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Lakota for Beginners

Lakota is a Native American language, spoken by the Sioux Indian tribe in north america. It has two sister languages, Dakota and Nakoda/Nakota, which are variants. They are all understandable to one another - like english speakers in the UK and others in USA or Austrailia understand each other. Altogether, about 25,000 speakers are out there.

Part one of this course is only intended for absolute beginners.

Part One - The Basics

Lesson 1: Pronunciation & Script

Pronunciation

Unlike a lot of other native american groups (The cherokee, Eskimo, Cree), the Lakota don't have one official script. Instead they use variations of the Latin script.

 Vowels
 Letter  Sampa  IPA  Equivalence  Lakota sample
 A a  [ A ]  [ ɑ ]  as a in "father"  luhá
 E e  [ e ]  [ e ]  as e in "step"  he
 I i  [ i ]  [ i ]  as e in "me"  hi
 O o  [ o ]  [ o ]  as o in "hope"  istó
 U u  [ U ]  [ ʊ ]  as oo in "book", aproaching u in "hula"  hu
 Nasal Vowels
 Letter  Sampa  IPA  Equivalence  Lakota sample
   [ ~a ]  [ ã ]  not in English  tohaŋ
   [ ~i ]  [ ĩ ]  not in English  wiŋyaŋ
   [ ~u ]  [ ũ ]  not in English  Nakuŋ
 Consonants
 Letter  Sampa  IPA  Equivalence  Lakota sample
 B b  [ b ]  [ b ]  as b in English "boy"  bluha
 C c  [ tS ]  [ tʃ ]  as ch in English "charlie"  chante
 G g  [ g ]  [ g ]  as g in English "go"  igmu
 gh  [ G ]  [ ɣ ]  as g in Spanish "saguaro"  ghi
 H h  [ h ]  [ h ]  as h in English "hat"  he
 Ĥ ĥ  [ x ]  [ x ]  as ch in Scottish "loch"; aspirated h  tĥozí
 J j  [ z ]  [ ʒ ]  as s in English "pleasure"  janján
 K k  [ k ]  [ k ]  as k in English "kite"  hánska
 L l  [ l ]  [ l ]  as l in English "love"  luhá
 M m  [ m ]  [ m ]  as m in English "moon"  mázaska
 N n  [ n ]  [ n ]  as n in English "no"  éna
 P p  [ p ]  [ p ]  as p in English "peace"  sápa
 S s  [ s ]  [ s ]  as s in English "step"  sápa
 Š š  [ S ]  [ ʃ ]  as sh in English "shop"  šica
 T t  [ t ]  [ t ]  as t in English "today"  tĥípi
 W w  [ w ]  [ w ]  as w in English "wait"  wóze
 Y y  [ j ]  [ j ]  as y in English "you"  yeló
 Z z  [ z ]  [ z ]  as z in English "zoo"  zi

In short, most of the letters are pronounced just like English letters.

Differences between the Lakota scripts
As I said, the Lakota don't have one alphabet, so they have many different latin-based orthographies. So differences may occur between the words in this lesson, and the words in dictionaries/on other pages. Examples:

hotanin / hotaŋiŋ / hótaŋiŋ / hótĥaŋiŋ

These all mean "opinion", and can all be recognized by a Lakota speaker. Some people use many diacretics, some use none. I use them, for clarity in pronunciation.

Examples of Spoken Lakota:

Eháŋni héceš oyáte waŋ igláka áyiŋ na waná étĥipi yuŋkĥáŋ wicáša waŋ tĥawicu kiŋ heciya: "Winúĥca, itĥo wayé mní kte ló" eyá (Audio file)

Ecáš toháŋ waglí šni héhaŋ éna thí po, eyá (Audio file)

Exercises

Exercise A: Read aloud:

1) wówapi
2) sápa
3) waŋblí
4) ská
5) hokšíla
6) tókeca
7) zizípela
8) wíŋyaŋ
9) kóla
10) wíta
11) šápa
12) táŋka
13) wicáša
14) heyóka
15) itáŋcaŋ
16) mahpíya
17) wicíŋcala
18) šuŋka
19) ocágku
20) hogáŋ
21) cíkala
22) wakpá

Lesson 2: Adjectives, Definite Article, Simple Sentences

Adjectives

Unlike English, Lakota modifier-words come after the noun. For example:

