Lakota

Lakota.  By Bruce Ingham. (Languages of the world/materials 426.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2003. Pp. v, 113. ISBN 3895868493. $52.64.

Reviewed by Shahrzad Mahootian, Northeastern Illinois University

This book presents a descriptive overview of Lakota, one of three closely related Siouxan dialects that include Dakota and Nakota, as Ingham explains in the introductory remarks. The grammar is divided into five sections: ‘Phonology’, ‘Morphology’, ‘Syntax’, ‘Semantics and lexical usage’, and ‘Texts’.

’Phonology’, though brief (3–7), provides a thorough inventory of the phones in Lakota, beginning with the eight vowels. Consonants, syllabics, and stress are also covered, leading to phonological processes (Section 1.5) and phonological variants (1.6). The phonology section ends with a short paragraph on sound symbolism.

‘Morphology’, which is organized into thirteen sections, each with its own subsections (8–72), constitutes the bulk of this grammatical sketch and rightfully so, since Lakota is a language that ‘relies heavily on morphology for all its grammatical functions’ (8). The section on the verb, Section 4, is the lengthiest, with fourteen subsections addressing verb classes and the personal pronoun prefixes associated with them; valency; instrumental, locative, and indefinite patient prefixes; nonfinite verb forms; motion verbs; combination and complex verbs; and auxiliary verbs.

The sixty-five pages devoted to morphology are filled with helpful examples of the morphemes under discussion. The glosses in most cases are in the form of an equivalent English translation. Near the end of this section, I provides morpheme-by-morpheme glosses and then gives the translation. The latter format is far superior to the former, especially for a language so vastly different from English.

‘Syntax’ follows the helpful morpheme-by-morpheme glossing method as it goes through the structure of simple and complex sentences, noun incorporation, and noun phrase structure. I concludes the grammatical overview of Lakota with a brief section on semantic features and verbs of being. In the last section, he presents four texts in Lakota from the Bushotter papers, dating back to the 1890s, with morpheme-by-morpheme glosses and full English translations. These texts provide a welcome glimpse into the Lakota culture.

The three appendices on tribal names, Lakota names for items of white culture, and the Lakota time system are interesting and informative, and present additional cultural dimensions.

The descriptive nature of Lakota makes it a useful book for linguists interested in comparative studies as well as serious students of the Lakota language (to be used as a supplemental grammar text). I’s style is clear, concise, and accessible. The many examples he provides for each grammatical feature make it easy to follow as the reader is taken deeper into the complexities of this language.