Siouan Languages


SACC 2004
Good Tracks

John Koontz at the University of Colorado

Name: John E. Koontz
Address: Dept. of Linguistics
Box 295
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO   80303-0295
Phone: 303-604-0634

My specialty is the Siouan languages, especially Omaha-Ponca, a Dhegiha (LAY-gee-ha or THEY-gee-ha)** language, spoken by the Omaha and Ponca peoples.  Mostly I have worked with the texts collected by the industrious James O. Dorsey in the 1870s-1890s.  In 1985 I also worked directly with two Omaha men:  first Clifford Wolf, Sr., and later Coolidge Stabler.  Sadly this was only briefly - for about a month, all told.  Both are of these gentlemen are now deceased.  Others have kindly answered questions from time to time.   I would like to particularly mention the late Wilson Wolf.  

Subsequent to that I was an associate at the now defunct SILP ( Study of Indigenous Languages Program), originally known as the Center for the Study of the Native Languages of the Plains and Southwest (CeSNaLPS) - or the Plains Center for short.  

I have helped in several CeSNaLPS and pre-CeSNaLPS projects of the University of Colorado Department of Linguistics, including the Comparative Siouan Dictionary (Richard T. Carter, A. Wesley Jones, Robert L. Rankin, David S. Rood, John E. Koontz, Jule Gomez de Garcia), the Atsina Dictionary (Allan R. Taylor et al.), the Lakota Dictionary Project (David S. Rood, Eli James, Liang Tao), the Osage Documentation Project (Carolyn Quintero, David S. Rood, Robert L. Rankin, John E. Koontz), the Kiowa Documentation Project (Laurel Watkins et al.), and the Siouan Archives Update (David S. Rood and John E. Koontz). 

I currently manage the Siouan List for the discussion of Siouan languages and linguistics.  You can search the archives of the list (not indexed by web indexers).  Archiving and public access to the list are provided courtesy of the Linguist List

There is an annual joint meeting of Siouanists and Caddoanists - the Siouan and Caddoan Conference (SACC) (acronyms may vary) - held mostly in the early summer, and traditionally constrained to take place within the territories in which the Siouan and Caddoan languages are or were spoken - a pretty big territory, so not much of a constraint.  The historical contact for SACC has been David Rood  The first conference was organized in 1981 by David Rood and Tom Sorci. 

Policy on Answering Questions

I don't mind answering questions on Siouan languages, including things like "What's the word for [your choice]?", or "Is there a word for [your choice]?", but if what you really need is a good reference work of some kind, and I know it exists, you might get a bibliographical citation instead.  The kind of questions I like best are one like, "Where can I find out about [some language, preferably Siouan]?" or "Does [some language, preferably Siouan] have [some linguistic feature]?"  I should warn you that I am a bit backed up on questions of this nature, much as I like them.  Facilis descensus Averno!

Some stipulations:  I have found that I prefer not to supply translations of phrases like 'Hello!', 'Goodbye!', 'I love you!', 'Thank you!', 'Workers of the world unite!', and so forth, for compilations of such phrases. (These are all actual examples.)  The problem is that it's sometimes difficult to come up with good general translations of such pleasantries in Siouan languages, and it gets tiresome explaining the problems.  It's not want of pleasantness on the part of the speakers of the languages, of course, just cultural differences on what formulas are needed and how much contextual variation there may be in the formulas that exist.  I have finally gotten around to a FAQ entry on this.  If you believe your question to have some particular merit, by all means ask it.  I just don't guarantee a response. 

Another stipulation is that I won't handle questions about words in dreams or glossolalia.  I'm skeptical about the reality of such things.  I suspect matches will be random, partial, and scattered across languages.  There are simply too many Native American languages (~ 1000?), with too many words in them, and I know only a little bit about a one or two Siouan languages.  By way of an exception, I am willing to consider any one word of, say, three syllables or more, that has (a) velar fricatives, (b) ejective stops, (c) glottalized fricatives, (d) contrasting aspirated and unaspirated stops, and/or (e) nasal vowels.    

I provide generic answers on various frequently asked questions, like how to name a child and how to name the family dog.  These operations can involve moral, practical and esthetic problems that are not immediately obvious, so some of my answers may not seem all that helpful.  

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