A question on the Lakota (Sioux) language. . .

Yes, I’m watching Dances With Wolves tonight on AMC [sub]I’m going to bed right now, honey.[/sub] In a lot of the dialog, I keep hearing the same syllables, usually at the end of a sentence: “–wash-ni-eh-lo.” Is this a ‘sentence ender’ of some sort?

. . . the memory of a telegraph operator reading a message comes to mind. Stop.

I’m unable to help you but perhaps these folks can:


It puts me in mind of wasichu, a word meaning he-who-takes-the-fat. The interlopers. I believe it was used frequently in the film. But I don’t believe it was used in the way you are describing.

I remember the word/ending you are referring to so I did a little research.

Looks like Lakota uses a Subject-Object-Verb word order, so we are talking about a verb.

Lakota has moods (consider subjunctive mood in French/Spanish) that are marked with particles. For a male speaker, the indicative mood is marked by “yehlo”, so this would be the last two syllables of many sentences in the film.

ISTR “washte yelo” turning up a lot, which I think would mean “(he/she/it) is good”.

Wow! Can you dumb that first part down a bit for me (I’m an engineer)? Subject-object-verb? And what’s a “mood”?

Sorry, I just make electricity work/not work.

Missed the edit window:

My apologies if that came across snarky–snark is not my intent.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a ‘subject-object-verb’ order. I know Spanish and French tend to put adjectives after nouns, but that’s all I remember. But what is a “mood”?

Well, the subject-object-verb part is pretty easy.
Basically, it means that in a sentence, the subject comes first, followed the the object, and then the verb. If English were a subject-object-verb language, “I’m a doper.” would be something like “I doper am.” Both Spanish and French are subject-object-verb languages.

Some more examples:
“I’m going to the store.” => “I to the store going.”
“Bob really hates Alice.” => “Bob Alice really hates.”
I’m really bad with examples…

Moods are a bit more complicated. I’m not sure if this will be a good explanation, or even wholly correct, but here goes nothing.
All languages have moods. In English, there is the declarative mood (“I love celery”), the interrogative mood (“Do you love celery?”), and the imperative mood (“Love celery! Do it!”). There are probably others.
Some languages actually change their sentences to show changes in mood. English changes the words around in the interrogative sentence (“God is dead” => “Is God dead?”). Japanese, for example, adds the syllable か (ka) to the end of the sentence to mean the same thing (「神様ないです。」 => 「神様ないですか。」).It sounds like Lakota has a particular marker (yehlo) to mark the indicative mood (sorry, don’t know what that is) when it is used by a guy.

I hope this helps.

A set of common sounds at the end of a large number of Lakota sentences? They’re ‘particles’ – ‘words’ that don’t have specific meanings but serve as grammatical markers. To give you a parallel from English, consider what might end a spoken paragraph about someone’s immediately-past actions, that might end with “He was [verb]-ing it.” Four of the five syllables in that sentence are ‘standard’ – two pronouns, an auxiliary verb, and a participle ending. Someone who didn’t know english would hear “hee-wuzz-[variable syllable]-ing-iht” and want to know what that combination of syllables mean.

Subject-verb-object is the most common form of sentence structure (at least in Indo-European languages), but the alternatives also exist. Subject-object-verb is common wherever Die Deutsche Sprache gesprachen ist, and was the most common way to speak and write Latin, with the notable exception of forms of esse, to be, which called for SVO.

Mood (or mode) is the choice of indicative, subjunctive, etc. verb forms in constructing a sentence. While the past subjunctive remains common in English, the present subjunctive has all but vanished, and English past subjunctives differ from the indicative forms only in to be. If I were you, I would simply notice it is there. If I wrote stylebooks, I wouldn’t make a big issue of it. Notice that those two sentences both advance hypotheticals-contrary-to-fact and therefore properly use the subjunctive, but you only ‘notice’ with “If I were you” since “wrote” is the same form for both past indicative and past subjunctive. (You see a little present subjunctive in Shakespeare and the KJV Bible: “Why, if I be not king, then there’s an end to it!” But it’s extremely scarce in modern usage. “This court orders that the defendant make good his debt to the plaintiff” would be a modern example: it calls for the subjunctive ‘make’, not the indicative ‘makes’, since it is *as yet *contrary to fact, or else the court wouldn’t be ordering it to be done.

The subjunctive present is still common in English in hortative constructions (the “lettuce” form). “Let us be on our way”, or “Let’s go see a movie”.

Uh, no they aren’t. Romance languages, which include Spanish and French, are SVO, just like English. (Of course, in all three languages some constructions use a different order, though SVO is the standard one.)

Technically that’s the hortatve, which sounds lie it should be used for taling to rocs on Star Trek. But poiht taken!

Looks like others have provided pretty good answers.

I’m surprised no one who actually speaks Lakota has stopped by.

You perhaps with examples really bad are. Even so, you really clear it made.

Or you could have just said “Yoda speak”

As for the the word at the end just being a marker, think of the the stereotypical Canadian accent, Eh!

Sort of…Spoken Spanish, and perhaps French as well, puts the subject at the end much more often than spoken English, although the standard written form is SVO. Example: “Está pegando el perro, ese niño” (That kid is hitting the dog) is literally “He’s hitting the dog, that kid.”

Sorry for the hijack. No idea about the Lakota, although it looks like someone aready identified it as an indicative, male-speaker verb particle.

What I meant to type here (and had eye problems earlier when I attempted it) was:

“Technically that’s the hortative, which sounds like it should be used for talking to rocks on Star Trek. But poiht taken!”

I dunno; I suspect that example would be better parsed as an SVO null-subject sentence with an extraposed appositive at the end.

But that’s extremely unusual as well as being misconstructed (it would be “está pegando al perro” - unless you meant to say that the kid is sticking the dog to something else).

Both in Spanish and French it is very frequent to elide the subject: you don’t need to specify it, because the verbal form is detailed enough to make the subject easy to guess. In English, you need to say “I met my friend. We went to the movies.” - the subjects of both sentences are actually pronounced. In Spanish and French, the verbal forms themselves mean “I_met” and “we_went”, the verb includes enough information to know what the subject is without saying it as a separate word. The example you give sounds like someone was saying “he’s hitting the dog” and then realized the “who” wasn’t clear. It’s not a normal construction at all.

I love the goddamned Dope.

Actually, it’s very common, in Mexico. Apparently not so in Spain – thanks for the clarification on that.

Also, in Mexico, putting “a” (or “al”) before “perro” (as direct object) is optional – it depends on whether, in that moment, you are considering the dog to be more of a sentient being, or more of a nonsentient object – but you’re right, they do include the “a” more often than they omit it.

While we’re at it, Latin also has the feature that the verb contains the functional equivalent of a pronoun: “Sum” means the same thing as “Ego sum” (“I am”), though the latter might have a bit more emphasis on the fact that it’s me. And word order is fluid in Latin (it doesn’t change the meaning, but again, changes the emphasis), but the most common is subject-object-verb.

Chronos – that’s true, but, as someone pointed out already, that seems to have been much more common in written Latin than in the spoken variety, at least in the last centuries of the Roman Empire, as the vulgar tongue(s) and the written standard began to diverge.

Nava – Here’s a pretty good academic article (pdf) on when the subject tends to come last in spoken Mexican Spanish.