Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Daniel Kaufman

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Communication | Comparative Literature | Discourse and Text Linguistics | Language Description and Documentation | Language Interpretation and Translation | Linguistics | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures


communications, discourse analysis, linguistics, Lakota language, poetics, ethnopoetics


This master’s thesis is a discourse analysis of a traditional Lakota story, " Iktó na wičhá ha kiŋ”, or “Ikto and the Racoon Skin”, one of the 64 stories included in the “Dakota Texts”, which were collected by Ella Deloria at three Lakota reservations in 1930s as a part of Franz Boas’ language documentation project. The thesis is also an attempt to examine different communicative strategies employed within the narrative and their relationship to culture, as well as the relationship between form and the transfer of meaning and culture and meaning. The analysis is conducted using Dell Hymes’ ethnographic approach to discourse analysis, based on which many different fields of research, such as anthropology, linguistics, psychology, semiotics and poetics, among others, work together for the purpose of the analysis, since communication is viewed as dependent on many factors being a part of community life. The methods employed by ethnopoetics were also used during my analysis and the translation of the story.

I re-transcibed the story for it to comply with the new spelling standards of the New Lakota Dictionary, and edited the gloss. Afterward, I re-translated the story to make it more current for the purpose of my analysis, and also to be able to experiment with its rhetorical structure as a part of the research on the form. I also translated the title of the story into Lakota, since Ella Deloria provided it in English only. Subsequently, I conducted a discourse analysis of the story.

The structure of the narrative appears to be inseparable from the meaning it conveys, through its esthetic effects on the audience. The structure employs specific elements which create those effects, and make the story a unique artistic form, crossing the genre constraints between prose, drama and poetry. The reported speech device škhé “so they say”, as well as two conjunctions, čhaŋké “and so” and yuŋkȟáŋ “and then” play the most important role in creating the structure, and so does the final single line which ends the piece. Those elements of parallelism create a distinct rhythm of the story, which I tried to preserve in my translation.

I compared my findings against those of other scholars who have worked with discourse analysis, and Native American narratives: Dell Hymes, Dennis Tedlock, Anthony Woodbury and James Loriot, among them, and most of my findings were consistent with theirs.

The analysis itself (Chapter 5) is preceded by three introductory chapters, an Introduction (Chapter 1), Methods (Chapter 2) and Background (Chapter 3), in which the purpose of the thesis is described, the main characteristics of the language, its typology and a brief description of the Nations speaking Siouan languages are presented, as well as the method used --DA. The introductory chapters are followed by Source Materials (Chapter 4), where the story is presented in its re-transcribed form, together with the gloss, and a new literary translation. That is follow by the Discourse Analysis itself (Chapter 5), followed by Conclusions, (Chapter 6), and Bibliography.

The analysis has proven differences in language usage depending on motivation, power play, roles assumed by the speakers, who use different genres for communication within one narrative, and the expectations of the audience. All of those elements contribute to the transfer of meaning since meaning is created also by the audience, and all are characteristic of the oral tradition, deeply rooted within the culture through the unique narrative form and symbolism. A close bond between the language used as discourse, its distinct form, cultural norms, in terms of ethics, behavior, and psychological conditioning of the modes of behavior as well as communal have been discovered and described. Based on my findings, discourse is strongly affected by culture, yet culture alone is built upon universals; archetypes common to most cultures, merely expressed in a culture-specific manner.