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Nakoda—also called Hohe or Assiniboine—is one of the five main language divisions within the Dakotan group of the Siouan family. These languages are Dakota (Santee-Sisseton), Dakota (Yankton-Yanktonai), Lakota (Teton), Nakoda (Assiniboine) and Nakoda (Stoney). Today, the language is spoken in its traditional territory in Saskatchewan and Montana.

The sound system of Nakoda differs from Lakota and Dakota primarily because it has merged the voiceless stops with the voiced stops. Thus /p/ in Dakota usually shows up as /b/ in Nakoda, /t/ as /d/, /č/ as /ǰ/, and /k/ as /g/.

A number of orthographies have been developed over the years for the Nakoda language, often with similarities with a Dakota or Lakota system. There are also reports of syllabics being used by Assiniboine speakers; I am currently researching this subject. The sounds of the language are first described in a linguistic representation. Equivalents are then given in two of the orthographies. Data come from various sources noted in the bibliography.

Note: There are several Roman Orthography conventions on this site that may require further explanation.  On the charts below, there is lots of phonetic terminology that may not be familiar to everyone.

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Community Names:
  • Mosquito
  • Grizzly Bear’s Head
  • Carry the Kettle
  • White Bear
  • Fort Peck
  • Fort Belknap

Consonants in Siouanist Orthography

  bilabial alveolar palato-alveolar palatal velar rounded velar glottal
aspirated stop
ejective stop
voiced stop
voiceless fricative
ejective fricative
voiced fricative
nasal / resonant

Vowels in Siouanist Orthography

  front back
high nasalised
low nasalised


  • Stress is shown by the ácute accent.
  • The aspirated stops are pronounced without a h-release (i.e. become deaspirated/pronouced as just voiceless) when they are part of a consonant cluster: /wikʰčʰépną/ is pronounced [wikčépną]. This deaspiration does not occur when the two consonants come together as part of a compound word: /šųg/ + /čʰįǰaną/ is pronounced [šųkčʰį́ǰaną] (The /g/ changes to /k/ by a phonological rule).
  • The analysis of Nakoda sounds is based on Hollow (1970).

Nakoda Orthographies

Sioiuanist FB FPCC SICC
p p p (ṗ)
p’ p? p’
b b b b (p̄)
m m m m
w w w w
t t t (ṫ)
t’ t? t’
d d d d (t̄)
s s s s
s’ s? s’
z z z z
n n n n
čʰ c ch
čˀ c’ ch? c̀’
ǰ j j
š š sh
šˀ š’ sh? s̀’
ž ž zh j
y y y y
k k k (k̇)
k’ k? k’
g g g g (k̄)
x ȟ x
ȟ’ x? ḣ’
γ ǧ g ġ
ʔ ?
h h h h
i i i i
į į in
u u u u
ų ų un
e e e e
o o o o
a a a a
ą ą an


  • There may be two orthographies used in the United States, the Fort Belknap and For Peck standards.
  • The Fort Peck Community College (FPCC) orthography does not differentiate between /g/ and /γ/, writing both with the letter ‹g›. There is also no way for this system to distinguish the nasal vowels: /ą/ /į/ /ų/, from a plain vowel + n: /an/ /in/ /un/. The symbol for the glottal stop may be ‹ʔ›, but the question mark is being used on their webpage.
  • The writing system adopted by the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre (SICC) is derived from the White Hat orthography developed for Lakota. However, because Lakota has two more series of stops (the velarised-aspirate and voiceless stops) than Nakoda has, the SICC system has six more letters than is probably necessary for the language. Thus on the SICC website, the word for ‘deer’ is given as ṫaḣc̀a where taḣc̀a would suffice—there are no verlar-aspirates (ṫ) in Assiniboine. Ġot̄a is the word for ‘yellow’ on the SICC site, but it might as well be written ġoda—there are similarly no voiceless stops (t̄) in the language. With this kind of interference from Lakota spelling removed, the SICC system would work well. At first glance, it seems that the SICC made a decision to unify the three or four Siouan languages spoken in that province; the same written language for Santee Dakota, Lakota, and Assiniboine Nakoda. Thus whether the SICC orthography is appropriate or not appears not to be based on pronunciation, but on a political opinion: are the Dakotan people one nation, or many.
  • As the letter ‹j› is used in the SICC orthography for /ž/, the sound /ǰ/, absent in White Hat’s Lakota, must be written with an alternate letter: ‹c̄›.
  • Only the FP orthography writes stress, which it does with an acúte accent: á ą́ é í į́ ó ú ų́


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Last Update: May 7, 2008