Bostonais part 2

(Here is Bostonais part 1.)


Yesterday I showed you my idea that Chinuk Wawa boston “American; white person” originates, not straightforwardly in English, but instead in Canadian (Métis) French bostonais.

I don’t take as extreme a view as the one that claims the Jargon is a product of fur-trade era mixed-blood families.   William J. Samarin, in a book chapter “Arctic origin and domestic development of Chinook Jargon” that doesn’t get cited often enough to receive much of a critique, does some speculating towards a conclusion that

It was the subsociety consisting of the wives and children of the men employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company, I suggest, where Chinook Jargon could have developed from a jargon (or pre-pidgin, if one prefers to start with that hypothetical kind of language) into a really viable means of communication.

— page 330.

Personally I take issue with just about everything that I understand Samarin, who is the undisputed dean of studies of Sango (a Central African Republic creole) and of Pentecostal glossolalia, to say about Chinook Jargon.  We don’t have a ton of direct evidence that Métis essentially formed the Jargon, whereas it seems evident to me that the pidgin had taken shape by the 1820, even before there were relatively stable fur-trade communities.

But what I do advocate is a clear-eyed reconsideration of the role played by Métis in giving Chinuk Wawa its ultimate form.  Even the Francophone Métis — speakers of a language that they at least theoretically could have written their own words in — were typically illiterate, my reasoning goes.  As a consequence, if we want a record of their participation in the speech community, we need instead to search attentively in the structures of Jargon: lexicon and semantics mainly, but potentially in the sound system and grammar.

That’s how I got onto the reconsideration of boston.

Today, having elaborated on my research program, I want to finish by adding two juicy bits about this word bostonais.  #1:

Bostonais, n.m.  An American.  Originally applied by the Canadian French to the New Englander with whom they came into contact, it was carried by Canadian settlers to the Illinois Country and used there synonymously with “American”.

— John Francis McDermott, A Glossary of Mississippi Valley French (St. Louis: Washington University Studies — New Series/Language and Literature – No. 12), page 31.

#2: Via Facebook, Eric Brunner-Williams informed me that “bostonaki, with “ki” being “land”, developed in eastern Algonquin, e.g., Abenaki, some time before 1700.”