Lakota/Midterm Overview

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Quick Facts

  • Where it’s spoken: North and South Dakota
  • Size of the community that uses it: approx. 5000
  • Any prominent languages it might be related to: other varieties of Sioux, Dakota
  • Orthography: Suggested Lakota Orthography (SLO)
  • ISO: lkt


  • Primarily agglutinative
  • S-O-V order
  • Postpositional
  • Possible for a grammatically correct sentence to exist with only a verb
  • Men and women’s speech differ through the use of eight enclitics
  • There are two paradigms for verb inflection: (1) set of morphemes indicates the person and number of the subject of active verbs and (2) set of morphemes agrees with the object of transitive action verbs or the subject of stative verbs.

Phonological / Orthographic

  • Stress markers
  • 5 oral vowels /i e a o u/ , 3 nasal vowels /ĩ ã ũ/
  • Orthographically, nasal vowels are written with a following ⟨ƞ⟩, ⟨ŋ⟩, or ⟨n⟩
  • Several orthographies as well as ad hoc spelling are used to write the Lakota language, with varying perspectives on whether standardization should be implemented


  • Our transducer currently has an extremely low accuracy due to complications in grammar analysis and use of postpositions
  • This was one of our main challenges; detailed more below


  • The orthography was inconsistent across and even within corpora, so we had trouble standardising our keyboard and developing a corpus for testing; the language has been purposefully unstandardised which made it difficult for us to decide on an orthography and find corresponding corpora.
    • In 2002, Rosebud Cultural Studies teacher Randy Emery argued that standardization of the language could cause problems "because the language is utilized diversely. If standardization is determined to be the approach... then the question is whose version will be adopted? This will cause dissent and politics to become a factor in the process."
  • Ad hoc spelling made it difficult to standardize grammar
  • The agglutinative morphology of the language made grammar analysis difficult, and in building our morphological analyser we found it difficult to isolate parts of speech and matching inputs to outputs
    • The ad hoc spelling compounds this issue as the transducer works with specific spellings and cases, making it difficult to translate its usage across corpora
  • We especially found the use of postpositions in Lakota difficult to work with and incorporate into our analyser, as they are contextually dependent and we were unable to isolate them as parts of speech or analyse them separate from their occurrence in sentences
  • Community members have been particularly wary of the SLO ["Standard Lakota Orthography"], which appears to be developed by outsiders who are not fluent speakers and would require considerable study for a fluent speaker to use