Switch-reference and the Structure of Lakhota Narrative Discourse

Richard Watson Lungstrum, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation examines two related hypotheses about Lakhota narrative discourse structure in a corpus consisting of the sixty-three Lakhota texts included in Ella Deloria's 1931 Dakota Texts, obtained in magnetic medium from the Siouan Languages Archive. The first hypothesis is that noncoreference of grammatical subject or spaciotemporal location between sequential clauses is regularly marked in the discourse by a grammatical switch-reference marking system involving conjunctions and modal enclitics. The second hypothesis is that the coreferent strings of text, termed "verses," that result from this switch-reference marking system are the basic constituent elements which are organized into larger structures by the ethnopoetics of the discourse. An initial hypothesis about the types of noncoreference and the identities of marker forms is refined using concepts from situation semantics. The corpus is then marked for both variables, and their correlation is tested. A high degree of correlation is evident. Most exceptions are of three recurrent types, which are explained by further analysis. Two example texts, representing different narrative genres, are analyzed to examine the second hypothesis. An approach to ethnopoetics based on that of Dell Hymes is developed. The texts are marked for boundaries of complete arcs of arousal and satisfaction of expectation of event consequence. Then, the relationship of the verses to the blocks of text, termed "scenes," expressing these arcs is analyzed. Scene boundaries do not interrupt verses; they occur at verse boundaries. Verse constituency in scenes is based upon a recurrent numerical principle of two, four, and seven, which is deeply rooted in Lakhota culture. Differences between the organization of the two texts reflect their different genres.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Cultural anthropology|Native American studies

Recommended Citation

Lungstrum, Richard Watson, "Switch-reference and the Structure of Lakhota Narrative Discourse" (1995). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9543116.