New Lakota Dictionary contains over 20,000 new entries

Lee Strubinger | SDPB | December 16, 2022

Lakota Language Consortium Deputy Director Alex FireThunder holds the new edition of Lakota Dictionary

The Lakota Language consortium is debuting a new edition of its New Lakota Dictionary.

This third edition contains 20,000 more entries than its predecessor.

The previous New Lakota Dictionary was published over a decade ago.

Alex FireThunder is Oglala Lakota and the Deputy Director of the Lakota Language Consortium. He says Lakota is a living language and continues to evolve.

“We’ll continue to develop new words for things that we have in our life. There’s a word for cell phone. There’s a word for computer. There’s a word for car,” FireThunder said. “A lot of words that we consider old words were new words at one time. A word for wagon, clocks, those are all pretty old words that were coined by our ancestors.”

The language of the Oceti Sakowin is an oral language, meaning it was never written down until the 1800s. FireThuder says other words and phrases had been around for generations and are only now being documented.

“I found this word in an old rabbit dance song, it says ‘imacuka,’ and that’s conjugated to the first person. The third person would be ‘icuka,'” FireThunder said. “It means to have a taking or a liking for somebody. That was in an old love song.”

Many children fluent Lakota/Dakota and Nakota were chided for speaking their language during the boarding school era. Most fluent speakers are now elders.

FireThunder said he wants to see the dictionary get put to good use.

“My hope is that these words leave these pages,” FireThunder said. “These words are here for everybody to access. But, my hope is that they use them. Use them and speak them. Speak the life into them.”

The Lakota Language Consortium is also announcing new changes to its language app, which they hope will entice the younger generation to communicate with elders.

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