ógle tĥó = blue shirt
hótĥaŋiŋ mitáwa = my opinion
šúŋka ská = white dog

Adjectives in Lakota don't decline, neither do nouns, they don't even have plural forms. So by simply putting the adjective after the noun, you've created a modified noun.

ziŋtkála = bird
ziŋtkála cíkala = small bird

Definite Article

The definite article in Lakota is "kiŋ". It comes after the noun. If you are also using an adjective, you put kiŋ after the adjective. It may seem weird, because it's the exact opposite of the English word order:

ziŋtkála kiŋ = the bird
ziŋtkála cíkala kiŋ = the small bird
šúŋka ská = white dog
šúŋka ská kiŋ = the white dog

Simple Sentences

Now see what happens when the definite article kiŋ moves between the noun and the adjective:

Ziŋtkála kiŋ cíkala = The bird is small
Šúŋka kiŋ ská = The dog is white

As you see in the last example, by putting kiŋ in the middle, ská changes from being an adjective (white) to a predicate ([it is] white).


Vocabulary

 hogáŋ  fish
 hokšíla  boy
 kóla  friend
 šuŋka  dog
 waŋblí  eagle
 wicáša  man
 wicíŋcala  girl
 wíŋyaŋ  woman
 wówapi  book
 ziŋtkála  bird
 cíkala  small
 sápa  black
 šápa  dirty
 ská  white
 táŋka  big
 tókeca  strange
 zizípela  thin

Exercises

Each lesson will come with some exercises so you can practice the grammar and vocabulary of the lesson.

Exercise A: Choose the correct Lakota choice for the English meaning:
1) The eagle is white
A. Waŋblí kiŋ ská
B. Waŋblí ská kiŋ

2) The strange boy
A. Hokšíla kiŋ tókeca
B. Hokšíla tókeca kiŋ

3) The boy is strange
A. Hokšíla kiŋ tókeca
B. Hokšíla tókeca kiŋ

4) the small girl
A. Wicíŋcala cíkala kiŋ
B. Wicíŋcala kiŋ cíkala

5) the black book
A. Wówapi kiŋ sápa
B. Wówapi sápa kiŋ

Exercise B: Choose the correct English for the given Lakota:
1) Wicáša kiŋ táŋka
A. The man is big
B. The big man

2) Wíŋyaŋ zizípela kiŋ
A. The woman is thin
B. The thin woman

3) Šúŋka kiŋ šapa
A. The dog is dirty
B. The dirty dog

4) Kóla tókeca kiŋ
A. The friend is strange
B. The strange friend

Challenge:
5) Hogáŋ tókeca kiŋ táŋka
A. The strange, white fish
B. The strange fish is white

Solutions

After you've done the exercises you can check whether your answer is correct using the following solutions:

Solution of Exercise A:
1) A, 2) B, 3) A, 4) A, 5) B

Solution of Exercise A:
1) A, 2) B, 3) A, 4) B
Challenge:
5) B


Lesson 3: Tense, Negation, "To Be"

To Be

There is a verb which means "to be" in Lakota. As you've seen, there are times when it can be omitted - like with adjectives. Whenever verbs in Lakota are listed, they are given in the 3rd-person singular form. In order to form all the other persons and plurals, we use this form as a root.

The verb "to be" is "un". Here is how we conjugate it:

 wa + un = waun  I am
 ya + un = yaun  you are
 un = un  he/she/it is
 un + un + pi = unkunpi*  we are
 ya + un + pi = yaunpi  you all are
 un + pi = unpi  they are
    * when the verb starts with a vowel, un changes to unk

So now we can say things like, Wíŋyaŋ un: She is a woman. Kóla yaun: You are a friend, etc.

NOTE 1: Lakota is an SOV language. Verbs always come last.

NOTE 2: Lakota has an indefinite article (Wan/Wanží) but it is closer to the word "one". It can be omitted.

Negation

To negate a sentence in Lakota, put "šni" at the end of the sentence.

Šuŋka táŋka un = It is a big dog
Šuŋka táŋka un šni = It is not a big dog

Wicáša kiŋ yaun = You're the man
Wicáša kiŋ yaun šni = You are not the man

Ziŋtkála kiŋ cíkala = The bird is small
Ziŋtkála kiŋ cíkala šni = The bird is not small

Past & Future

In Lakota, verbs don't have a past form. So any present-tense verb can also be a past tense. Ex: "waun" can mean "I am" or "I was". Context usually indicates the difference.

