2008-11-13 / The Holy Road

Ten studies in the alphabet of the Lakota language

Dear Editor:

Some Europeans are studying the Lakota language earnestly ever since Hennepin compiled a list of "Siouan" languages about 1680. The earliest vocabulary is that of the "naudowessie," Dakota, in "Carver's Travels printed in 1778. On July 9, Wednesday, two men Messrs. Wilhem Maya and Jan Ullrich presented their study of the Lakota in book form not printed for commercial sales but, most importantly, their 37-letter alphabet.

They came into the tribal council chambers on the July 9 to present their findings. I thanked them for their interest in the Titunwun Lakota language and for letting me have a copy of their alphabet of the Lakota language.

To put the Ullrich and Maya studying perspective, recounting past studies from 1852 to 1994 is called for here.

Staying on the alphabets, these studies have come up with, the following, the person or persons who worked on these studies, and the number of letters they identified: 1852, Mr. Stephan Return Riggs, 30 letters; 1902, Mr. John P. Williamson, 32 letters; 1939, Mr. Eugene Buechel, 55 letters; 1971, Mr. Joseph S. Karol and Stephen L. Rozman, 37 letters; 1975, Mr. William K. Powers, 36 letters; 1976, Mr. Allen Taylor and David Rood, 37 letters; 1984, Mr. Robert Bungee, 38 Letters; 1994, Mr. Albert White Hat, 40 letters.

Ms. Ella Deloria's extensive work and her orthography is noted here with Mr. David Rood's report of her orthograohy.

If Mr. Rood is correct in his information, Ms. Deloria's letters also lack one sound each in k, p, and t. If that be the case, hers would be the same as Roodand Taylor's alphabet of 1976.

This now the 2008 Ullrich and Maya study comes forth with 37 letters.

This all studies re examined herein lack from a high of eleven letters to a low of one, so that all are found in need of one or more meaningful sounds.

Buechel's 55 letters is explained by pointing out that he has six too many consonants and eleven too many vowels, going too far by 17 unneeded sounds but lacking d. Buechel has identified only 38 of my 41-letter Lakota alphabet.

In truth these 10 alphabets put forward using English letters. Only the circle, half circle letters could be called the original Lakota Alphabet of 41 unique letters because they cover the 41 sounds used to speak Lakota completely and fluently.

Mr. Ullrich is German as he told me but Mr. Maya was silent about his nationality but he looked to be European.

It's nice that they are studying Lakota varying their grammar, syntax and the outer and different limits of semantics.

As I have explained before in other writings - no two languages explain "social reality" in the same way. But speaking two languages opens up a new world of understanding and peace.

If I can speak and write English quite well and still retain my Lakota Language world view, then others can too. In a multilingual world there is no better place to be than to speak and to write two languages fluently.
Leroy C. Curley
Wicahpi Wanjila
Eagle Butte, S.D.

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