Commonwealth Braille & Talking Book Cooperative


Inuktitut syllabary Braille code

Tamara Johnson Kearney, Chairman
Braille Authority of Western Australia


This paper presents a Braille code for the Inuktitut syllabary. At the time if this writing the Inuktitut syllabary does not have a Braille code. The absents of such means that blind speakers of the Inuktitut languages are unable to read the language in it native form or to have understanding of the Inuktitut syllabary writing system. This braille code seeks to address this problem and to provide full literacy to blind speakers of these languages and dialects.
—Tamara Johnson Kearney, Perth October 2012

Media coverage

Media coverage of the development of this code.


I have been a long time advocate for literacy, particularly braille literacy. I also feel passionately the importance of preserving languages. I believe that the blind as well as the sighted should be able to read and write in their native language. These principles have been my primary motivation for developing this braille code.

My aim has been to develop a code that follows a logical pattern, and is easy to both learn and reproduce on both modern Braille production systems as well as by traditional Perkins Braille Writers and even on slates and styluses. To that end I have retained the six dot cell of traditional Braille. My fervent hope is that people will learn it, and that literature will be produced in it.

While print Inuktitut syllabary is a very compact writing system communicating a great deal in a small space, Braille, as a rule, requires much more space to represent the same information. This is the case with this Braille code as well which adds about one-third more space to the length of any written passage. This is expected and is consistent with Braille in other languages.

History of the Inuktitut syllabary

The Inuktitut syllabary is an adaption from the Cree syllabary completed in the late 19th century by John Horden and E. A. Watkins, missionaries from England. Edmund Peck promoted the use of the syllabary across the Canadian Arctic where it is used by some 65,000 people.

In 1976 the Language Commission of the Inuit Cultural Institute approved a standardised writing systems for Inuktitut in Canada using the syllabary.

The Inuktitut syllabary, known as titirausiq nutaaq (ᑎᑎᕋᐅᓯᖅ ᓄᑕᐊᖅ) or qaniujaaqpait (ᖃᓂᐅᔮᖅᐸᐃᑦ), is used mainly in Canada, especially in the territory of Nunavut (ᓄᓇᕗᑦ), the population of which is 85% Inuit, and in Nunavik (ᓄᓇᕕᒃ), Quebec.

History of Braille

Braille is named after its creator, Frenchman Louis Braille, who became blind as a result of a childhood accident. At the age of 15, Braille developed his code for the French alphabet in 1824 as an improvement on night writing used by the French army at the time. He published his system, which subsequently included musical notation, in 1829.

Today Braille is an international standard for tactile reading. Braille codes have been developed for most languages having a written form. Braille literacy and education is important for developing reading skills among blind and visually impaired children. Braille literacy correlates with higher employment rates.

The Braille cell

Braille characters are small rectangular blocks called cells that contain tiny palpable bumps called raised dots. The number and arrangement of these dots distinguish one character from another. The dots are numbered from 1 to 6 starting at the left column 1,2,3 and followed by the right column 4,5,6. This permits the notation of Braille cells by numbers as used in the tables below.

1 ●● 4
2 ●● 5
3 ●● 6

Canadian Braille

English and French Braille in Canada is governed by the Braille Literacy Canada. The following are links to the English and French Braille codes used in Canada.

This Braille code references the Unified English Braille code in use in English Canada for signs and layout usage not unique to the Inuktitut syllabary

The Inuktitut syllabary

The syllabary is devised into glyphs that are rotated by 90 degrees through the four cardinal point of the compass, north, east, south and west with each orientations representing the sound of a consonant followed by the sound of the vowel which follows it. Consonants which are not followed by vowel sounds are indicated by superscripted finals. The table below shows the various glyphs and the associated phonemes.

The syllabary differ in its use between ᓄᓇᕗᑦ Nunavut and ᓄᓇᕕᒃ Nunavik (Quebec). Some glyphs have been eliminated from common use in Nunavut but have been retained in Nunavik. In such cases these glyphs are shown in the charts below in a grey background.

Table of the print Inuktitut syllabary

Initials Syllables Finals
ai i u a
p ᐊᑉ
t ᐊᑦ
k ᐊᒃ
g [ɣ] ᐊᒡ
m ᐊᒻ
n ᐊᓐ
s/h ᐊᔅ
l ᐊᓪ
j ᐊᔾ
v ᐊᕝ
r [ʁ] ᐊᕐ
q ᐊᖅ
ng [ŋ] ᐊᖕ
nng [ŋŋ] ᐊᖖ
ł [ɬ]   ᐊᖦ
  ᕼᐃ ᕼᐅ ᕼᐊ '

Braille code for the Inuktitut syllabary

Design considerations

I have endeavored to follow the basic concepts of the print in the braille code as much as possible. Many braille letters cannot assume a directional orientation. To compensate for this I have placed the directional indicator just before the letter. I have chosen to place the north and south indicators in the right-hand side of the cell, tying them close to the letters they represent. Such practice, however, does not allow for the use of the UEB grade 1 indicator 56 . For this reason, I have substituted the capital sign 6 for the grade 1 sign since Inuktitut does not require the use of uppercase letters. In all other instances I have taken care to retain UEB literary symbols for punctuation etc. that also might be needed in Inuktitut.

