More early Chinuk Wawa grammaticalization: mank- ‘Comparative’


(Image credit: MyShared)

mank-: This typical lower Columbia River way of forming the Comparative degree of adjectives and adverbs goes very far back……though it was superseded by the originally Salish iləp- (another early innovation, which previously was limited to a Superlative meaning!) when the Jargon spread to settler communities, grammatically simplifying in that process.

My readers will know that I consistently point out how Chinuk Wawa simplified not only in vocabulary but in grammar, every time it got taken to a new region.

With today’s article, and the rest in the theme I’ve been developing, I’m showing why that’s such an important fact to take note of:

The Jargon had actually developed (“grammaticalized”) quite a lot of sophisticated structure very early in its documented history. Prefixes, suffixes, reduplication, a null third-person inanimate pronoun, aspect marking…that’s a lot of grammar (some would claim) for a pidgin language.

It’s a lot of grammar to lose, for sure.

The low view of many contemporary observers, that this was a structurally impaired medium of speech, ironically became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Chinook Jargon quickly gained recognition for its usefulness in new interethnic contacts. Therefore it was brought along into those situations — where much of its expressiveness was lopped off in favor of quick & dirty negotiating skills.

I argue that the “agency”, or call it blame, in those reverse developments lies squarely with Whites. To be more precise in my reasoning, with speakers of Indo-European languages.

Because a lot of the grammar innovations that flourished in early Chinuk Wawa were Native-modeled and thus lacked analogous structures in English & French, the anglophones and francophones in CW’s speech community often had a hard time even noticing and fully comprehending many of those nuances.

(I did mention, didn’t I, null pronouns? Reduplication? A focus on verbal aspect rather than tense?)

Well now, let me just show you how early mank-, as I’m arbitrarily spelling it today, was in use as an inflectional prefix signifying Comparative degree. These examples all are from the lower Columbia area:

  • Demers (1871:30; used by 1840) mank ‘more’
  • Lionnet (1853:6; used by 1848) manké ‘more; davantage [greater in quantity]’
  • St. Onge (1892 dictionary manuscript; used by 1870) mank (not glossed separately, but found in many forms including: )
    • mank-aias ‘greater’
    • mank-klawa ʹeasierʹ
    • mank-oleman ʹelderʹ
    • mank-patl ʹfullerʹ
    • mank-sahali ʹhigherʹ
    • mank-saia ʹfurther, fartherʹ
    • mank-til ʹheavierʹ
    • mank-tlai ʹdrierʹ
    • mank-tlush ʹchoicer; betterʹ
    • mank-tlush-tomtom ‘happier’

These manks suggest one or more of the following sources in the local Shoalwater Lower Chinookan language:

  • < maniq!äʹ > /maniq’í/ ~ /manəq’í/ ‘too much’ (Boas 1910:634). Boas speculates that this and the other particles it’s listed with are unanalyzable, whereas I see most of them as probably composed of meaningful elements! The Grand Ronde dictionary’s entry for manaqi notes this and with a similar Kathlamet-dialect form, though no gloss is mentioned for either.
  • < mᴇʹnx·ī > /mə́nxi/ ‘a little while’, formed from mank ‘a little’; “with adverbial ending –ī, the k is always aspirated” [pronounced as x] (Boas 1910:667). This word is not noted in the Grand Ronde dictionary.

I’m suggesting that these may be fundamentally the same word. We know little enough about Chinookan that it’s hard to disprove a link, whereas there’s known to be a sound-mutation in those languages between “normal” q’ and Diminutive kx (i.e. “apirated k“) that I find suggestive.

The glosses of the Chinookan forms may as usual reflect the speaker Charles Cultee’s explanations to Boas via Chinook Jargon:

  • While underdocumented due to Whites’ tendency to leave identifiably English words out of their written CJ word lists, we know e.g. from British Columbia’s “Chinook Writers” that tuməch was indeed a Jargon word, and it could mean something like ‘a lot’ and ‘more’ as well as ‘too much’.
  • ‘A little while’ would be CW tənəs-líli.
  • ‘A little’, CW ~tənəs, often has the effective sense of a comparative, for example in tənəs-háyásh ‘a little louder; a little bigger’. Cultee may have been casting about for a way to explain Chinookan mank with a single Jargon word — when the Jargon word for mank was mank…! A word which Boas perhaps didn’t understand, cf. his 1933 article ironically claiming that the lower Columbia-region CJ that I’m discussing was not really CJ, while listing a couple of dozen lower Columbia-region CJ words that his own informants in the lower Columbia region used. (My fingers and head hurt from typing that.)

The point is that Franz Boas’s command of Chinook Jargon was of a less-complex, later, more northerly dialect, and the work I’m doing on his field notes shows that he had imperfect understanding of even that.

So anyway there’s an argument to be made that we have here a single Chinookan source stem ~mank, meaning (let’s say) ‘some more’.

A look through Boas’ “Chinook Texts” volume demonstrates that mank ‘a little’ is an adverb preceding the adverbs ‘far’, ‘much’, ‘long.while’, ‘long(.time)’, etc., as well as a verb ‘you (are) large’. You should understand that in Chinookan, adjectives are grammatically verbs; thus, the original mank operated in verbal domains. The sense it adds there is of Comparative degree.

How different did mank become in Chinuk Wawa?

  • The pidgin-creole applies it prefixally to adjectives, a word class that actually exists in CW.
  • Tangentially to our discussion, CW also uses it as a nounlike quantifier, as in the example sentence spelled yaka kəmtəks manəkə pi nayka ‘She knows more than me’.

(An aside: the sense ‘more; in addition’ is represented in both Chinookan and Chinuk Wawa by wə́x̣t ‘also’. Chinookan has still other words to express ‘yet more, yet again’ and such.)

(Another aside: as Horatio Hale’s 1890 grammar sketch reports, there was another way of expressing comparison that used no grammaticalized material. You could say < wake mika skookum kahkwa nika > ‘I am stronger than thou’, literally ‘I’m not strong like you’.

And reinforcing my claim that íləp made a late expansion from the Superlative to also cover the Comparative degree, notice that people then had to add specifying words if they actually meant the former. Thus, in JK Gill’s 1909 dictionary< Elip hyas markook kopa konaway > ‘more precious than all’, literally ‘most/more big buy/price among all’.)