Chinuk Wawa ‘branch’ is from Salish


Translation: “I am Groot!” (image credit: TeePublic)

Another Chinook Jargon word from Salish: ‘branch’.

It’s given as < tsi-á-lits > by J.K. Gill (1909:13).

This word is recognizable as Southwest Washington Salish:

  • Lower Chehalis:
    • ‘branch’ (Eells ca. 1880/Boas 1890) tčāʹ-alc (?) || tčʾil̥c (č̓ál(‘)š || č̓í(ə)l(‘)š)
    • ‘branch, limb’ (Kinkade 1978) č̓ál̓əš 
  • Quinault:
    • ‘knots or limbs (on trees)’ ch’áʔlash (Modrow 1971) (č̓ál̓aš)
  • Upper Chehalis:
    • ‘branch’ č̓á·l̓š
  • Cowlitz:
    • ‘branch’ k̓ál̓x

Compare Shoalwater Lower Chinookan:

  • ‘branch’ u-íkʷtəqlix (Boas ‘Chinook Texts‘ 1894:41) / u-íkʷtəqt’łix (page 107) / t’ł-íkʷtəqt’łix (page 162) [the stem of these forms oddly resembles Lower Chehalis ‘to steal’ but I’m going to set that aside!]
  • i-pínałx̣ ‘twig, branch’ (page 191)

I suggest that the best matches above are, as usual, the Lower Chehalis forms; Quinault’s word is almost identical to one of these.

Recall that Shoalwater Lower Chinookan speakers, who played such a pivotal role in forming the pidgin-creole Chinuk Wawa, typically spoke Lower Chehalis to Native outsiders. (Much as the Clatsop Chinookans of the opposite side of the Columbia River used Tillamook Salish, see Boas ‘Texts’ 1894:6.) In apparent consequence, we find plenty of traces of LoChe in the Jargon, although the scant work on that language has meant they haven’t been systematically pointed out before.

This Salish word, we should observe, derives from the ancient word for ‘hand, arm’. So the better-known Chinuk Wawa expression for a tree branch, stik-lima (‘tree-hand’) is an old Native metaphor, which also has gone unremarked until now.

Of course this metaphor overlaps the synonym ‘limb‘ in another source-language of the Jargon, English, but notice the difference there — a ‘limb‘ is any extremity, upper or lower. And Jargon lima was never primarily or prominently translated as ‘limb’.

So I assign credit to Salish.

What do you think?