A suffix -təmtəm?


(Image credit: Broken Hearts Anonymous)

I’ve pointed out various words of Chinuk Wawa that mutated away from their original, literal, meanings towards having abstract or even grammatical functions. Let’s take on a related puzzle.

For example, Intensifier hayas- (from ‘big’) and Characeristic kəmtəks- (from ‘to know’) were two prefixes that came into existence quite early, maybe even before the Grand Ronde (Oregon) creole dialect, with its grammar that was supposedly more elaborate than pidgin CW dialects, formed.

Another element that occurs really frequently in Chinuk Wawa constructions is –təmtəm. We know that tə́mtəm was originally a full word: a verb ‘to think/feel’ and a noun ‘heart, mind’.

It seems mighty like a suffix, though, when we keep finding it, unstressed, at the end of expressions that have a shared thread of meaning, referring to a person’s traits, for example from modern Grand Ronde creole:

  • sáx̣ali-təmtəm ‘feeling good’ (in Kamloops dialect ‘arrogant’; literally ‘high-heart’)
  • ɬúsh-təmtəm ‘happy’ etc. (literally ‘good-heart’)
  • sík-tə́mtəm ‘sorry’ (literally ‘hurt-heart’)

And from the closely related Fort Vancouver-area dialect of circa 1870, Father St Onge’s dictionary manuscript shows us easily ten times more examples of these structures, such as:

  • kwas-tomtom ‘timid’
  • aias-wek-tiǩeȟ-tomtom ‘detestation’ (aias-wek-tiǩeȟ ‘detest’)
  • skukom-tomtom (literally ‘strong-heart’); wek-tlemin-tomtom (literally ‘not-soft-heart’) ‘energetic’
  • masache-tomtom ‘malevolence’ (literally ‘bad/evil-heart’)

These constructions denote a person’s permanent psychological makeup as much any momentary emotion.

But here as with other early-grammaticalized affixes in Chinuk Wawa (all of these are derivational, not inflectional, my linguist readers will notice), we see that level of abstraction more in St Onge’s earlier data than in the Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary’s later examples, which I understand as tending to express temporary states.

Well, now that I’ve described what I see as another early-developed affix, I’d like to glance* at how it came to be. I chose a handful of basic emotional/character concepts in languages of the lower Columbia River region that we know played some role in early Chinook Jargon. Have a look:

    • Chinuk Wawa pidgin-creole: k’wás
    • Ichishkíin (Yakama) Sahaptian: skáw-
    • Salish of SW Washington:
      • Upper Chehalis: qʷán-ts (verb)
      • Cowlitz: ʔac-qʷánuʔ, qʷán-tas
      • Lower Chehalis: ʔəc-x̣íw̓-ɬ (~’be-afraid-very’)
      • Quinault: ~x̣áyl
    • Shoalwater Lower Chinookan: ~i-k̓ʷaš-ʔúmi (the suffix at the end seems to be very approximately an aspectual marker)
    • Chinuk Wawa pidgin-creole: sáliks (also a verb ‘to fight’)
    • Ichishkíin (Yakama) Sahaptian: sxíix
    • Salish of SW Washington:
      • Upper Chehalis: saq-í-q (also forms verbs ‘to be mad at’; final seems to be ‘head’ here and in the followin); qəɬə́x̣-
      • Cowlitz: qaɬə́x̣-ɬ; q̓ʷáx̣-i-q-š-n (‘mad at’)
      • Lower Chehalis: sáq-y̓ə-q
      • Quinault: ~ɬíx̣-əq (~’burn-head’); ~xʷə́səm 
    • Shoalwater Lower Chinookan: ~ -x̣ə́ɬx̣a
    • Chinuk Wawa pidgin-creole: tíki-chíkʰəmin, tíki-dála (literally ‘want money’)
    • Ichishkíin (Yakama) Sahaptian: xáash
    • Salish of SW Washington:
      • Upper Chehalis: xʷíy̓xʷiy̓ (also ‘stingy’; interesting how similar this sounds to Chinuk Wawa húyhuy ‘trade’)
      • Cowlitz: ʔac-cə́ni-stumx (‘he’s making himself’); ʔac-kʷušúh-icx (‘making a pig of oneself’, using a Chinuk Wawa loan word)
      • Lower Chehalis: ?
      • Quinault: ~ʔəs-jáw̓-əq (also ‘glutton’; –əq is perhaps ‘head’)
    • Shoalwater Lower Chinookan: (~ níkšt giɬákštit ‘the one not satisfied; Glutton’)
    • Chinuk Wawa pidgin-creole: ɬúsh-tə́mtəm (literally ‘good heart/thoughts’); yútɬiɬ (also ‘proud, arrogant’)
    • Ichishkíin (Yakama) Sahaptian: kw’aɬá; xwáami
    • Salish of SW Washington:
      • Upper Chehalis: cép-ɬ, ʔac-cap-én̓uwt; q̓ʷul-én̓ut; etc. (the last 2 words here have the suffix for ‘mind/feelings’)
      • Cowlitz: ʔac-q̓ʷól̓-ɬ
      • Lower Chehalis: ~ƛ̓áq̓ʷ sqʷə́ləm (‘good heart/thoughts’)
      • Quinault: ~q̓ʷúl̓-ɬ
    • Shoalwater Lower Chinookan: kʷánkʷan
  • SAD
    • Chinuk Wawa pidgin-creole: sík-tə́mtəm (literally ‘hurting heart/thoughts’)
    • Ichishkíin (Yakama) Sahaptian: páyu pxwí- (verb) ‘be sad, dejected’, lit. ‘sick/painful think’
    • Salish of SW Washington:
      • Upper Chehalis: ʔac-táč-ɬč̓ sqʷə́lm (~’be-attacked-sick/hurt-mind/feelings’); ʔays-ínut (”ill-mind/feelings)
      • Cowlitz: ʔac-ɬə́k̓a-m-cx (~’be-sore/hurt-perception-oneself’)
      • Lower Chehalis: ʔušámnəɬ (also ‘pitiful’)
      • Quinault: ~xʷim-íngʷət (~’sad-mind/feelings’)
    • Shoalwater Lower Chinookan: ~ɬax̣awyəm etc. (the source of Chinuk Wawa ‘pitiful, sad, poor’)

* By “glance”, I mean “take 3 hours of my Sunday finding data” 🙂

These results are far from simple or uniform. Plenty more data is wanted for a publishable argument, but I’m going to go out on a limb with this generalization —

I don’t find a model for “X-heart” structures in Lower Chinookan. Sahaptian shows a similar expression for just one of the emotions I looked at (‘sad’), so maybe that reflects foreign influence, perhaps specifically from Chinuk Wawa.

The one language family here that makes consistent use of emotion/character expressions formed with ‘mind/feelings/head’ elements is Southwest Washington Salish.

It ought to go without saying that the European input languages to the Jargon (that is English and French) do not form expressions having comparable structures or meanings.

So I propose that the “etymology” of the supposed early Chinuk Wawa suffix -təmtəm is a local native Salish strategy that made suffixed (sometimes compounded) words using a traditional metaphor about where the mind/heart resides in your body. It just so happens that this gets coded in the Jargon with an originally Chinookan word.

kata maika tomtom? What do you think?