I go on, much speculating: an additional source for Chinuk Wawa’s Progressive prefix

keep going

(Image source: NotSalmon.com)

I’ve written about how various words “grammaticalized” in Chinook Jargon, developing from original literal senses such as “make” and “come”, into prefixes and such.

Let’s have a look at the Jargon’s Progressive Aspect marker hayu-. This essentially shows a verb as an ongoing action, like the English -ing in the word talking.

The history of this hayu- seems pretty much transparent: surely it came from the quantifier háyú ‘much, a lot’.

That, in turn, is one of that small number of Chinuk Wawa words tracing back to the earlier Nootka Jargon, the pidginized version of Vancouver Island, Canada’s nuučaan̓uł language. Up there, its ancestor was either ḥayu meaning ‘ten’, or for a better match of meaning than shape, ʔaya meaning ‘lots’.

So, whether you want to think of the Jargon’s hayu- + Verb as “lots of doing” or “ten times the doing” 🙂 you’re pretty much in the ballpark, aren’t you?

But what if there’s even more to the story? Just as two separate words in nuučaan̓uł were pretty close to each other and to hayu- in sound and meaning, there happens to be a mighty decent match in the old Chinookan tribal language…

Consider this: Chinookan áiu (variously spelled in previous documents as áiuuāʹyō, and, to show a loooong last syllable, āʹyō4) means ‘he went; he goes’, sometimes translated as ‘he went on’, presumably = ‘he continued/kept going’. Take note, this is a gendered verb, specifically marked as having Masculine reference; it contrasts for example with áłu ‘it goes/went’ and núia ‘she went/goes’.

In stories, this Chinookan áiu is often used as a connector in sequences of actions, for example ‘he shot a pheasant’ [local word for grouse] + áiu + ‘he found a house’.

While I support the Nootka Jargon etymology, I want to add Chinookan áiu as a potential additional source for the Jargon’s hayu-.

I suggest the following mechanism:

  • We know Chinookan speakers played an important role in shaping earlier Chinuk Wawa.
  • We know Chinookans as a rule were multilingual; they spoke at least Chinookan and Jargon, as well as e.g. Lower Chehalis Salish due to asymmetrical bilingualism in their communities (the record is consistent that regional Native people felt Chinookan was impossible for non-Chinooks to learn).
  • So, Chinookan speakers heard háyú getting used in new extended ways to suggest ongoing action as hayu-, and while recognizing the logical connection there, this could also strike them as “just like” Chinookan áiu.
    • In terms of sound matchup, the Jargon had an old pattern where words alternated between just an initial vowel and h+vowel, such as (h)áyáq ‘quick(ly)’.
    • And in terms of meaning match, the leap from gendered ‘he went (on)’ to generic ‘go on doing’ would have been no more absurd as pidginized Chinookan than the development of yáqsu from ‘his hair’ to any ‘hair’.

I believe the Progressive Aspect hayu- of the Jargon arose, like most of the other known grammaticalizations in this pidgin-creole, pretty early in the known history of the language.

(It is no coincidence, then, that most of these Chinuk Wawa grammatical operators have Nootka Jargon sources, since NJ helped form the earliest known nucleus of CW.)

It’s hard to locate old examples, I admit, because there are so many more lists of single words than there are connected texts documenting early Jargon. The construction of a master database of all Chinuk Wawa, as I intend, will help with this issue. Still, we find expressions such as this from Demers’s 1871 dictionary and catechism:

< … kiwa aïu naïka mamuk masache… > 
because much I do evil
‘…because I have sinned much / because I keep on sinning…’

What do you think?

I’m editing to add a mention of the very common grammaticalization, in the world’s languages, of a verb of motion into a “light verb” that gives a Progressive-aspect sense.

We find this in some European languages; for example, my native English has Progressive “to go on doing” as well as the conceptually similar Sequential “to go on to do”. And the Australian language Aranda has developed a “durative marker” (continuative aspect) on verbs out of its verb ‘to go’. (That’s in Heine & Kuteva 2002:158; on page 159 they note other languages with similar developments, including Negerhollands creole Dutch.)

Certain unrelated languages whose grammars I’ve read — although I’m at a loss for examples at this moment — even include an affix in the verb to specify a meaning of “do while going”, “go to do”, and so on, all of which again cover interrelated semantic spaces.

So a Chinookan interpretation of Chinuk Wawa’s hayu-mamuk as ‘go do’ is plausible on these crosslinguistic tendential grounds too.