‘Round water’, a Native metaphor

Words for ‘bay’…

In Chinuk Wawa you say luʔlu-tsəqw, ’round-water’.
And you think, yes, that makes sense.



(Images from Australia.com.)

Salish speakers in the homeland of Chinuk Wawa agree with you.

Quinault speakers say tál̓-maɬ-ču which means something like ‘through-round-water’.

ɬəw̓ál̓məš (Lower Chehalis) says: čt-ʔác-miɬ-č ‘Shoalwater Bay Indians, said to mean Inside the Bay People’. That’s literally ‘people-inside-round-water’. It’s the name of a tribe, even.

Getting into the weeds of the 4 local Tsamosan Salish languages for a moment:

  • The ɬəw̓ál̓məš word uses a root miɬ that I don’t know from any other words in that language, but it matches the Quinault one maɬ.
    • (It’s OK for the vowels to differ & for one language to have “l” while the other has “ɬ”!).
  • And these have got to be related to Cowlitz mil[-]úx̣ʷ ’round, spherical’ and maybe Upper Chehalis mə́l[-]k̓ʷ- ‘wrap, wrap up’.
    • (Salish often historically formed variant roots by adding one extra consonant after an original CVC shape such as our mVl ~ mVɬ here.)

So with all 4 languages sharing it, this would seem to be old: reconstructible to a Proto-Tsamosan root *ma/il/ɬ [Aert Kuipers style] or *məl/ɬ [Robertson style] ’round’.

Even more ancient, its ancestor is likely to be Proto-Salish *məlk̓ʷ ‘to wrap up, collect into a whole; intact, complete’.

(Notice the similar shape to Lower Chinookan root maɬ ‘bay, sea, river’, e.g. í-maɬ ‘bay’. But that would appear to be only coincidental, because that root seems to refer to water rather than roundness. )

And ‘bay’ is yet another Native metaphor that got preserved in Chinuk Wawa. (Like loqa-t’ux̣ ‘swallow spit’, from a local Salish expression for envying someone else’s food or valued possessions.)

How likely would it have been for whites, even the reputedly devilishly clever Hudsons Bay Company, to coincidentally come up with ’round water’?

The more I learn of the local languages & notice more of these, the stronger and clearer I think the argument is for a very strong Salish role in forming early Chinuk Wawa.

And we have to recognize the “stealth” influence of the tribal languages on CW…they gave plenty of metaphors to the Jargon, and you can’t spot them until you learn the structure of the languages themselves.

So we can expect plenty more discoveries to come along in Chinuk Wawa world!