Chinuk Wawa “mán” as a part-Salish word

everybody knows

Everybody knows he’s the man (image credit:

“Everyone knows” — now that’s some famous last words.

Everyone knows that mán ‘man; male’ in Chinook Jargon came from English.

And yet…

Coast Salish in general has a word just about identical in form.

In southwest Washington’s Salish languages — the ones that played some role in shaping the Jargon — slight variations on this word mean ‘father’ and/or ‘child’. For ‘child’, they appear to default to a masculine interpretation, ‘son’.

Check it out, man!

  • Quinault
    • mán ‘father’ (there’s also another word for it, related to Lower Chehalis’s word for ‘chief’)
    • mə́n̓ ‘son’
  • Upper Chehalis
    • kʷu-má·ʔ ‘father’ (with an ancient Salish kinship prefix; the corresponding word in Cowlitz is a vocative form ‘father!’)
    • mán̓ ‘son, daughter’ with fewer signs of Masculine bias
  • Cowlitz
    • mán ‘father’
    • mánʔ ‘son, daughter’ with indications of Masculine interpretation unless Feminine article is present
  • Lower Chehalis
    • no related form for ‘father’ found, but the pattern throughout SW WA Salish suggests modern Lo Ch qə́x̣t is a replacement for an older word…
    • mán̓ ‘son’, máʔn-uʔ ‘little boy; man’ (-uʔ Diminutive; compare Chinuk Wawa tənəs-mán ‘boy’…Native metaphor alert)

Geographically we’d expect Lower Chehalis to have played the key role in bringing Salish words into Chinuk Wawa. We do keep finding it to have been the source of numerous words of Jargon.

Now, our first documents of Lower Chehalis, already with qə́x̣t for ‘father’, date to the early 1840s. That’s late enough that the presumed older word *mán (and its Diminutive form), as well as local awareness of it elsewhere in Salish, could have influenced the assimilation of English man into the still-forming Chinuk Wawa.

So you can see that I’m not claiming Chinuk Wawa mán is Salish instead of English. I’m suggesting that both languages simultaneously influenced the course of Jargon history in this respect.

It’s parallel to several other coincidences in Jargon etymology:

  • We have decent potential sources for tsə́qw ‘water’ in both Nuuchahnulth and Chinookan.
  • With some plausibility, you can trace siyápuɬ ‘hat’ back to Chinookan, Sahaptian, and French.
  • ‘Cow’, músmus, has been linked with both Cree/Ojibwe (maybe Métis French) and “Penutian” languages of Oregon.

And I’m leaving out the many unsupported proposals to which Chinuk Wawa is heir, like:

  • A source in Hebrew l’chaim or English Clark how are you for ɬax̣á(w)yam ‘poor; hello/goodbye’.
  • An Algonquian mushroom word behind wáptu ‘Sagittaria root’, and so on.

But hmmmm… could Lower Chinookan mama ‘father’ have some relationship with the paternity of Jargon’s mán?

qʰáta máyka tə́mtəm? What do you think? Leave a comment, daddy-o 🙂