Tinker to Evers to…Tinker?!

tinker to evers to chance

(Image credit: Spokane Press)

Tinker to Evers…and back to Tinker?! Reborrowing words after your language gave them away? It happens. “Long time no see.” “Can do.” “Pidgin.”

Those examples show how English contributed words to the pidgin used in southern China and the Pacific Ocean, then borrowed them back in catchy phrases.

Forgive the tedious technical details below, snipped from a paper I’ve been working on.

Today I realized that the Proto-Salish prefix *kʷ- that we find on several ancient kin terms was specifically used for making address forms in the southwest Washington (“Tsamosan”) branch. That is, for talking to someone. That’s why they need not be, and can’t be, grammatically possessed in these languages.

That’s one discovery. Kind of cool.

So Lower Chehalis kʷ-ʔím (which got borrowed into Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa for ‘grandchild’) would be best translated as ‘hey grandchild’, ‘o grandchild’, etc. (There’s a separate Lower Chehalis word based on the same root, for referring to a grandchild, ʔím̓-əc.)

And in our known Lower Chehalis data, kʷ- words are indeed address terms…except kʷ-ʔím.

This can’t be coincidental, I think. I figure this is one of the many, many words that Lower Chehalis borrowed (back) from Chinuk Wawa.

That’s another discovery. Fun.

In Chinuk Wawa, ‘grandchild’ is of course not limited to being an address term; there, it’s okay to refer to nayka kwiʔím ‘my grandchild’. See that? Unlike Lower Chehalis, this word can be possessed in the Jargon.

And because it’s in possessed form that kin terms will tend to be most frequently used (in all languages), this acquired “possessability” came along with the word when it returned from Chinuk Wawa to Lower Chehalis. Which was a very likely eventuality, because it appears tons of Lower Chehalis speakers knew good Jargon.

This explains why modern Lower Chehalis speakers exceptionally used kʷ-ʔím in possessed form, instead of just as a term of address. They don’t do this with any other known kin term.

But we’d expect the same development to occur with any other Lower Chehalis address forms for a person’s relatives that got loaned into Chinook Jargon. For example CW borrowed LC čə́č(a) ‘hey grandmother’ as chích ‘grandmother’, and LC čúp ‘hey grandfather’ as chúp ‘grandfather’. Those words are still used in LC, but we just haven’t found any examples yet of them being in possessed form — i.e. borrowed back — in that language.

But look at this: For further evidence of Chinuk Wawa influencing its parent language’s  (as I think of it) words for family relations, we have Lower Chehalis nə-nə́šč ‘my brother (older or younger than I)’. That’s notable because nə́šč used to mean only ‘younger brother’. It appears that the shift in Chinuk Wawa’s áw from meaning ‘younger brother’ to any ‘brother’ was then brought into Lower Chehalis.

I think the hypothesis I’m presenting has a greater than (um) Chance likelihood of being valid.

qʰata mayka təmtəm, what do you think?