(Image credit: Wikipedia)

My specialty lately seems to be finding the metaphors that gave us various Chinuk Wawa expressions. Today’s comes with etymological baggage that I think you’ll love…

Look how these line up:

näkct iōʹᴸqtē ka  (Lower Chinookan)
wik    lili pi  (Chinook Jargon)
not    long-time and (literal English)
(actual meaning: ‘soon’)

I trust that you see the shared metaphor between the tribal language LC and the pidgin CJ. Because I keep finding this kind of parallel semantics between the Jargon and the southwestern Washington-state indigenous languages, I tend to feel it’s most likely to be an ancient expression that the pidgin borrowed. But logically you can’t rule out Lower Chinookan having borrowed the expression from the Jargon.

Compare a couple related expressions from page 47 of Boas’s 1894 “Chinook Texts”:

  • lēlē ka… glossed literally as ‘long then’ and interpreted as ‘after a while’; compare Jargon lili pi…
  • mank lēlē ka… glossed literally as ‘a little long while then…’ and interpreted as ‘some time longer’; the corresponding Jargon *manaqi-lili pi… (literally more-long.time and…) would be perfectly intelligible with the same meaning

Now let me direct your attention to something besides meaning that these Chinuk Wawa & Lower Chinookan items have in common.

in iōʹᴸqtē = -i in lili

What makes me confident enough to claim this? Well, from the Jargon we know a word yúɬqat ‘long’. It’s from Lower Chinookan. (Look it up in your copy of “Chinuk Wawa Kakwa Nsayka Ulman-Tilixam Łaska Munk-Kəmtəks Nsayka“).  iōʹᴸqtē is yúɬqat plus a suffix -i.

So, you ask, is there an old word lil that also means ‘long’? Yup. That same copy of “Chinuk Wawa Kakwa…” that you’re still holding also contains the Jargon word líli which it translates as ‘awhile; for/after some time’. The source it mentions for that word is “a Chinookan particle líli … ‘long (time)’.” (It also occurs as simply li, according to Franz Boas’s “Chinook: An Illustrative Sketch”, page 634.) But check out the root líl in southwest WA Salish meaning ‘far’ (possibly it’s a reduplication of the root’s other known shape, lé·ʔ; also compare ɬə́l ‘far away’). My thought is that Lower Chinookan borrowed this Salish spatial adverb líl and slapped on the same -i suffix to make a time adverb.

What does that Lower Chinookan suffix -i mean? Your Grand Ronde dictionary (still in hand, right? page 97) calls it an “adverbial suffix” in Boas’s “Sketch” (page 667 there), but I propose interpreting it as meaning more precisely ‘occasion, instance, time’.

Because we also seem to find this ending in the Lower Chinookan-to-Chinuk Wawa loan ánqati ‘long ago; in the past’. And as you know, another quasi-tense marker in the Jargon also ends in -iáɬqi ‘eventually; in the future’. I also have my eye on the Jargon’s púlakʰli ‘night’.

In addition…we find -i as a fairly productive suffix in Chinuk Wawa. I emphasize this “in”, because suffixes and such are quite rare in pidgin-creole languages. In the Jargon documentation we have: íxt-i ‘once’ and mákst-i ‘twice’; the Grand Ronde dictionary entry for the latter quotes a historical document as evidence that you can keep on going: ɬún-i ‘three times’, etc. etc.

This -i does seem to be specifically from Lower Chinookan; in the Upper Chinookan language Kiksht/Wasco/Wishram, the corresponding form seems to be -ix (“Sketch”, page 626).

Summarizing what’s new in today’s mildly technical article: the old tribal Lower Chinookan and the newer pidgin-creole Chinuk Wawa share both metaphors & a suffix for expressing time.