writing system used by SICC draws its origin from the States.
In the 1970’s and early 1980’s Sinte Gleska University,
Oglala Lakota College, and Black Hills State University initiated
an endeavour to standardise the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota writing system
and other aspects of the language. Over a ten period meetings
were held on a regular basis. For each meeting invitations were
extended to all the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota tribes, schools, institutions
teaching the language, and others working with the language. Each
session lead to extensive discussion and debate with regard to
standardisation and teaching. Often the debates were very heated.
Finally in 1982/1984 consensus was reached.
of the Writing System
To reduce the confusion caused by having many different writing
2) To develop consistency in what is being taught to students.
(ie: that each teacher will teach and use the same writing system.)
3) To develop a practical layman’s writing system that non-speakers
can use without becoming confused. The new writing system should
clearly distinguish which consonants have a sound that is different
than the sound that is commonly known for it in English and each
letter should represent only sound. (ie: so students don’t
confuse ©añ with can
or waßþe with waste,
etc) Also it should allow students to go back and forth between
the language and English with ease.
*The writing system used by linguists is complex and confusing.
Further it is not what is used everyday, even for writing English.
*Writing systems, such as Paul War Cloud Grant’s, that attempt
to write the language based on English phonetics are more confusing
because English does not have all the sounds our language has.
*The Dakota/Nakota/Lakota writing system developed by Riggs (published
in 1854), is not based on linguistics and has been used extensively.
It has been the base for nearly all the other writing systems.
(ie: Buechel) Therefore it should be the base of the new writing
system and an endeavour should be made to address the shortcomings
of the Riggs writing system. (ie: distinguish between the 3 kinds
of c, the 4 kinds of k, the 4 kinds of p, and the four kinds of
4) To develop consistency in the spelling of words.
5) To make it possible to share teaching materials.
Other than to develop a writing system, the other objectives were
never achieved. To this day, nearly every teacher has his or her
own way of writing and materials are still being produced in a
wide variety of writing systems.
Marking on the letters:
Historically some teachers tried to minimize the number letters
with added marks because it was difficult to make the markings
on a regular typewriter. But today with computers this does not
pose a problem.
2) Some teachers believe that the markings on the letters make
it more difficult to learn the language and they use few markings,
with the intent of making things easier for the student. But by
not marking the letters that sound different than in English,
the students become confused. In analysis it would make much more
sense for the students to take a week or two to memorize the letters
with the markings than to struggle with the uncertainty of which
sound should be made to pronounce a word and with the confusion
that is caused when the letters are not marked.
Dakota Nations of Canada
1985 when Dakota Nations of Canada undertook to do curriculum
development, one of the first issues addressed was the selection
of a writing system to use. At that time, it was decided to use
the writing system sited, with a slight modification. The grave
accent mark is used to mark the s which makes the sh sound and
c which makes the ch sound. Computer fonts were developed for
it and it was used for all of the DNC publications.
the agreement was made between SICC and DNC in 1991 to create
a Dakota/Nakota/Lakota developer position at the Centre, the writing
system was adopted by the Centre. All publications produced by
the Centre in Dakota/Nakoda/Lakota, since then, have been done
in this writing system.
of the Writing System
Utilises the standard roman orthography used by English.
2) It is a modified form of the Riggs Dakota/Nakota/Lakota orthography
published in 1854. Therefore the older people who learned how
to read and write from missionaries are able to follow along with
this writing system.
3) Each consonant has only one sound. The issue as to whether
the vowels have more than one sound has yet to be resolved.
4) The assignment of markings to the letters is consistent and
follows a pattern which makes it easy for them to be learned.
5) Consonants that have sounds which are equivalent to the sound
that English commonly assigns to it, have no markings. These are:
B, d, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, s, t, w, y,
6) Consonants which have an unaspirated sound, which is only found
rarely in English or not found in English are marked with a line
above the letter. Unaspirated k’s, p’s and t’s
are many in Dakota/Nakota/Lakota but most writing systems do not
distinguish them from the regular aspirated form, which causes
a lot of confusion.
These are: ¤, ú, ö,
¤ - is a sound mid way between
the English j and ch – it does not exist in English –
it is found in words like ©isþiñna
ú - is a sound found mid
way between the English g and k – it only exists in a very
few English words – an example is when you say the English
word skill – you hear somewhat of a g sound – but
it is not a true g and its not a k.
ö – is sound found mid
way between b and p – this also only exists in a very few
English words – an example is the English word spill –
you hear somewhat of a b sound but it is not a true b and its
not a p.
þ- is a sound mid way between
d and t –again there are very few English words with this
sound – an example is the English word still – your
hear somewhat of a d sound but it is not a true d sound and its
not a t sound – this is sound used in words like þuwe,
7) Consonants which have a velarized or guttural sound, are not
found in English. These are marked with a dot above the letter.
These are: Ð, ü, í, ó,
8) Consonants which have a glottal stop following them or make
stopped sound, a marked with an accent mark following the letter.
These are: É,,ø,×,
á, ¡, ç, and æ.
9) Most writing systems write the ch sound with just a c. This
causes a lot of confusion for beginners and children who have
to work with both languages. In the original Riggs orthography,
this sound was marked with a grave accent above the letter c.
It is represented this way in the writing system: ¢©.
10) Most writing systems do mark the s that gives the sh sound,
but there is inconsistency as to what marking is used. For consistency
in this writing system it is marked with a grave accent above
the s. Therefore both sounds, which typically are written as a
consonant blend in English, have a grave accent above them. It
is represented this way in the writing system: §ß.
11) The voiced equivalent to the sh sound or zh was represented
by a j in the original Riggs orthography and is represented as
such in a number of other writing systems. Some writing systems
however represent it by a z with a dot above it or below it or
with a grave accent above it. The j is preferred by many of the
older people, therefore it is represented with a j in this writing
12) The five oral or regular vowels continue to be represented
as they were in Riggs’s original work: a,
e, I, o, and u.
13) In the Riggs orthography a long tailed n is used to represent
the nasal sound of the nasal vowels. This is common in a number
of the writing systems that are not based on the international
linguistic alphabet. Those writing systems make a nasal symbol
below the vowel. There are however a number of writing systems
and published works that just use a regular n, which causes confusion.
In this writing system, the nasal vowels are represented as follows:
Añ. eñ, iñ, oñ,
14) The writing system represents all the consonant sounds that
exist in the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota language, so it can be used
by any dialect and can accommodate the various spellings of words.
It should be noted that issues pertaining to which sounds are
actually contained in a word, technically are not a writing system
issue. They are a phonics and/or spelling issue.