choose a language or topic »|Tuesday, October 17, 2017
You are here: Home » Editors Picks » Siouan Language Family
  • Follow Us!

Siouan Language Family 

siouan

The Siouan language family is primarily spoken today in the American Great Plains and in the southern part of Canada. It originally consisted of 17 languages, of which many are either extinct or severely endangered today. Linguists think that the Siouan people migrated over a thousand years ago from North Carolina and Virginia to Ohio. Some went down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and up to the Missouri rivers, while others crossed Ohio on their way to Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Canada. The reasons for the migration are not known. The name Sioux is a truncation of a longer form Nadouessioux, the Ojibwa pejorative term for Siouan people.

According to Ethnologue, the Siouan language family has the following membership:

Catawba
Catawba extinct South Carolina
Siouan Proper
Central
Mandan probably extinct North Dakota
Iowa-Oto extinct Oklahoma, Kansas
Assiniboine 250 Canada
Dakota (Sioux) 15,355 Nebraska, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, Canada.
Lakota 6,000 Nebraska, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, Canada
Stoney 1,000 to 1,500 southern Alberta, Canada
Kansa probably extinct Oklahoma
Omaha-Ponca severely endangered Nebraska (Omaha), and Oklahoma (Ponca)
Osage probably extinct Oklahoma
Quapaw severely endangered Oklahoma
Ho-Chunk
(Winnebago)
230 Wisconsin, Nebraska

Missouri Valley
Crow 4,280 Montana
Hidatsa severely endangered North Dakota

Southeastern
Biloxi extinct Mississippi
Ofo extinct Mississippi
Tutelo extinct Mississippi

 

Status
The great majority of Siouan languages are either already extinct or on the brink of extinction. CatawbaMandanIowa-OtoKansa OsageBiloxiOfo, and Tutelo are already extinct. Only DakotaLakotaStoney, and Crow have over 1,000, and only Dakota has over 10,000 speakers.

  • Dakota
    of the 15,000 speakers of Dakota, there were only 31 are monolinguals, according to the 1990 census (Ethnologue).
  • Crow
    Majority of older Crow people speak the language, but no young children do.
  • Hidatsa
    Only a few elders speak Hidatsa today, but but some young people are trying to learn their ancestral language.
  • Ho-Chunk 
    The language has been in decline but there is a vigorous language revival program underway.
  • Omaha-Ponca
    Most speakers are elders, but some young people are working to keep their ancestral language alive. Omaha-Ponca Population includes 60 speakers of Omaha (1993 V. Zeps), and 25 fluent speakers over 60 and a few semi-fluent speakers of Ponca.
  • Osage
    Only a handful of elders in Oklahoma still speak the Osage language today, but some young people are trying to learn their native language. In 1997, there were 5 speakers of Osage out of an ethnic population of 15,000.

Siouan words in English
Three states have names that came from Siouan languages.

Dakota from the name of a Siouan people.
Minnesota from Dakota mnisota, “cloudy water, milky water,” in reference to the Minnesota River.
Kansas variant of Kansa, native name of a Siouan people

 

Dialects

There is some disagreement about whether some Siouan languages are separate languages of dialects of the same language.

  • Dakota and Lakota are so closely related that some linguists consider them dialects of the same language. There are some differences in pronunciation, but speakers can usually understand each other.
  • Stoney and Assiniboine are closely related, but people speaking them cannot understand each other well, so despite their similarities, most linguists consider them separate languages.

Structure

Sound system
Consonants and vowels usually alternate in Siouan languages. Clusters do not exceed two consonants and usually occur at the beginning of words. Most words end in a vowel.

Vowels

Siouan languages usually have both oral and nasal vowels. For example, Lakota has five oral and three nasal vowels. An oral vowel is a vowel in which all air escapes through the mouth. In nasal vowels, some of the air travels escapes the nasal cavity as well in addition to the mouth.

Consonants
Siouan languages have a large inventory of consonants that feature aspirated/ unaspirated, voiced/voiceless, geminatedglottalized and ejective sounds.

Grammar
The most important word in all Siouan languages is the verb. All the other parts of the sentence are built around it. Siouan verbs carry affixes that refer to participants, i.e., the subject, direct object, or indirect object. Siouan languages form compound verbs by prefixing a noun, an adverb, or another verb to the basic root, e.g., waya’wa “to attend school” + gli‘ “to come home” produces a compound verb stem waya’wa-gli‘ “to have come home from school.”

Verbs fall into several classes according to their participant types: impersonal (no participants), stative (one object), active intransitive (one subject), transitive (subject and direct object), and ditransitive (subject, direct object, indirect object).

Word order
The basic word order is Subject-Object-Verb.

Vocabulary
Siouan languages tend not to borrow words from other languages. Instead, they make new words from native elements. For example, the Lakota word for “sugar” is c^haNhaN’pi“, literally “tree juice”.

Below are the numbers 1-10 in three of the largest Siouan languages.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Dakota
wancha
nonpa
yamni
topa
zaptan
s’akpe
s’akowin
s’ahdoghan
napchinwanka
wikchemna
Lakota
wanji
nupa
yamni
topa
zaptan
s’akpe
s’akowin
s’aglohan
nepchunka
wikchemna
Crow
hawate
nupe
dawi
cope
tsexo
akawa
sa’pua
nupu’pi
a’pie
pireke

Below are some common words in these three languages.

Dakota
Lakota
Crow
man
wicaa
wica
bacheé
woman
winyan
winyan
sun
wi
wi
áxxaashe
moon
hanwi
hanyewi
bilítaachiia
water
mini
mini
bilé

Writing

All Siouan languages are written with various adaptations of the Roman alphabet devised by Christian missionaries. To date, most orthographies have not been standardized. Most orthographies do not accurately represent the sound systems of the Siouan languages.

The printed literature in Siouan languages includes religious works, school textbooks, grammars, and dictionaries, and a variety of other publications.

Difficulty

Language Difficulty
questionHow difficult is it to learn Siouan languages?
There is no data.

3 Responses to Siouan Language Family

  1. novoline tricks 2013

    My spouse and I stumbled over here different page and thought I might
    as well check things out. I like what I see so now i am
    following you. Look forward to going over your web page repeatedly.

     
    • Irene Thompson

      Glad to see you are interested in all things language.

       
  2. Gary Ashley

    This is very interesting I’ve tried to learn Lakota because it is part of my ancestry it has helped me better understand and I have had alot of misconception cleared up. One example is the term Great Spirit should have been translated as Great mystery. Which gives me a different view point on how the people felt

     

Add a Comment