For the short vowel sound without a consonant I have simply used the braille symbol for the letter a or dot one of the braille cell. Long vowel sounds are made by adding dot six to the vowel. Thus a long vowel is shown with a directional indicator in the first cell followed by a second cell containing the braille dots 16 .

In most cases Roman braille letters have been assigned to the consonants or consonant/vowel combinations that most closely match their phonetic sounds. Therefore, the letter ᐱ (p) with a short vowel sound is written with a directional indicator in the first braille cell followed by the roman letter p dots 1234 in the second cell. The ᐱ (p) long vowel combination is written similarly, but with dots 12346 in the second cell. An exception is made for the letter ᕝ (v). The braille roman letter v contains a dot six, and thus it conflicts with the long vowel sound with the roman braille letter l. I chose dots 124 to represent ᕝ (v}.

The ᖕ (gn), ᖖ (gnn) and ᖢ (ł or belted l) do not have equivalents in the Roman alphabet so I chose dot combinations that would fit the general layout of the code.

In an effort to keep the code as simple as possible and to have it represent the printed language as closely as possible contractions are not used.

Some glyphs that are no longer in use in Nunavut have been retained due to their continued use in Nunavik (Quebec) and as a mens of transcribing historical works which would employ them. The are indicated in these tables with a grey background.

Orientation indicators

The first issue that a Braille code for the Inuktitut syllabary must address is an indicator to establish the orientation of any letter that follow it. The indicators are for South, North, East and West. The table below gives the indicator of orientation and it associated vowel sound.

Vowel sound Orientation Braille Dots
ai South/down 56
i North/up 45
u East/right 135
a West/left 246


The vowels ai, i, u, a are represented by the Braille pattern dot 1 and are always proceeded by an orientation indicator.

Vowel Inuktitut Braille Dots
ai ⠰⠁ 56-1
i ⠘⠁ 45-1
u ⠕⠁ 135-1
a ⠪⠁ 246-1

Long Vowels

The vowels i, u, a can also have long sounds. When this is required a dot six is added to the Braille pattern of any glyph. Shown below is the long vowel sound of the vowel glyph ᐄ, ᐆ, ᐋ but this same method is applied to the other glyphs as well. For example ⠪⠾ would represent or tā (t long a sound).

Long Vowel Inuktitut Braille Dots
i ⠘⠡ 45-16
u ⠕⠡ 135-16
a ⠪⠡ 246-16


The consonants can stand alone at the beginning or at the end of a word (finals). When written as standing alone or as finals they are written without a orientation indicator. When written with a following vowel sound they are proceeded by an orientation indicator

Consonant Inuktitut (South/down) Braille Dots
p 1234
t 2345
k 13
g [ɣ] 1245
m 134
n 1345
s/h 234
l 123
j 245
v 124
r [ʁ] 1235
q 12345
ng [ŋ] 15
nng [ŋŋ] 145
ł [ɬ] 24


Punctuation and other special signs, copyright, trademark, etc follows the standard Unified English Braille usage.

Common punctuation
Punctuation Braille Dots
period . 256
comma , 2
semicolon : 23
question mark ? 236
exclamation ! 235
asterisk * ⠐⠔ 5-35


Numbers follows the standard Unified English Braille usage. The letters a-j are procedded by the UEB number indicator dots 3456. The UEB rules for indicating multiple numerals and for math symbols are also used.

Number Braille Dots
1 ⠼⠁ 1
2 ⠼⠃ 12
3 ⠼⠉ 14
4 ⠼⠙ 145
5 ⠼⠑ 15
6 ⠼⠋ 124
7 ⠼⠛ 1245
8 ⠼⠓ 125
9 ⠼⠊ 24
0 ⠼⠚ 245


Braille indicators are used to show typographic and other information in the print. This code follows the standard Unified English Braille usage with the exception of the following indicators.

Indicator Braille Dots Example
Letter 456 ⠸⠕⠋   single


ᓄᓇᕗᑦ (Nunavut)
ᓄᓇᕕᒃ (Nunavik)

Long example

ᐅᖃᓕᒫᕆᑦ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᖃᖅᑐᓂᒃ ᐃᓄᖁᑎᑦᑕ, ᐃᓕᖅᑯᓯᖁᑎᑦᑕ, ᐆᒪᔪᑦ, ᐃᓕᑕᕆᔭᐅᔾᔪᑎᑦᑕ, ᐱᒋᐊᕐᓂᕆᓚᐅᖅᑕᑦᑕ, ᓄᓇᕗᑖᖅᓯᒪᓂᑦᑕᓗ ᒥᒃᓵᓅᖓᔪᓂᒃ, ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐊᒥᓱᒃᑲᓐᓂᕐᓂᒃ.