However, there is a way to indicate future: by putting "kte" at the end of the sentence.

Wíŋyaŋ un = She is a woman
Wíŋyaŋ un kte = She will be a woman

Hogáŋ kiŋ cíkala = The fish is small
Hogáŋ kiŋ cíkala kte = The fish will be small

Wíŋyaŋ zizípela yaun kte = You will be a thin woman
Wíŋyaŋ zizípela yaun kte šni = You will not be a thin woman

This is fairly simple compared to some european languages which have totally different conjugations. In Lakota, you just have to add a particle to the end.


Vocabulary

 hogáŋ  fish
 hokšíla  boy
 kóla  friend
 šuŋka  dog
 waŋblí  eagle
 wicáša  man
 wicíŋcala  girl
 wíŋyaŋ  woman
 wówapi  book
 ziŋtkála  bird
 heyóka  clown
 itáŋcaŋ  chief
 mahpíya  sky
 ocágku  road
 wíta  island
 wakpá  river
 cíkala  small
 sápa  black
 šápa  dirty
 ská  white
 táŋka  big
 tókeca  strange
 zizípela  thin
 bláha  wide
 cépa  fat
 ksápa  wise
 šíca  bad
 wašté  good
 un  to be
 šni  negation
 kte  future

Exercises

Exercise A: Translate English to Lakota:
1) They are chiefs (remember, nouns don't have plural forms - plural is indicated by the verb)
A. itáŋcaŋ un
B. itáŋcaŋ unpi

2) They are not chiefs
A. itáŋcaŋ unpi šni
B. itáŋcaŋ unpi kte

3) He will be a strange clown
A. heyóka tókeca waun kte
B. heyóka tókeca un kte

4) The river is not wide
A. wakpá kiŋ bláha šni
B. mahpíya kiŋ bláha šni

5) The man won't be wise
A. Wicáša kiŋ ksápa kte šni
B. Wicáša ksápa kiŋ kte šni

Solutions

Solution of Exercise A:
1) B, 2) A, 3) B, 4) A, 5) A


Lesson 4: Stative Verbs (things start to get tough)

Stative Verbs

Well now it's time to dive into some of the harder stuff

In Lakota so far, you know three types of constructions.

Noun + Noun (ex: The friend is a girl, Kóla kiŋ Wicíŋcala)
Noun + Adjective (ex: The fish is small, Hogáŋ kiŋ cíkala)
Pronoun + Noun (ex: She is a girl, Wicíŋcala un)

So logically what comes next? Pronoun + Adjective (ex: I am good). However, here is the problem. You can't say, "wašté waun". You may ask, "why not? 'wašté' means 'good' and 'waun' means 'I-am'". Well here's why: we actually use a different construction, using stative verbs.

A stative verb is a verb like, "To be good" or "To be alive" etc. And actually, most of the adjectives listed here are actually stative verbs too. Here is the conjugation of the stative verb "wašté", (to be good):

 mawašté  I am good
 niwašté  you are good
 wašté  he/she/it is good
 unwaštépi  we are good
 niwaštépi  you (pl) are good
 waštépi  they are good

Notice two things:

  1. The particles used in this verb conjugation are different from the particles used in "un" (to be) and it's conjugation. Stative Verbs conjugate differently, because they're a different verb class.
  2. The particles were added to the beginning of the verb. This doesn't always happen, some conjugate inside (ex: ipuza = to be thirsty, imapuza = I am thirsty). Unfortunately, the conjugation position has to be learned with each verb individually. Whenever I give a stative verb, I'll also give the conjugation position.
  3. So here are some examples of stative verbs:

    Wicáša kiŋ wašté = The man is good
    Wicáša kiŋ waštépi = The men are good
    Hokšíla kiŋ waštépi kte, naíŋš iyómakiphi kte šni = The children will be good, or I will not be happy.

