,000 speakers of Inuktitut, part of the Eskimo-Aleut family of languages. It is spoken in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and northern Quebec, and almost exclusively north of the tree line.

The full translation follows the completion in 1991 of an Inuktitut New Testament, now in its fifth edition. The Old Testament took so long because translator Canon Jonas Allooloo and the project’s translation coordinator, retired Anglican Bishop Benjamin Arreak, worked on it for only one or two months of the year. 

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