Another early Chinuk Wawa grammaticalization?: mamuk-/munk-


(Image credit: @mamukfirenze on Twitter)

This one is ALMOST so obvious that we could miss it.

The pre-Chinuk Wawa word mamuk ‘to make/do’, from the “Nootka Jargon” of Vancouver Island area is obviously one of the earliest known words in CW. That’s to say it was documented first in “NJ”, and only afterwards in Chinuk Wawa.

It follows that this word’s adaptation — “grammaticalization” — from full verb to what I’ll call a Causative prefix in CW also happened early.

That prefix being mamuk-, and with phonological reduction typical of such things, munk- in Grand Ronde’s creole dialect.

This morning I’m finding that that’s not instantly demonstrable, since many of our earliest records of CW just list individual “words”. That format excludes complex structures, such as mamuk+root word.

And the handiest existing reference work that collects old sources together into timelines of CW forms (S.V. Johnson’s 1978 dissertation) only lists complex forms under their heads (basically their second word; the opposite approach from the more recent Grand Ronde dictionary). As a result, under mamuk we find kinds of ‘making/doing’ such as  < kaltaj mamook > ‘bad work’, but not Causative forms like < mamuk-kaw > ‘to tie something up’.

So it’s mildly difficult to track down early examples of Causative mamuk-___.

But it can be done. For instance, one of the first documents having lots of full Chinuk Wawa sentences in it — and you can’t stick to the “individual words” approach if you’re saying sentences!! — is the “Chinook Dictionary, Catechism, Prayers and Hymns” book credited to Demers, Blanchet, and St. Onge. Published in 1871, its contents were evidently composed in the late 1830s, which gives us some nice early Jargon.

That little book’s dictionary lists things by part-of-speech, so you have to turn to the Verbs section. Pages 27 and 28 are pretty much chock full of mamuk- Causatives: < mamuk elaHan > ‘to help’, < mamuk iakesilH > ‘to sharpen’, etc. etc. Dozens of examples.

Nothing in the documentary record of Chinook Jargon suggests that Demers & Co. spoke weird.

All signs indicate that this mamuk- Causative formation was strongly established in everyone’s CW speech quite early on.

Well now, there you have your timing more or less resolved.

What about the source? We always have to think about where a Chinuk Wawa form came from — not just its etymology (in this case from Nootka Jargon), but the inspiration, the idea behind it. In the present case, I have no reason to think that Nootka Jargon used mamuk in this way; I think I’ve detected a couple of compound words in NJ, but nothing like evidence for a Causative formation.

So, which other languages might’ve inspired it? We turn as usual to the 4 main contributors that were on the scene in early Chinuk Wawa days: French, Salish, English, and Chinookan.

  • French has a somewhat frequent similar “make” construction, as in faire du camping ‘to go camping’. But it doesn’t seem to be productive — I believe you can’t slap any old word you want after faire and expect it to be an accepted compound verb. You do have common expressions like Elle s’est fait comprendre ‘She made herself understood / She made clear’, but in my understanding those aren’t so much about a productively formed compound (faire comprendre) as about an idiomatic phrase.
  • Salish has Causative-type forms. A couple kinds come to mind, for the local Southwest Washington Salish. First, there’s what I take as a compound, where a root saʔ ‘to make’ is followed by a noun stem, typically giving you a noun. (So the place name Satsop is literally like ‘it makes a stream’.) Second, there’s a true verbal Causative suffix -st, which is freely usable on all kinds of predicates, so it’s comparable with the distribution of mamuk- in Chinuk Wawa.
  • English can combine “make” with a following word, but as with French, this typically amounts to either an idiomatic phrase such as “make do” or “make fun of”, or else a simple sum-of-the-parts where each element holds onto its lexical meaning as in “make bread” or “make a canoe”. The more Causative sense in “make (someone do something)” is pretty restricted, in that it’s only one of several modal constructions of compulsion — there’s also “force”, “have”, “cause”, and so on. So that “make” is probably not of sufficient frequency in casual speech to have ever influenced Chinuk Wawa.
  • Chinookan has one Causative-type formation that’s of sky-high frequency, and it’s comparable in its semantics to mamuk- Causatives. Probably the most common verb root in Chinookan languages is -x ‘to make/to to’, and it’s used in hundreds of examples I find in Franz Boas’s “Chinook Texts” (1894). I’m particularly thinking of the common formation where Chinookan uses a “particle” (ideophone, onomatopoeia, what have you; a lot of these became common words of Chinuk Wawa) + an inflected form of this verb. as in ɬáqʷ  ačía-x̣ ‘he took it out’ (out

Take the above picture all together and it sure looks like Native languages pass the DNA test much better than European ones.

Chinuk Wawa’s mamuk- Causative seems more Chinookan than anything to me, at least in the impressionistic sense of being a single form and often using words that we also recognize in Chinuk Wawa.

Keep in mind, though, that the local Salish -st is of comparable flexibility, and my readers will recall that I’ve lately traced a number of other grammatical formations in CW specifically to Salish.

Without having to specify a source language, I think we’ve once again found that the grammar of Chinook Jargon formed under primarily Native guidance.