    nicépa = you are fat
    nicépa šni = you are not fat


    Vocabulary

     hogáŋ  fish
     hokšíla  boy
     kóla  friend
     šuŋka  dog
     waŋblí  eagle
     wicáša  man
     wicíŋcala  girl
     wíŋyaŋ  woman
     wówapi  book
     ziŋtkála  bird
     heyóka  clown
     itáŋcaŋ  chief
     mahpíya  sky
     ocágku  road
     wíta  island
     wakpá  river
     cíkala  small
     sápa  black
     šápa  dirty
     ská  white
     táŋka  big
     tókeca  strange
     zizípela  thin
     bláha  wide
     cépa  fat
     ksápa  wise
     šíca  bad
     wašté  good
     ípuza  thirsty (conjugates after "í")
     taŋyáŋ  to be well/healthy
     un  to be
     šni  negation
     kte  future
     na  and
     naíŋš  or

    Exercises

    Exercise A: Translate English to Lakota:
    1) The clowns are strange
    A. heyóka kiŋ tókecapi
    B. heyóka kiŋ tókeca

    2) I am good
    A. wašté waun
    B. mawašté

    3) The eagle is large
    A. Waŋblí kiŋ táŋkapi
    B. Waŋblí kiŋ táŋka

    4) The large eagle is not small
    A. Waŋblí ská kiŋ cíkala šni
    B. Waŋblí kiŋ ská cíkala šni

    5) You (pl) are thirsty
    A. ínipuzapi
    B. niípuzapi

    Exercise B: Translate Lakota to English:
    1) Hokšíla kiŋ waštépi šni
    A. The boy is not good
    B. The boys are not good

    2) Wíŋyaŋ unkunpi
    A. We are women
    B. They are women

    3) nicépa kte šni
    A. You (pl) won't be fat
    B. You won't be fat

    4) Šuŋka táŋka kiŋ šápa šni
    A. The big dog is not black
    B. The big dog is not dirty
    Challenge:
    5) heyóka kiŋ tókeca kte šni
    A. The clown will be strange
    B. The clown is not strange
    C. The clown will not be strange

    Solutions

    Solution of Exercise A:
    1) A, 2) B, 3) B, 4) A, 5) A

    Solution of Exercise B:
    1) B, 2) A, 3) B, 4) B, 5) C


    Lesson 5: 3rd Singular Object, 3rd Plural Object, Continual Action

    Introduction:
    Lakota verbs are different from verbs in European languages because they indicate both subject and object. This means that a sentence like, "I love you" can be said in one word: "Tecíhila". Then other times when you need to say something like, "I have the horse" you literally say, "Horse the I-have-it". It's a difference from other (non-indigenous) languages.

    3rd Singular Object

    When taught verbs, Lakota students learn the "3rd person singular object form", which in simpler terms means that the receiver of the action is "him/her/it". This is learnt first, because from this form, the others can be constructed.

    And guess what? We use the same particles as the verb "un" (to be) uses. Take the verb "ciŋ" (want) for example.

    waciŋ = I want it
    yaciŋ = you want it
    ciŋ = he* wants it
    unciŋpi = we want it
    yaciŋpi = you all want it
    ciŋpi = they want it

    Note 1: Lakota makes no distinction between gender. So "he" can also be "she", "it" can also be "him/her"

    Note 2: Like Stative Verbs/Adjectives, not all verbs conjugate at the end. Some conjugate inside, like "tehila" (to love) ⇒ "tewahila". If they conjugate inside, I will note it.

    Some examples (remember, Lakota = SOV order):

    Wicíŋcala kiŋ hokšíla tehíla = The girl loves the boy
    Wicíŋcala kiŋ tewahíla = I love the girl

    Šuŋka táŋka kiŋ unciŋpi šni = We don't want the big dog.

    Heyóka kiŋ wówapi ciŋpi kte = The clowns will want the book
    (lit: Clown the book they-want-it future)

    3rd Plural Object

    When referring to a 3rd plural object (IE, anything that can be replaced by "them" in English, 'I see the horses' ⇒ 'I see them', for example) you must add the particle "wica" to the front of the verb particle.

    For example, here's the verb "ciŋ" (to want) from the last lesson. Remember! The 3rd-singular object form (which was explained in the last lesson) is the form which we construct all the others from. By adding "wica" to the front of particles, you are indicating a 3rd-person plural object.

    wicawaciŋ = I want them
    wicayaciŋ = you want them
    wicaciŋ = he wants them
    wicunciŋpi = we want them *
    wicayaciŋpi = you all want them
    wicaciŋpi = they want them

    * Wica + Un = Wicun. The "-a" from "wica" is dropped.

