Categorical Gender Myths in Native America: Gender Deictics in Lakhota
Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Issues in Applied Linguistics

Issues in Applied Linguistics bannerUCLA

Categorical Gender Myths in Native America: Gender Deictics in Lakhota


This paper questions the existence of distinctions which are solely based on the gender of the speaker or hearer in Native American languages. An analysis of conversations from field work conducted in Pine Ridge, South Dakota and the texts of Ella Deloria reveals that the gender deictics of Lakhota indicate more than the "sex" of the speaker. Certain deictics have prototypical associations such as nurturance for clitics typically used by women or authority for those used by men. However, both male and female speakers sometimes use the deictics which are considered appropriate to the other sex. Given that both sexes sometimes use the same gender deictics and that the deictics accomplish more than indicating the gender of the speaker, the existence of "categorical gender" is dubious. 1 propose an analysis following Hanks (1993) which recognizes both the validity of native speaker metapragmatic judgments of "appropriately" gendered speech and contextual deviation. By recognizing a distinction between schematic prototypes or frames versus their implementation in context (framework) for Lakhota, the debate concerning the presence of true categorical gender distinctions in Native American languages such as Koasati, Atsina, and Yana can be resolved. A simple description of categorical gender for these languages is improbable.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View