Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

Regina Blass

Abstract

The Lakota language in western South Dakota is spoken by a people group with a rich cultural and religious heritage. The Lakota language, still spoken by elderly Lakota people, is slowly vanishing as the majority of people in younger generations are no longer learning Lakota and with it the semantic knowledge of how Lakota speakers view the world. This study was completed to gather semantic information about the animals that bilingual Lakota English speakers name in English and in Lakota.

An additional objective of this study was to develop normative data for the Lakota people on phonemic (letter P) and semantic (animal) verbal fluency tasks in Lakota and in English. Verbal fluency tasks are commonly used in the medical field as a way to evaluate and treat neurological impairments such as stroke or brain injury. Without having this normative data, medical professionals are forced to compare the number of responses by the Lakota people to monolingual English speakers.

Ninety-six participants, fifty-three monolingual English and forty-three bilingual Lakota English speakers, were asked to complete phonemic and semantic verbal fluency tasks in English and also in Lakota for Lakota English speakers. Results revealed Lakota speakers name more words in English than in Lakota on both tasks, and they do not name as many English P words during phonemic tasks as monolingual English speakers do. Four common animals, dog, cat, horse, and cow, were named in the top ten most frequently occurring animals by all three groups, but differences were seen among the groups as well.

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