    The same conjugation rule applies if the verb conjugates inside. "tehíla" = "to love", and conjugates after "te".

    tewicawahíla = I love them
    tewicayahíla = You love them
    tewicahíla = He/she/it loves them
    tewicunhílapi = we love them
    tewicayahílapi = You all love them
    tewicahílapi = they love them

    Usually adding "wica" will tell you if the object is plural or not:

    Wicíŋcala kiŋ tewahíla = I love the girl
    (lit: girl the I-love-her)

    Wicíŋcala kiŋ tewicawahíla = I love the girls
    (lit: girl the I-love-them)

    Continual Action

    In order to express Continuous action (ex: "I am walking" instead of "I walk"), Lakota uses the particle "han" at the end of a verb.

    wówapi kiŋ wayáwa = I read the book (yáwa = read)
    wówapi kiŋ wayáwahan = I am reading the book

    If the verb has "pi" at the end, then "han" comes before "pi"

    škátapi = they play
    škátahanpi = they are playing

    Remember that anything in the present tense can also be past. So: "škátahanpi" they are playing can also mean "they were playing". This is similar to the imperfect form in Spanish: "jugaban".


    Vocabulary

     hogáŋ  fish
     hokšíla  boy
     kóla  friend
     šuŋka  dog
     waŋblí  eagle
     wicáša  man
     wicíŋcala  girl
     wíŋyaŋ  woman
     wówapi  book
     ziŋtkála  bird
     heyóka  clown
     itáŋcaŋ  chief
     iyapi  language
     mahpíya  sky
     ocágku  road
     wíta  island
     wakpá  river
     ciŋcá  child
     péta  fire
     cíkala  small
     sápa  black
     šápa  dirty
     ská  white
     táŋka  big
     tókeca  strange
     zizípela  thin
     bláha  wide
     cépa  fat
     ksápa  wise
     šíca  bad
     wašté  good
     kan  old
     ípuza  thirsty (conjugates after "í")
     taŋyáŋ  to be well/healthy
     ciŋ  to want
     slolyá  to know (conjugates after "slol")
     tehíla  to love (conjugates after "te")
     Un  to be
     wóglake  to speak (conjugates after "wo")
     yáwa  to read
     škáta  to play
     ókiya  to help (conguates after "ó")
     šni  negation
     kte  future
     éyas  but
     na  and
     naíŋš  or
     icíŋ  because
     héoŋ  so, therefore

    Exercises

    Exercise A: Translate English to Lakota:
    1) We know the language
    A. Iyapi kiŋ slolunyépi
    B. Iyapi kiŋ unslolyépi

    2) Tom loves a clown
    A. Tom heyóka tehíla
    B. Tom heyóka tewahíla

    3) The smalls boys speak a strange language
    A. Hokšíla cíkalapi kiŋ Iyapi tókeca wóglakepi
    B. Hokšíla cíkala kiŋ Iyapi tókeca wóglakepi

    4) The boys are small (review question)
    A. Hokšíla kiŋ cíkala
    B. Hokšíla kiŋ cíkalapi

    5) You love the girl
    A. Wicíŋcala kiŋ teyahíla
    B. Wicíŋcala kiŋ tewahíla

    Exercise B: Translate English to Lakota:
    1) hokšíla kiŋ ówicawakiya
    A. They help the boys
    B. I help the boys

    2) Iyapi kiŋ wówicaglake
    A. He speaks the languages
    B. They speak the languages

    3) Iyapi kiŋ wówicaglakepi
    A. He speaks the languages
    B. They speak the languages

    4) Wówapi kiŋ yayáwahan
    A. You are reading the book
    B. You read the book

    Challenge (I highlighted woman/women because they are spelled close and might've been confusing)
    5) Wíŋyaŋ kanpi kiŋ ówicunkiyahanpi
    A. We are helping the old woman
    B. We help the old women
    C. We are helping the old women
    D. We help the old woman

    Solutions

    Solution of Exercise A:
    1) A, 2) A, 3) A, 4) B, 5) A

    Solution of Exercise B:
    1) B, 2) A, 3) B, 4) A, 5) C


    End Of Part One

    This is the end of part one.

    Thanks for your interest in this course! If you discovered any mistakes or you just want to say something then please let us know . We do need feedback!

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