This is what Old Testament Chinook is like

If you’re looking for a preacherly way to thunder at people in Chinook Jargon, you are in luck, comrade.

Here’s how: Just like in English, you use outmoded ways of talking from long ago and far, far away.

The following is a pretty random example, in which I’ve bolded and underlined the Biblical Talk in a snip from the Old Testament Bible History.

Old Testament Chinuk Wawa (2)

<23.> Tanas lili, kanawi tilikom chako piltin. Kopit iht Noi
kwanisim tlus. ST wawa kopa Noi: “Tlus maika mamuk iht aias knim.
Alki pus kopit <100> sno naika mamuk ilo ukuk masachi tilikom
pi kanawi ikta mitlait kopa ilihi. Ukuk aias knim, iaka nim ark, iaka
kakwa haws: <150> stik yulkat; <25> stik tlak’at; pi <15>
stik sahali; iht windo mitlait sahali, iht laport kopa
tanas kikuli.

“23. After a while, the people all became sinful. Only Noah
continued to be good. God said to Noah: ‘Make a boat [lit. big canoe].
In the future, at the end of 100 years I will destroy these evil people
and everything that is on the the earth.[‘] This big canoe, called an ark,
was like a house: it was 150 yards long; 25 yards wide; and 15
yards high: a window was located at the top, a door a
bit below.”

The writer was Bishop Paul Durieu OMI, the man who had taught Father Le Jeune to speak Chinook Jargon. Durieu had learned the language in an earlier generation and farther south, and it shows in his word choices’ differences from Le Jeune’s way of talking:

(1) aias knim for “boat”: in 1890s Kamloops, everyone would’ve said ship or bot.

(2) stik for “yard (3 feet)”: in 1890s Kamloops, they said iard.

(3) yulkat for “long” (compare Grand Ronde yúłqat): Kamloops in the 1890s had lon instead.

(4) tlak’at for “wide” (compare Grand Ronde łə́q̓əł): in the 1890s in Kamloops, you said waid. 

Beyond this brief selection, there are many other differences between Durieu’s — extremely fluent and highly evocative! — Chinuk Wawa and that of Kamloops. For example, Durieu typically uses pus to mean “for (a purpose)”, whereas latter-day Kamloops had kopa. 

The summary effect is that Bishop Durieu’s Bible History, using more of the words of Jargon that we know way back early in the language’s history, constitutes a formal preaching register of Jargon. Kamloops Chinuk Wawa, containing many innovative English loanwords that replace the old words of Durieu’s generation, sounds more lively and informal.

Scholars of contact languages will be delighted to have learned from this blog post that a pidgin indeed differentiated various speech registers. Or they will be turning red in the face and preparing to fill this page with comments claiming that that is impossible in a pidgin 🙂 Because ‘pidgins are amorphous’!

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