Isanti Dakota

Preservation and Revitalization Initiatives

Complexities of Working with the Dakota Nakota Lakota Language
  1. Too many dialects
    1. Every community and in many cases even families have their own way of talking which have become sub-dialects of the five major dialects (Isañåi, Ihañktonñwañ, Åitoñwañ, Hohe, and Iñyañ Wi©aßa) that have evolved from the original three dialects, Daíoþa, Naíoþa, and Laíoþa.
    2. These sub-dialects have evolved because of intermarriage, isolation, and language shift.
    3. The only positive aspect of having the many sub-dialects is that it gives each community a uniqueness. On the other hand, having so many sub-dialects causes conflict between communities and even within communities
      1. It is unrealistic to expect to develop instructional materials for all the sub-dialects
      2. Suggest working on developing the five major dialects and making instructional materials for them. [In Saskatchewan it would be the four Isañåi, Ihañktoñwañ, Åitoñwañ, and Hohe.]
  2. Too many writing systems.
    1. There are a number of writing systems that were developed by missionaries working amongst our people in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. These were modified forms of the standard English writing system and have been used extensively.
    2. Since the early 1900’s, linguists have developed writing systems for our language using the International Linguistic Alphabet and modifications of it.
    3. Our own people have made individual endeavours of making writing systems ranging from modifications of 2.1, 2.2, English phonics, and even syllabics.
    4. Having so many different writing systems is causing confusion, conflict between our people, causing inconstancy in what is being taught to students, and making the sharing of instructional and other materials very difficult.
      1. It is unrealistic to develop instructional materials in multiple writing systems.
        1. Instructional materials development should be done in one writing system and that writing system then should be what is used in delivering instruction.
          1. The writing system used should make it easy to go back and forth between English and the language.
          2. Should have only one sound for each letter.
          3. Should clearly mark the sounds which are different than those normally assigned to the letter in English.
          4. Should be consistent with its markings and have a pattern in how the markings are assigned.
        2. The writing system used by SICC does meet the criteria identified above.
  3. Language shift
    1. Traditionally we had a formal way of speaking and an informal way of speaking.
      1. Formal speech was slower, the words were longer, and the sentences were wordier. This was the speech used in council, public speaking, and when interacting with visitors.
      2. Informal speech was faster, a lot of the words were contracted, and the sentences were cut short. This was the speech used in everyday conversation.
      3. We are loosing the formal speech and today people are either speaking a mix of formal and informal or only the informal. Complicating the matter is the fact that many of the speakers today only speak “baby talk.”
        1. The formal speech is what should be used in writing and the development of instructional materials.
          1. We are having a problem though identifying what is formal and what is informal.
    2. Many words are taking on new meanings.
    3. Equally, there are many words which we are no longer using, and because our language is verb based, we’re having difficulty trying to figure out how to work them into the teaching process.
  4. Our language needs to be updated; it is frozen in early 1900’s mode. Also kids have a problem with words having multiple meanings, ie: "to" means both blue and green , "wowaöi" means book, paper, notebook, and letter, and so on.
  5. Our language historically was not a written language and has not been taught in school systems in the same manner that English has been taught. So we need to figure out a process to take a student from being a non-speaker to being able to understand, speak, read and write the language.
    1. We have to remember that in our first language, whatever language that was, we did not start learning by reading and writing. We had five years of developing a comprehension of the language, talking baby talk, and eventually talking a more structured speech before we ever learned how to read and write.
        1. Whatever process we develop has to allow for students to go through that natural process.

 

 
Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre