Chinuk Wawa tree names in -stik (a Salish idea) … & a new etymology for ‘100’ (a Chinookan idea)
All of this forms a theme, keep reading. Let’s start out by thinking of Chinuk Wawa compound tree names ending in -stik, which go about as far back in time as we have documents of CW:
They are possibly 100% modeled on Native words.
For example Emma Luscier’s Lower Chehalis láck̓án̓ɬ ‘oaktree’ (as John P. Harrington glossed it) = root láck̓án̓ ‘oak’ plus the lexical suffix -n̓ɬ ‘tree’. (Variants of the suffix, used in some other words, include -áɬ / -əɬ.)
So Chinuk Wawa (approx.) latsikan-stik is likely a “calque” modeled on the Salish word.
Notice that this root latsikan is really not Salish looking. I think that element is originally Chinookan. But the word for ‘oak tree’ is a native Lower Chehalis formation!
Not every tree/shrub word in Lower Chehalis fits this mold — but plenty of them do. Here’s a few more X-stik‘s:
- k̓ʷəxʷ-áɬ ‘hemlock’
- níq̓ʷ-əɬ ‘cottonwood’
- ƛ̓íč̓t-ən̓əɬ ‘wild grapes’ (Oregon grape)
- c̓əl̓ápəpu-nɬ ‘wild-rose’
- ləm̓-áɬ ‘alder’
- xʷíxʷ-ən̓ɬ ‘bear-berries’ (cascara)
Is Salish the most likely source for this X-stik structure? Do the corresponding words in the Jargon’s other Native ancestor, Chinookan, have a comparable structure?
Well, Franz Boas’s 1910 “Sketch” of Shoalwater Lower Chinookan indeed does suggest a suffix -ti glossed by him as ‘tree’. The one example of it given there is u-gʷí-pxa-ti ‘alder’ which Boas says means literally ‘wood for dyeing’ (see pages 613-614).
However…I suspect that his expert Charles Cultee’s use of Chinook Jargon as main working language with him influenced Papa Franz’s understanding of this suffix; CJ stik would be the translation given for both ‘tree’ and ‘wood’. I mention this because:
- Firstly, suffixes with nounlike meaning seem to me rare and even uncharacteristic of Chinookan languages (whereas they’re frequent and normal in all Salish languages). So I suspect that our -ti is actually a noun root, and that u-gʷí-pxa-ti ‘alder’ is a compound noun. (Cf. Boas 1910:592-593, 658-659.)
- Secondly, this -ti just doesn’t seem to be used to make the names of other trees. Compare: i-ġábənaš ‘oak’, í-makč ‘spruce’, í-šgan ‘cedar’.
So I think -ti may mean specifically ‘bark’ since the latter is what’s used for dyeing things. As a matter of fact, on page 569 Boas glosses the same tree name as ‘alder-bark tree’.
And I conclude that Chinookan cannot be the inspiration for Chinook Jargon’s -stik compounds.
Neither are CJ’s Indo-European ancestors English and French in the running. English does sometimes say the compounds “maple tree“, “cedar tree“, and so forth, but the second member of each is an optional redundancy, not the rule.
French often forms tree names with a suffix -ier ~ ‘tree’ (paume : paumier :: ‘palm : palm tree’) but not all names of trees native to the Pacific Northwest act like this (érable : *érablier :: ‘maple(tree) : *maple tree’; pin : *pinier :: ‘pine(tree) : *pine tree’).
I conclude that Southwest Washington Salish, and specifically Lower Chehalis, is the probably inspiration behind the Jargon’s X-stik tree names.
(Interlude: a fun NEW ETYMOLOGY fact! If we broaden our search beyond suffixes, we notice a Lower Chinookan stem for ‘tree’ is -k̓ámunaq in i-k̓ámunaq ‘tree’ (page 674). (Compare a-k̓ámunaq ‘fir’ its Augmentative form a-gámunaq [‘big fir’] in the related Wishram/Kiksht language (page 640).) The Chinuk Wawa word for ‘100’ is formed from this same stem, a connection that has not been drawn before. Whatever the nature of the metaphor connecting ‘hundred’ and ‘tree’ (the stem is almost certainly further analyzable, as Boas notes on page 674 of his “Sketch”), it’s widespread in Chinookan as you can see from the entry tak’umunaq in the Grand Ronde Tribes’ 2012 Jargon dictionary.)
All of this reminds us that
(A) we have to honor how Chinuk Wawa preserved lots of ancient Native metaphors and
(B) Lower Chehalis Salish’s role in forming Chinuk Wawa was tightly woven together with Lower Chinook’s role; we need to carefully keep track of each as we unwind the threads to learn how CW was created.
Think about this, now:
Chinuk Wawa makes a distinction between ‘trees & bushes’ (stík) and ‘grasses, leaves, & small plants’ (típsu). This again is a semantic structure that’s paralleled in SW WA Salish with its separate lexical suffixes -n̓ɬ / -áɬ ‘tree’ versus -styəp ‘plant’…but which I don’t detect in Chinookan, where words for plants are simpler (cf. Boas’s “Chinook: An Illustrative Sketch”, 1910:656).
All in all, I see the lexical suffixes in local Salish languages as the most likely source for Chinuk Wawa’s method of botanical naming.
I’ll be writing more about other Salish lexical suffixes & their impact on the early formation of Chinook Jargon. Stay tuned.
What do you think?
This is brilliant! Dale Kincade would be pleased. I had assumed this was a European construct but you make a powerful argument. I wonder if the Salishan languages in British Columbia have this same suffix treatment. Also would love to hear more about how you think tukamonuk came to mean one hundred. Do you think this could be a coincidence as it doesn’t seem intuitive the connection between 100 and tree.
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Well, now, the Douglas fir is the biggest tree in that country, eh?
And my experience is that the majority of the world’s languages have numeral systems that only go up to the range of ten or so. Languages of small, face-to-face societies rarely have a need for a number as big as 100, so they have to innovate a term once e.g. European money is introduced. Salish languages coin variations on “ten this-or-that”. Chinuk Wawa early on expressed 100 as “ten tens”.
So Lower Chinookan, for its part, used a metaphor “as big as the biggest tree” for a quantity as big as a hundred…
Recording an additional observation here — relevant to my “…Boas’s 1910 “Sketch” of Shoalwater Lower Chinookan indeed does suggest a suffix -ti … I think -ti may mean specifically ‘bark’ ” — Note the Grand Ronde Tribes’ 2012 Dictionary entry for kʰalakwati ‘cedar-bark’, with its superb Chinookan etymological notes that appear to indicate a stem ~ kalagwa, which would imply that my proposed suffix (or compounded stem?) -ti does mean ‘bark’.
Kata maika tomtom?
PS: my apologies, sometimes my blog’s formatting goes haywire & turns my carefully outlined (dense) presentation into something unreadable, like the above Dave R.
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