The Lakota Language Consortium (LLC), a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of Lakota language and culture, has released the New Lakota Dictionary, and an accompanying updated, free app that enables Lakota speakers of all ages – and especially youth – to hear the language spoken.
In a press release, LLC said the impetus for releasing the expanded dictionary now is the fact that Native American languages have experienced serious decline at extremely high rates.
“Lakota people and linguists, however, took action over 20 years ago to start documenting the language out of concern for further decline,” the nonprofit said. “Since the mid-1950s, Native Americans have experienced accelerated language loss. To exacerbate the issue, the last generation of first language speakers are largely now in their 70s and soon, younger generations won’t have access to their knowledge and wisdom.”
LLC said that the new dictionary and app has 50 percent more words and phrases than the first edition, and that more than 400 native speakers were interviewed for content.
“When it comes to preserving our language, the New Lakota Dictionary is a game-changer in so many ways,” says Alex FireThunder, deputy director of LLC. “It is an essential tool in how we can ensure our language is passed down from one generation to the next. The dictionary honors our ancestors and speakers and enables them to share our beautiful language with the next generation in a profound and enduring way.”
LLC said that the New Lakota Dictionary was inspired by the early work of the first trained Lakota linguist, Ella Deloria, and was developed from the transcription of narratives and conversations with first language speakers. Additionally, LLC used a rigorous method to corroborate words and phrases, resulting in an “encyclopedia” of both language and culture. Linguists used technology and software to accelerate this process and the creation of apps and other accessible tools.
“The New Lakota Dictionary exponentially expands the breadth and depth with which people can now express themselves in Lakota,” says Wil Meya, executive director of LLC. “It demonstrates the power of technology, which enables us to fast forward the work – and art – of language preservation and revitalization. The app itself holds enormous power to connect youth with their heritage and vibrant Native language.”