Siletz fellas raking in Grand Rounde’s money

With the confusing punctuation that typified Chinuk Wawa in newspapers…

siletz fellas

The Siletz Indian boys who went to the Grand Ronde to celebrate report that they had a “nika hias close time; copa Grand Ronde.” They beat the Grand Ronde boys in every contest, and raked in not a few of their shekels.

— from the Toledo (OR) Lincoln County Leader of July 12, 1894, column 1

That’d be náyka hayash-ɬúsh tʰáym kʰapa Grand Ro(u)nde (I big-good time at Grand Ronde), distinctly older-vintage Jargon for ‘I had a fine time at Grand Ronde’.

This terse quote manages to provide us plenty to learn from.

First: it uses a way of expressing possession that you hardly hear any more. In this construction you don’t use the typical copula míɬayt ( < mitlite > ). Instead the possessor goes directly adjacent to the thing that was had (the good time). I enjoy the linguistic challenge of analyzing whether this uses a Ø (null) copula and what type of copula that might be (possessive; existential; etc.). In any case, this type of possessive formation consistently strikes me as Native in origin; I’ll have to officially check other examples of it one day to be sure, but I have the sense that English- and French-speakers simply wouldn’t think of saying “to have” like this.

Second, we see here the old intensifier prefix hayash- ‘very’, which quite early in Chinook Jargon’s history grammaticalized out of the adjective for ‘big’. This structure was found just about everywhere the Jargon was spoken, for a while, but interestingly enough it looks to have disappeared in one specific area: Grand Ronde (and I imagine the nearby and closely associated Siletz). The 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary lacks any trace of it; there, I’m seeing háyásh as always an adjective.

Third, we get nice corroboration of one of those Jargon words that were often left out of the dictionaries because they seemed more English than Chinuk Wawa: < time >. I find this word in the CW of every region by the late 1800s, and it’s documented in the Grand Ronde dictionary later than that. It was used a heck of a lot, even in more complex formations like the Kamloops region’s < som taim > ‘sometimes’.

Altogether, quite fluent Chinuk Wawa in a really short sentence. The idea language lesson!

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