Public service announcement: “alki” is not the future tense

Or, the Alki Point 🙂


In the interest of sharing knowledge of good Chinuk Wawa, I want to share how to use the words that you’re usually told mean “future”, “present”, and “past” tense.

Because that’s wrong.  In the documents of Jargon that we possess, you can usually spot a Bastən.  They overuse these little words, which in reality are kind of infrequent…because they’re essentially optional.

English speakers have had a habit of over-literally translating, word for word, from English structures into the Jargon.  That’s why some of them have “alki” everywhere that they’d say “will” in English — and “ankati” everywhere they’d say “did” such-and-such in English — and so on.

Think instead of these 3 little words (which you’ll come to love) as adverbs:

  • ankati means “formerly”
  • alta means “presently”
  • alki means “eventually”

I promise you, if you follow this guideline, you’ll rarely have difficulty knowing how to use these 3.  If a sentence you’re saying really calls for specifying “formerly”, “presently”, or “eventually”, you’re probably best off using the relevant adverb.  But if your sentence doesn’t quite call out for one of these words, you are likely just fine leaving them out.

I want to share a couple real examples from Kamloops Wawa that brought this point to mind for me.  Issue #72, page 53:

… kakwa iaka mamuk komtaks kopa iaka pipa kopa ayu tkop tilikom pus kanawi alki iskom [NULL] 

(…so he is letting lots of White people know through his newspaper so that [they] all might eventually subscribe to [Kamloops Wawa]…)

Same issue, page 54:

… klaska iskom tamanwas kopa iaka. Pi alki tlus tilikom klaska shako pi klaska lolo blish shok … 

(… they got Indian (shaman) medicine for him. But eventually some good people came and they brought [Catholic] holy water …)

Same issue, page 55:

Iawa iaka wawa: Naika kopit alta.

(Then he said: I’ll be “done for” presently. [And he died 5 minutes later.])

Remember, too, we mentioned the other day that alta is used as a connector: “and then…and then…”

And, to remind you that ankati can also be an adjective, from page 54:

Klaska kwanisim skukum tomtom kopa ukuk ankati Sawash mamuk.

(They kept clinging to the former Indian ways.)

This is me talking now:

Wal naw alta klunas msaika kopit kwanisim skukum tomtom kopa ukuk msaika ankati Boston mamuk kopa Chinuk!

(Well now, maybe you folks will stop clinging to your former White ways of Chinook talking!) 🙂

I know that looking back at the archives of our old CHINOOK listserv of 17 years ago, I wince like crazy to see how poor my Chinuk Wawa was.  Pi alta skukum naika mamuk kopa ukuk… (But then I worked hard on it.)

Just as I long ago absorbed the factoid from my Washington History teacher that the motto on our state’s seal, alki, “means ‘by and by’ “, and never once paused to wonder what that expression meant, I have learned better.  So can you!