Mamuk-chaku- (part 2)

let it be

Let It Be (image credit: Laibach)

Yesterday I discussed a short-lived innovation in “mid”-period Chinuk Wawa of the lower Columbia River homeland: the double prefixation, mamuk-chaku-.

It’s known to us mainly from Father St. Onge’s 1892 manuscript dictionary, a fact that leads us to think it reflects his circa-1870 use while working in the region. I still need to investigate whether earlier examples of it can be found.

I noted that this “Causative” plus “Inchoative” formation seems to only be found on adjectives and nouns. It more or less gives a meaning “make become”, thus holding on to a Causative sense overall.

I also specified that I hadn’t had time to poke into its background, for example to see if there are comparable structures in any of Chinuk Wawa’s 4 main source languages, Chinookan, English, French, or Salish.

Well, Shoalwater Lower Chinookan has a Causative suffix that I’ll write as -əmit. Franz Boas’s examples from Charles Cultee in the 1910 “Sketch” of the grammar are ‘to make someone stand’, ‘to make someone sit’, ‘to cause to run’ (here a metaphor for ‘to carry away’, probably ‘steal’), and  ’cause to be roasted/cooked [in ashes]’. Only the latter sounds like it could include an Inchoative ‘become’ meaning, but as far as I can make out the morphology, it just has Causative + a root for ‘roasting’. There’s also an Inchoative/change-of-state prefix in that language, a-, and the verb root –x ‘to do’ is another way of expressing ‘become’ (especially in its Reflexive form: ‘to make oneself __’), but I find no sign that either occurs together with Causative…

English is able to express various degrees of a subject’s/agent’s control over a Causative event, though I’m not sure how many of those shades were really common in the 1800s formative years of Chinuk Wawa. ‘Make it so. ‘Let it be.’ ‘Cause it to become’.

French? Here I have to confess that I’m better at passively reading than actively speaking the language. I have no strong sense of just how French would express what’s surely a bit of a rarity in any language: ’cause to become’ … faire devenir? faire se faire?? Readers, can you help?

The Salish language of this area (Southwest Washington) that I work with the most, and that shows by far the most impact on Chinook Jargon, is Lower Chehalis. We’re building a dictionary of it by gathering together and analyzing 200 years of scattered but pretty substantial data. It’s a ways from complete, but I can tell you at this stage that I’ve been able to locate a grand total of one (1) instance of Causative & Inchoative-type affixes both occurring on a predicate: txʷtə́pstəmtranslated by the native speaker as ‘to scrape’. (I understand this word as txʷ- being the Inchoative ‘become’ part, tə́p ‘to bump/scrape’, -st Causative, and -təm Passive, altogether something like ‘it was caused to be bumped/scraped’.) Major fact: the word’s meaning seems not be Causative overall — a big difference from the Chinuk Wawa formation.

To sum up another short daily post on this subject, I don’t see any obvious Native model, nor any spontaneous-feeling Indo-European one, for the Jargon’s mamuk-chaku-. 

And as we got to discussing in the comments under my post of mamuk- the other day, there need not be any external inspiration for this structure. This may be just a Jargon-internal innovation.

Or even, faulty memory or even a “fiat” creation on the part of Father St. Onge, in which case we can just “let it be”. The way to resolve that question is going to be to search for earlier sources that definitely use the same construction…stay tuned!