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The general focus in Lakota oral literary research has been in the study of content rather than process in oral traditions. In a new disclosure of the characteristics of Lakota oral style, Delphine Red Shirt shows how its composition and structure are reflected in the work of George Sword, who composed 245 pages of text in the Lakota language using the English alphabet. What emerges in Sword’s Lakota narratives are the formulaic patterns inherent in the Lakota language that are used to tell the narratives, as well as recurring themes and story patterns. Red Shirt’s primary conclusion is that this cadence originates from a distinctly Lakota oral tradition.
Red Shirt analyzes historic documents and original texts in Lakota to answer the question: How is Lakota literature defined? Her groundbreaking discernment of the process of composition of Native literature uncovers the epistemological basis of this literature, which provides the object for literary studies, anthropological linguistics, translation studies, and linguistics. Her analysis of Sword’s texts can be used to determine whether the origin of any given narrative in Lakota tradition is oral and opens avenues for further research.