A new Quileute => Salish => Chinuk Wawa discovery

At first I didn’t realize I’d discovered it 🙂 Does that still count?!

An unusual word on page 278 of “About the Shores of Puget Sound“, yesterday’s reading selection in this space [with my guesses at the material missing from the page image there]:

When landing the long sharp b[oat] the canoe is turned to the foaming and as if by instinct it glides ov[er] beach waves to the shore by the d[extr]ous flourish of the lithe sak-talm [(pad-]dle).

The slowly building chain of my reasoning:

First off, I “knew” this < sak-talm > was no Chinook Jargon word. It’s in none of the sources I’ve compiled over the years.

Second, I recognized the word. It’s Salish.

Third, it dawned on me: The above quote refers to Makah and Nuuchahnulth people. Why would they (as speakers of Wakashan languages) use an unrelated Salish word for ‘paddle’? Well, maybe it’s from Klallam, which neighbours those guys.

Fourth, it’s not from Klallam. I also checked Lushootseed, the next-nearest Salish language. Nope. Nor did I find a historical trace of the word in Proto-Coast Salish or Proto-Salish.

Fifth, the reason I recognized the word is, in a soon-to-be-published paper, I point out roots extremely similar to it — such as /ʔátqʷil- ‘row, paddle’ and /c[-]aqʷə́l- ‘paddle, oar’ — in Cowlitz Salish and its sisters far away in southwest Washington, as likely tracing to an ancient loan from Quileute, ʔalútq ‘oceangoing canoe’. (Quileute, a Chemakuan language, is unrelated either to the Salish or the Wakashan families.)

Sixth, < sak-talm > is totally nativized into SW WA Salish. (Presumably it’s s-ʔaqʷtəl-m or s-ʔatqʷəl-m; in this set of words, metathesis of a consonant into a new position is weirdly common.) The “s-” and the “-m” were added on by Salish speakers, and mean something in their languages. So the word wasn’t loaned directly from Quileute speakers to their next-door Wakashan neighbours. This despite the fact that the Quileute word for an ‘oceangoing canoe’ is super widespread across the region: apparently just about every language from Lushootseed Salish going westward through the Straits of Juan de Fuca and southward down Washington’s coast, then up the Columbia River, has that one (ʔalútq and variations). Unless (logical possibility here) this < sak-talm > got loaned back to Quileute, but I find no trace of it there. 

Seventh, therefore, this word arrived at the Straits of Juan de Fuca through intermediaries.

Prime suspect: Chinuk Wawa.

CW was widely used in all the territories I’ve named. The 1871 article that we found the word in uses plenty of other Native words…and all of them are Chinuk Wawa. The simplest explanation might be that the Jargon, down in its lower Columbia homeland, included this SW WA Salish word among the many others from that source. This would explain both Quileutes (hypothetically!) picking up < sak-talm > as a loanword, and its getting passed along farther to the north. With or without Quileute help. We have documentation of direct contacts between Wakashan speakers and the SW WA Salish people going far back in time. There’s no reason that would’ve stopped during the “historical period” of Chinuk Wawa.

What do you think?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, you wouldn’t believe the mountain of books I pulled off the shelves to research this; I need to put them back.