Masi & hayu masi

hayu masi

Hayu Masi (image credit: WindySpirit on Mixcloud)

For ‘thank you’, either plain old masi or else hayu masi seem to be the rule.
The latter is characteristic of current Grand Ronde usage. I’m not sure whether that implies that it may be quite an old usage.
On one hand, GR and its ancestor dialect of the general Fort Vancouver-associated Lower Columbia consistently tend to pattern with one another.
On the other, I’ve found no trace of hayu masi / hiyu mahsie / etc. in the historical sources! I don’t know if it is a good old community expression that just didn’t get documented till Henry Zenk worked there in the 1980s — which can be said of many Grand Ronde turns of phrase.
Ah, and on the third hand, did you realize that masi itself appears later than we might expect in Chinook Jargon’s provable history, with George Gibbs’ work based on his interpreter work from about 1849 on, published in 1863?!
Going further into the weeds. We might have expected the Jargon to evidence some calque on French “grand merci”, thus approximately ~hayas masi~ (both literally
‘big thanks’), but I’m not at all sure I’ve seen a single instance of that precise expression in the Jargon.
And this leads me to pose another research question: Was “grand merci” somehow more Continental and/or literary, and less typical of canadien French usage in the early 1800’s? A brief Google Books search on that phrase + “canadien” or “métis” or “indien”, etc., returns few relevant examples, which might lead us to a hasty conclusion.
However, one of those GBooks hits is on a well-known expression in the Dene languages of the Canadian North, “masi cho”. This in fact is a literal translation of “grand merci” — or, for that matter, “gros merci”! It’s almost certainly a direct borrowing from the Metis French people we know to have been historically numerous in the Subarctic.
With that in mind, I suspect that our now-common hayu masi, too, is inspired by a Metis “grand merci”, in the following way. It’s conceivable that hayas ‘big’ and hayu ‘many/much’ could somehow have crossed wires in Lower Columbia folks’ minds.
Consider for example the fact that each of those words experienced grammaticalization very early in Fort Vancouver-area Jargon, hayas into an Intensifying prefix and hayu as a verbal progressive aspect prefix. Such a development would have made both words even more frequent in speech than they already were.
From there, might our hypothesized-to-antedate-the-1980s hayu masi and our totally theoretical *hayas masi have emerged as free variants of each other in the creolizing Jargon? (Just as we do seem to see hyas/hiyu variation in the usages of Anglophone speakers of Chinuk Wawa.)
Any more detailed hypothesis I haven’t got for you just now. But this one is compelling enough to me to have examined at some length. It may represent yet another of the type of discovery about Chinuk Wawa that I’ve come to specialize in, the calque, where a source-language metaphor is preserved even if original words (such as “grand/gros“) become lost.
What do you think?
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