Letter from Lytton

Side note before the show–any of my readers have JSTOR access? There is an article Iʹd like to print out.  Let me know.  — Dave

Chako nanich, Chinuk wawa pipa iht sawash man iaka mamuk: come have a look at a Jargon letter written by Nłeʔképmx (Nlakapamux, Thompson Salish) man Johnny Skuzzy from Lytton, BC.  This “white man name” of his comes from his home village’s Salish name.  (See also the fascinating story of the sternwheeler Skuzzy, named for the same place.)  Johnny was an enthusiastic and frequent writer of letters in shorthand Jargon.    

His note is dated April 15, 1893 and it was published in Kamloops Wawa issue 80 of May 28, 1893 (page 2).

Because this letter was composed and printed in shorthand, which a few of you are still learning :-), I’ll not only show an image of it but also copy it out in the bástən alphabet.  Under each line of Johnny’s writing, I’ll throw a word-for-word “gloss” (for the linguists) and an English translation,  for you.

Letter from Lytton

<Letter from Lytton> Ipril <15 1893>
…………………………… April ……………

Letter from Lytton, April 15, 1893.
Naika papa Pir Lshyun
1SG       father Père Le.Jeune
My father Père Le Jeune,

Naika tiki wawa kopa maika.  Naika
1SG want talk PREP 2SG 1SG
I want to talk to you.  My

kluchmin iaka sik pi ilo naika mamuk alta.  Pi naika kwanisim
woman 3AGR= sick CONJ NEG 1SG do PRES  CONJ 1SG always
wife [downriver] is sick and I have no work now.  But I still

mitlait kopa Liton.  Ilo aiak naika komtaks mamuk tsim pipa[.]
COPspa PREP Lytton NEG fast 1SG know CAUS= written letter
am at Lytton.  Slowly I’m getting to know how to write.

Ilo klaksta man mamuk komtaks kopa naika, kakwa ilo aiak naika
NEG who person CAUS= know PREP 1SG, thus NEG fast 1SG
Nobody is teaching me, so it’s not quickly that I’m

chako komtaks ukuk Chinuk pipa.  Klahawiam kanawi tilikom
INCH= know DEM Chinook letter.  Goodbye all people
learning this Chinook writing.  Goodbye everyone

kopa Kamlups.  Klahawiam Pir Lshyun.
PREP Kamloops.  Goodbye Père Le.Jeune.
at Kamloops.  Goodbye Père Le Jeune.

Naika Shoni Skasi.
1SG Johnny Skuzzy
I’m Johnny Skuzzy.

<Johnny Skuzzy.
Lytton, B.C.>

A couple notes: The standard way for people to start a Chinuk pipa letter was “Naika tiki wawa kopa maika“–I want to talk to you.  They normally ended with “Naika [name]”–I am [so-and-so].  Ilo naika mamuk is a phrase a take as (kind of Salish-sounding) ʼnothing is my workʼ–for ʼI have  no workʹ, ʹIʹm out of workʹ.  (An alternative reading of the same 3 Chinuk Wawa words would be ʼIʹm not workingʹ or ʹIʹm doing nothingʹ.)  In the Kamloops region, kwanisim, literally “always”, is firmly established with an additional verbal-aspect meaning of “still; continuing to do so”. Notice how Johnny expresses “learning” with both komtaks–know and chako komtaks–come to know.  There’s a neat way to express an indefinite “nobody”–ilo klaksta man–literally “no-who person”!  The positive version, “somebody”, is klaksta man, but keep in mind that that’s an indefinite somebody; it doesn’t mean “someone in particular that I have in mind” but instead “someone or other”.

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