sioux languages include the Lakota (or Lakhota), Dakota, and Nakota dialects
The Sioux Language Dialects
The Souix language, also known as the Dakotan language, is an amalgam of three groups of seven different tribes (known as the Great Sioux Nation) that speak three different languages, with several dialects among them. The Siouan languages are a family of Native American languages indigenous to North America.
Dakotan languages/varieties are often classified according to their reflexes of Proto-Siouan *R (some r-like sound, but distinct from Proto-Siouan *r). Santee and Yankton-Yanktonai are both d varieties (showing a reflex of d for *R, and thus pronouncing their autonym as dakhóta), while Lakota is a l variety (pronouncing their autonym Lakhóta).
The Siouan languages are a living language group that is endangered
The Sioux language has been found in printed form more often than any other native american language except Cherokee. The Sioux language is still spoken daily by more than 26,000 Sioux in Northern Nebraska, Southern Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Northeastern Montana, and two provences in Canada. Still, these languages are considered to be endangered, since more than half the Sioux people no longer speak their language fluently.
The three major groups of Sioux were known as the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota, which each consisted of several smaller tribes. These groups were regional, and the Sioux languages they spoke were also regional, and included several dialects. The Dakota and Nakota languages are directly associated with one another in the family of Siouan languages, and are made up of quite a few sub-dialects.
The Sioux languages have the ability to express a thought or idea uniquely, in its own way, and that thought or idea cannot be replicated properly in any other language, especially the English language. There is also a male and female voice in the Sioux language, represented by different syllables used at the end of words, and also differences depending on the age of the speaker and the age and kinship relationship of the person being spoken to.
In the mid 19th century, some time after the Europeans settled in the region, Presbyterian missionaries developed a standard Sioux alphabet. This enabled nearly all Sioux men to read and to compose in their native Sioux language. There is a great deal of Christian literature, as well as school texts and dictionaries composed entirely in Sioux.
Other Sioux language forms
The Sioux also used "word pictures" and hand signals referred to as "sign language." Word pictures could be simple or complex, and there were many of them. For example, some simple word pictures would be a picture of a cornstalk means maize (corn). A beaver represents animal called beaver. A tepee with grass around it represents snow. A star with a line coming out of it means somebody saw a meteor.
More complex word pictures represented complex actions, some of them very long phrases. A drawing of what most of us now think of as a tic-tac-toe board represented an Indian escaped the enemy by hiding behind a small hill. A tepee with horse prints outside the front means there are so many bison that they make tracks outside the tepee. A tepee with two arrows sticking out of it represents the Dakota tribe demolished a Shoshoni village. Two Indians fighting means the fight between the Dakotas and the Crow. A horse shoe represents a horse thieve. There are hundreds of word pictures with universal meanings to the Sioux people.
Sign language was a universal language practiced among many different tribes who spoke languages that were unintelligible to each other, including the Sioux, and were used a lot in trading negotiations along trade routes. For example, to count, you did not just hold up a bunch of fingers. Each finger had a specific value, and by combining the fingers raised, you could communicate complex numbers. Starting with the pinky finger on the left hand, you had a value of one, the left ring finger was two, and so on. So if you held up your left pinky and the pointer finger on your right hand, you were indicating the number seventeen.
The way common items were presented represented differing relationships. For example, crossed arrows indicated friendship, arrows laid side by side represented a temporary alliance, and breaking an arrow represented rejecting friendship.
Browse the articles in the left column to learn more about the Sioux language.