Walkie-talkie, or, more new Lower Chinookan etymologies


(Image credit: RSPCA)

Walkie-talkie! I like how that works. Let’s talk about < waki >

(I’ve been drifting into analyzing the “old” Shoalwater Lower Chinookan language. Here is a speculative foray.)

About < waki >: My sources give me the impression that this obviously Lower Chinookan synonym of Horatio Hale’s for ‘tomorrow’ — which I don’t recall seeing used in sentences, and which Geo. Gibbs already in 1863 says is not Jargon — would be approximately wáqi.

We can safely infer that it shares a morpheme (or two, see below) -qi with áɬqi ‘in the future’, can’t we?

Perhaps the a vowel in both is cognate with Lower Chinookan future-tense verb inflection -a.

Then of course there’s the normal Jargon word for ‘yesterday’, táʔanɬkʰi, from Lower Chinookan and plausibly related as well. Franz Boas’s “Sketch” of that language’s grammar (1910:634) does not draw this connection, a mild surprise in that he was masterful about excising the slenderest strands of meaning from words there, but pobody’s nerfect.

Note in Lower Chinookan (same page of Boas) a synonym wax ‘next day’, plus wuxí ‘tomorrow’. Both of these probably share a (?)Futurity morpheme which I’m inclined to analyze as wə- with waqi.

(Future wə- is disturbingly identical with the Future prefix in neighboring yet unrelated Lower Chehalis Salish–they really influenced each other. Lower Chehalis is the only SW WA Salish with a Future morpheme of this shape.)

Furthermore, these look like evidence for a more fine-grained analysis yet of the -qi words, because Lower Chinookan q~x̣, i.e. those two sounds vary rather freely with one another.

Tying up these ramblings for now, we find a set of typically terse Lower Chinookan morphemes in the above set of words, even if the meaning of each may not be clear yet:

  • w- ?Future
  • a- ‘?Future’ … maybe wa- alternated with a-; I have a rough sense of certain Chinookan gender prefixes acting like this & will be investigating…
  • -ɬ- ‘??meaning??’
  • -q/-x̣ ‘?day’
  • -i (compare other Lower Chinookan time words in Chinook Jargon such as ánqati ‘Past’, púlakli ‘night’, íxti ‘once’, as I’ve written on my website)

The point pro tem being, this data set allows previously unrecognized etymologies for Chinook Jargon words to be learned.

That is a deeply important recognition, in terms of what it can tell linguistics about which kinds of words do & don’t become components of pidgin languages, and about the metaphors and literal meanings — the cultural knowledge — inherent in said words for the Aboriginal participants in language contact.

Does anyone actually say waqi in Chinook Jargon? Um. No. You can’t go wrong with tumála for ‘tomorrow’.

Essentially nobody will now recognize waqi, an archaism that’s about as useful now as the interim forms of Simplified Chinookan that we see in a few of the earliest Astorian documents. (Have a look at George Lang’s book “Making Wawa” for a good discussion of those!)