Inuktitut on the Net

Trond Trosterud trond.trosterud at
Thu Nov 4 08:33:09 UTC 2004

4.11.2004 kello 02:15, Damien Hall kirjoitti:

  From the BBC News website.
> I recommend you look at the link if you're interested, in order to be
> able to
> see the pictures.  For those who can't,

> Browser settings on normal computers have not supported the language
> to date,
> but has changed that.
> "It was a big challenge to give the Inuit and Inuktitut speakers the
> ability to
> have web pages published in their native language," said Mr Zielke.
> "A lot of people have older computers and limited ability to use
> technology," he
> added.
> The government of Nunavut is committed to making Inuktitut its working
> language.
> "This type of development puts that goal within reach," said Eva
> Aariak,
> Languages Commissioner for Nunavut.

Thanks to Damien Hall for bringing this issue to our attention. I had a
look at it, ant this is what I found behind that story:

The web-site mr. Zielke talks about is
Here, all Inuktitut sentences are published as *pictures*, like this:
<img align=top src="6g+4ZCK4ZGm4ZGV4ZWV4ZKD-.net_12c0_s01.fd" width=63
height=16 border=0> (as you can see for yourselves if you look at the
source code, or try to copy the Inuktitut text over in another program)

The preferred way of publishing text is, as mr. Zielke of course knows,
as strings of bytes, like this letter is transmitted, and indeed, as
the Nunavut government publishes its own Inuktitut-language web pages:

If you cannot read the Inuktitut of the latter link, then you have what
in the quote above is called a "normal computer", or equivalently, an
"older computer". If you, as I, have a more modern computer, and above
all, a more modern browser (less than 4-5 years old), with the
capability of choosing UTF-8 as "Text Encoding" (and a large enough
Unicode font), then you are able to read the site. If you
belong to this latter group, than the project is just
harmful (text as pictures is not searcable). If you, on the other hand,
have an older computer / software, without the possibility of using
Unicode (and by all means, many do), than the initiative is
very important, and very welcome indeed. This is thus not a critique of (they do an important job, indeed), but of BBC, who
presents this as the future of Inuktitut computing (it is not).

The general lesson to be taught here (in addition to not believing what
you read in the media), is that in this transition period, languages
need both forward- and backward-looking technology, but that the only
way of securing a safe place in the digital world for a language, is to
store it as Unicode text. Fortunately, the Nunavut government itself is
safely placed in the future solution already, so that forthcoming
generation may access today's digital archives.


Trond Trosterud                                        t +47 7764 4763
Institutt for språkvitskap, Det humanistiske fakultet  m +47 950 70140
N-9037 Universitetet i Tromsø, Noreg                   f +47 7764 4239
Trond.Trosterud (a)

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