Table of the Inuktitut syllabary Braille code

Initials Syllables Finals
ai i u a
ø ᐁ  ⠰⠁ ᐃ  ⠘⠁  ᐄ  ⠘⠡ ᐅ  ⠕⠁  ᐆ  ⠕⠡ ᐊ  ⠪⠁  ᐋ  ⠪⠡  
p ᐯ  ⠰⠏ ᐱ  ⠘⠏  ᐲ  ⠘⠯ ᐳ  ⠕⠏  ᐴ  ⠕⠯ ᐸ  ⠪⠏  ᐹ  ⠪⠯ ᐊᑉ  
t ᑌ  ⠰⠞ ᑎ  ⠘⠞  ᑏ  ⠘⠾ ᑐ  ⠕⠞  ᑑ  ⠕⠾ ᑕ  ⠪⠞  ᑖ  ⠪⠾ ᐊᑦ  
k ᑫ  ⠰⠅ ᑭ  ⠘⠅  ᑮ  ⠘⠥ ᑯ  ⠕⠅  ᑰ  ⠕⠥ ᑲ  ⠪⠅  ᑳ  ⠪⠥ ᐊᒃ  
g [ɣ] ᒉ  ⠰⠛ ᒋ  ⠘⠛  ᒌ  ⠘⠻ ᒍ  ⠕⠛  ᒎ  ⠕⠻ ᒐ  ⠪⠛  ᒑ  ⠪⠻ ᐊᒡ  
m ᒣ  ⠰⠍ ᒥ  ⠘⠍  ᒦ  ⠘⠭ ᒧ  ⠕⠍  ᒨ  ⠕⠭ ᒪ  ⠪⠍  ᒫ  ⠪⠭ ᐊᒻ  
n ᓀ  ⠰⠝ ᓂ  ⠘⠝  ᓃ  ⠘⠽ ᓄ  ⠕⠝  ᓅ  ⠕⠽ ᓇ  ⠪⠝  ᓈ  ⠪⠽ ᐊᓐ  
s/h ᓭ  ⠰⠎ ᓯ  ⠘⠎  ᓰ  ⠘⠮ ᓱ  ⠕⠎  ᓲ  ⠕⠮ ᓴ  ⠪⠎  ᓵ  ⠪⠮ ᐊᔅ  
l ᓓ  ⠰⠇ ᓕ  ⠘⠇  ᓖ  ⠘⠧ ᓗ  ⠕⠇  ᓘ  ⠕⠧ ᓚ  ⠪⠇  ᓛ  ⠪⠧ ᐊᓪ  
j ᔦ  ⠰⠚ ᔨ  ⠘⠚  ᔩ  ⠘⠺ ᔪ  ⠕⠚  ᔫ  ⠕⠺ ᔭ  ⠪⠚  ᔮ  ⠪⠺ ᐊᔾ  
v ᕓ  ⠰⠋ ᕕ  ⠘⠋  ᕖ  ⠘⠫ ᕗ  ⠕⠋  ᕘ  ⠕⠫ ᕙ  ⠪⠋  ᕚ  ⠪⠫ ᐊᕝ  
r [ʁ] ᕃ  ⠰⠗ ᕆ  ⠘⠗  ᕇ  ⠘⠷ ᕈ  ⠕⠗  ᕉ  ⠕⠷ ᕋ  ⠪⠗  ᕌ  ⠪⠷ ᐊᕐ  
q ᙯ  ⠰⠟ ᕿ  ⠘⠟  ᖀ  ⠘⠿ ᖁ  ⠕⠟  ᖂ  ⠕⠿ ᖃ  ⠪⠟  ᖄ  ⠪⠿ ᐊᖅ  
ng [ŋ] ᙰ  ⠰⠑ ᖏ  ⠘⠑  ᖐ  ⠘⠱ ᖑ  ⠕⠑  ᖒ  ⠪⠱ ᖓ  ⠪⠑  ᖔ  ⠕⠱ ᐊᖕ  
nng [ŋŋ] ᙱ  ⠘⠙  ᙲ  ⠘⠹ ᙳ  ⠕⠙  ᙴ  ⠪⠹ ᙵ  ⠪⠙  ᙶ  ⠕⠹ ᐊᖖ  
ł [ɬ]   ᖠ  ⠘⠉  ᖡ  ⠘⠩ ᖢ  ⠕⠉  ᖣ  ⠪⠩ ᖤ  ⠪⠉  ᖥ  ⠕⠩ ᐊᖦ  
  ᕼᐃ  ⠘⠓  ᕼᐄ  ⠘⠳ ᕼᐅ  ⠕⠓  ᕼᐆ  ⠕⠳ ᕼᐊ  ⠪⠓  ᕼᐋ  ⠪⠳ '  

About the Authors

Tamara Johnson Kearney

Tamara Kearney is the Children's Library Officer of the Association for the Blind of Western Australia library service and the Chairman of the Braille Authority of Western Australia. She has been a Braille user from childhood.

Ms. Tamara Kearney
Manager - Braille Research and Development
Commonwealth Braille and Talking Book Cooperative
605 Robson Street, Suite 850
Vancouver, BC, V6B 5J3, CANADA
Work: +1 408-768-5288

Copyright 2017 by the Commonwealth Braille and Talking Book Cooperative