When book reviewers critiqued your Jargon…they documented a Grand Ronde grammaticalization

robert brown portrait and signature

(Image source: “The Adventures of John Jewitt

I’ve previously written a couple articles about Robert Brown‘s overlooked fine Chinuk Wawa mastery.Today let’s seal the case by reproducing part of a book review that he wrote.

Writing from the viewpoint of a lettered old Pacific Northwest hand (he had been commander of the 1860s Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition), Brown published a joint review of two books of Canadiana:

What tickles my fancy when I read his largely nonplussed evaluation of Shields’s volume is the way he judges — and corrects — the writer’s Chinuk Wawa.

A really compelling feature is Brown’s insistence that the way to say “can” (able) is with hyak (áyáq) as an adverb or auxiliary to the main verb, a usage which —

despite being noted, in the Chinookan language that it originally came from, at least as early as Franz Boas’s 1904 publication “The Vocabulary of the Chinook Language

— only became clearly documented within Chinook Jargon studies much later, with Henry Zenk’s 1980s Grand Ronde work!

Brown now seems to be the earliest authority to have pointed out this grammaticalization in the Jargon.

We lead off with this point:

brown review 1

Again, his Chinook is seldom right. For example, yakka hyak does not mean “he can come.” What the Indian must have said was yakka chaho hyak. Nor is ikta mika mammook “at what.” [DDR note: it means ‘what are you doing?’] Once more, “Siwash” does not mean “a coast Indian,” but any Indian, being simply a corruption of the French sauvage. Mr. Shields blunders still further when he repeats a long-exploded absurdity

brown review 2

in the shape of a legend that the Chinook jargon was the invention of an “employé of the Hudson’s Bay Company” (p. 102). This, like the story of clahowya (how do you do?) being an Indianised form of “Clark, how are you?” is pure fiction, which by this time ought to be banished from the pages of any book at all affecting accuracy. As well-informed philologist knows, it arose at Astoria, near the Columbia River mouth, and based on the language of the Chinook Indians who congregated round the pioneer fort of the fur companies, the jargon gradually, as is case with every other Lingua Franca, getting mixed with corrupted words from various Indian tongues brought by voyageurs and traders from the posts at which they had been stationed, and many from the English, French, and (though Gibbs denies this assertion) Hawaiian languages.

— from “Two Hunters in the Far West“, The Academy volume 37, number 922 (January 4, 1890), pages 4-5

All of Brown’s remarks strike me as sensible, due to being based in observed facts.

ikta mayka təmtəm? What do you think?

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