“iaka siahus NOUN”
It’s a while since I shared a little grammar lesson, so start your egg timer:
(Image credit: Orthodox Christian Network.)
aias tlus iaka siahus Barbara
very good her face Barbara
“Barbara’s face was beautiful”
This is from a Kamloops Wawa “Lives of the Saints” installment. Why am I making it the centerpiece today?
All of you that have taken Chinuk Wawa lessons, or read about the language, have been told that the way to form a possessive expression meaning “X’s (thing) / (thing) of X” is
X yaka (thing)
…Is the quote above formed that way? Does it say Barbara iaka siahus?
Instead, we have here “her face Barbara”. It’s backwards!
And it works fine. If you think about — it’s equally sensible either way, because both are clear about saying “whose thing” is meant.
This “backwards version” is actually a common alternative in certain environments.
The long tradition of Catholic missionaries, all the way back to Fort Vancouver and forwards to BC and the Kamloops Wawa newspaper, are the prime example.
They use the “backwards version” particularly in what I think of as Chinook Jargon’s literary style: preaching, explaining Bible passages, and generally when they’re not writing as if speaking spontaneously.
For what it’s worth, up in BC there was another pidgin, known as French of the Mountains (yes, it was a pidgin French), where “normal” for possessives was just like the “normal” of Chinuk Wawa: le bon Dieu son parole “God’s word” (the good God his word).
Also FWIW, in Chinuk Wawa you can obviously do the “backwards” style with X being a plural possessor: klaska (thing) X.
All of this is strictly a 3rd-person thing of course — it’s only possible where you have a separate, overt noun specifying who the possessor is. That doesn’t happen in 1st or 2nd persons! (Regardless of going forwards or backwards, it would be odd to say “my blog Dave” or “Dave my blog”!)
Now you know. And now you can read Kamloops Wawa‘s literature with less confusion.
“up in BC there was another pidgin, known as French of the Mountains (yes, it was a pidgin French),”
One more pidgin! Tell me more!
“where “normal” for possessives was just like the “normal” of Chinuk Wawa: le bon Dieu son parole “God’s word” (the good God his word).”
This construction is still typical of some non-standard conversational French, especially of children, as in “Mon papa, sa jambe, elle est cassée” (my dad, his leg, it’s broken).
“All of this is strictly a 3rd-person thing of course — it’s only possible where you have a separate, overt noun specifying who the possessor is. That doesn’t happen in 1st or 2nd persons! ”
In French, it does happen, because the possessor does not have to be an overt noun, it can be an independent pronoun (which cannot be Subject or Object). Exemple: the song “Moi, mes souliers ont beaucoup voyagé” (Me, my shoes have travelled a lot). You could introduce your own name in this sort of sentence to specify you are the semantic subject: “Moi, David, mes souliers… “
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Dave: “parole” is feminine, so it should be “sa parole”. Also, could this “backwards” syntax of “High” Chinuk possessives be a gallicism in origin?
Consider: if “Barbara iaka siahus” was the normal, plain ‘ole day-to-day way of saying “Barbara’s face” in Chinuk Wawa, it seems to me that a French L1 speaker would be strongly inclined to express this as “Iaka siahus Barbara”, because of the influence of “(Le) visage de Barbara” (and without this gallicism causing any problems in comprehension, as you pointed out above).
(You will have noticed that anglophones (“Barbara’s face”) would not of course find the Chinuk Wawa structure at all alien).
If this was a sufficiently common feature of native francophones’ Chinuk Wawa, including, crucially, missionaries and priests, then fluent Chinuk Wawa speakers might well have incorporated this gallicism as a feature of a sociolinguistically higher/literary style of Chinuk Wawa.
Something similar happened in Suriname, incidentally: the country’s dominant language, Sranan (an English-based creole) has a special register known as “Church Sranan” which incorporates features of European L2 realizations of Sranan.
Hmm. Of course, another possibility is that this was a feature of “French of the mountains” which Chinuk speakers adopted. If “Le bon Dieu sa parole” was the ordinary unmarked form among speakers, missionaries/priests who would normally have said “La parole du bon Dieu” might well have found “Sa parole le Bon Dieu” a less deviant way of expressing possession…
Marie-Lucie: “French of the Mountains” may have been a pidgin: the specimens which exist look like (possibly L2?) Metis French…unless, of course, Dave (who as far as I know is the only scholar of the planet to have researched “French of the Mountains”) has dug up new evidence indicating that it definitely was a pidgin…
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@Etienne, thank you, I transcribed incorrectly from the source page, whcih does have “sa parole”.
The question of what sort of language to call French of the Mountains is, as you know, one that I’ve found really interesting. It was definitely a multicultural lingua franca. Since it appears to have been — insofar as we can tell from the scant data — used autonomously from Metis French speakers, and structurally reduced from MF, my question (to myself at least) is: Can we prove it’s not a pidgin as well? 🙂
I should dig up that F.O.T.M. paper of mine and submit the darn thing for publication, just to get the answers to that question!!
I shared the following comment from the Journals of Geo. M. Dawson (https://chinookjargon.com/2017/01/11/the-journals-of-george-m-dawson-british-columbia-1875-1878-volume-1/) …
“page 265: September 21, 1876: Telegraph Crossing area: “Mr Alexander kind enough to help me in the conference [interviewing potential canoemen] by statements to him being translated into French Jargon to his servant, & by him turned into Indian.” ”
… Where “Jargon” typically meant “pidgin” at the time. I have a feeling that any English from the mouths of Native people that was equally as nonstandard as what’s been called French of the Mountains would be acknowledged as Pidgin English without question. Maybe that’s what we mean when we conclude that the only way to define a pidgin or creole is by sociolinguistic factors! 🙂