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In Canada, Inuktut is a dying language

Traditional throat singers perform during an official welcome ceremony for Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly in June, 2017 in Iqaluit, the territory's capital
Traditional throat singers perform during an official welcome ceremony for Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly in June, 2017 in Iqaluit, the territory's capital Chris Jackson Collection/Getty Images/AFP
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Montreal (AFP)

Fewer and fewer Inuit people in the Northern Canadian territory of Nunavut consider Inuktut as their mother tongue, due to the growing appeal of English, according to a study released Tuesday.

Inuit who said their native language is Inuktut made up 65 percent of the population of Nunavut in 2016, down from 72 percent in 2001, according to the study by Statistics Canada.

Inuktut is an umbrella term encompassing multiple dialects.

"This decline was not the result of a decrease in the Inuit population in Nunavut, which was roughly 85 percent over the entire period," the study said.

Instead, it was due to an increase in the number of Inuit who did not list Inuktut as their native tongue -- nearly a quarter of the population in 2016, according to the study.

However, more people in Nunavut are able to hold conversations in Inuktut, and the language is also more often spoken at home.

But Inuktut is less frequently considered the main language, as English tends to take over, Statistics Canada added.

Nunavut was hived off from the Northwest Territories in 1999 to give the Inuit their own government within Canada.

The Arctic territory has 36,000 inhabitants -- most of whom are Inuit -- spread over about 73,000 square miles (1.9 million square kilometers).

In 2016, 82 percent of Inuit were bilingual in Inuktut and English, compared to 76 percent in 2001.

"The vitality of Inuktut appears to be more fragile" in Iqaluit, the territory capital, and other "regional centers with larger non-Inuit populations" such as Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet, the study showed.

The United Nations warned in January that nearly 2,700 indegenous languages around the world were at risk of disappearing unless new initiatives are taken to revive them.

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