1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Josh Wayt


B.S. University of South Florida, 2012

M.A. University of Virginia, 2015

My research centers on efforts to document and revitalize the Dakota language at Lake Traverse Reservation in northeastern South Dakota. Like most Native American languages, Dakota is highly endangered, with approximately 500 remaining speakers in a population of more than 20,000 people. I have the privilege of participating in efforts to revitalize Dakota in two primary ways. On the one hand, I document playful and poetic genres of speech, which are often neglected in documentary research. On the other hand, I teach linguistic theory and methodology to language activists looking to add new knowledge and skill-sets to their repertoire. My participation in these initiatives provides an avenue for asking questions that are centrally relevant for linguistic theory, generally, and collaborative language activism in Native American communities, specifically.

I'm particularly interested in how ideas about language (as linguistic code), culture, and the relationship between them inform the contributions of differently positioned stakeholders who participate in language revitalization. Linguists, and other language experts who derive their authority from Western institutions, often take language to be an autonomous grammatical system, isolable from social and cultural lives of its users. Dakota people, however, do not share this disciplinary (and culturally particular) perspective. My work asks how Dakota people understand the relationship between (linguistic) code and culture. In other words, I attend to how Dakota people understand language and therefore the stakes in language loss and revitalization. Attending to this question is a crucial step for linguists who endeavor to contribute to revitalization efforts in ways that advance, rather than frustrate, the goals of American Indian people. 


Language preservation & revitalization, Siouan languages, language ideology, verbal art