with some audio samples
|| Pronunciation guides for
vowels || Consonants || Pronunciation
guides for consonants
Voiced and unvoiced stops || Sound symbolism
Interested in learning Lakota directly?
David Little Elk, certified Lakota Language & Culture Teacher, author of the Lakota Language book & CD method Cante Etanhan Owoglake (Speaking From The Heart) and the Lakota Culture book Wicoh'an Otehike (The Difficult Path), has just announced the inauguration of his Wakinyan Kiza Lakota Online Academy, where he offers direct one-to-one instruction. Highly recommended!
In the Lakota language it is essential to understand pronunciation in order to fully express emotions and to make a statement with feeling. Feelings are important in language. We can say a thousand words and not mean a single one if our feelings are not in it. Whether listening to English or Lakota speakers, you can tell when they effectively use their language because you can feel their feelings.
In addition to emotions and feelings, language reflects environment. It expresses philosophy. It affirms spirituality. It supports music, dances, good times, sad times. All those feelings are held within it. It is the life-force of the culture.
Albert White Hat Sr., "Reading and Writing the Lakota Language"
In this section:
|| Pronunciation guides for vowels
Consonants || Pronunciation guides for consonants
Voiced and unvoiced stops || Sound symbolism
Language Section Index:
Spelling & Pronunciation || Vocabulary
Interrogative words || Commands || Audio samples
A reservation conversation || Main page || Español
Site index || Main page || Español
words have links to audio samples in mp3 format.
You will need an mp3 player, such as WinAmp.
Many thanks to Konstantin Hmelnitski for his kind collaboration.
Overall pronunciation guide:
The stress or accent in Lakhota words is:
Some words have the same spelling, but different intonations change the word's meaning, and therefore accents are important. Here, a stressed syllable will be marked with an acute accent. For example: pahá (hills), táku (what, something). Words without a visible accent are stressed on the second syllable.
There are eight
vowels in Lakhota, of which five are basic:
And three are nasal:
Pronunciation guides for vowels:
There are 32 Lakhota consonants:
Pronunciation guides for consonants:
p, t, c, k are like English p in spit, t in stack, ch in latch, k in ski. They are never aspirated (accompanied with a puff of air), as in pity, tack, chew, and keep. For example: Pahá Sápa (Black Hills), he táku he? (what's this?), he wicáwala shni! (I don't believe him/that!), shíca (bad), kilákhota kte h^cin (a "wannabe").
These are the consonants p, t, c, and k plus aspiration. Rood&Taylor (authors of "Colorado University Lakhota Project") transcribe these consonants as ph, th, ch, and kh. Native speakers use either an apostrophe resembling the little c ( p‘, t‘, c‘, k‘) or do not show aspiration at all. They write Wakan Tanka instead of WakhaN' ThaN'ka or Wak‘an T‘anka.
Aspiration is heavy (h^-like) before a, an, o, and un. For example: pha (head), thánka (big), Lakhóta, thunkáshila (grandfather). It is soft (h-like) before i, in, and u. For example: pilámayaye (thank you), nuphín (both), khúje (sick). Aspiration is always soft after c. For example: chatká (left-hand(ed)), chetán (hawk), machúwita (I feel cold).
There are many
words in Lakhota whose meaning depends on the aspiration and accent.
The consonants c, h^, k, p, s, sh, and t can be uttered with a glottal stop, which is a pause in breathing, a consonant pronounced alone without the aid of a vowel, and accompanied with an intense outburst of air. Here it is depicted with an apostrophe ('). For example: p'o (fog), t'e (he/she is dead), chic'ú (I gave you that), mak'ú wo (give me that, man speaking), wash'áka (strong).
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