Etymologies or “Oops”: rounding up some consequences

chinook horses

(Image credit: Chinook Horses)

If it turns out to be true (as I suggested the other day) that Chinuk Wawa nouns beginning with the sounds úp… preserve an old Chinookan-language prefix p- ‘Instrument; Tool’…

…this may in turn suggest that another Chinookan affix found in CW words was actually borrowed from Salish. (Into Chinookan.) (Then to CW.)

I recall the great anthropologist Dell Hymes saying in our early online Chinook Jargon discussion group that the Chinookan stem kiutən ‘horse’, which is the source of Jargon’s word for ‘horse’, contains a suffix tən meaning approximately ‘thing’.

This would leave a root whose meaning is unknown, if I remember the rest of Dell’s observation.

Did Dell mention other words that might include this suffix? I’m having the deuce of a time Google-searching our old CHINOOK list archives anymore. Additional candidates that I can come up with include Chinookan -k̓áutən ‘squirrel’, which also came into Chinuk Wawa; -šintan ‘mole’, -ƛ̓íx̣tan ‘snail’. Maybe it’s a “significant-animal” suffix; snail plays a big role in certain myths. I don’t seem to find it on fish or bird names. (Make what you will of -kəlaitan ‘arrow’.)

To suggest any suffixes in Chinookan tends to be an interesting claim. Chinookan languages are mostly prefixing in nature. A number of their suffixes, or postpositions, have been pointed out as probably borrowed from neighboring Sahaptian. By this line of thinking, for ‘Instrumental’ function maybe Chinookan originally had a prefix (p-), but later borrowed from other neighbours (SW Washington Salish) their Instrumental suffix (-tn, found everywhere in Salish).

I’m bemused that the scant few words of Chinookan that I think might contain this -tn are animal names. Could it be that Chinookans reinterpreted (“reanalyzed”) SW WA Salish -tn, which occurs in a huge range of words for physical items (‘axe’; ‘pants’; ‘breast/nipple’), making it an ‘animal names’ suffix? That’s not crazy, because Chinookan languages have another such affix, -xʷa, on quite a number of fauna words. And in the broader region, there are special suffixes, e.g. Sahaptian -ye, to form the “myth name” of an animal.

(Adding, a day after I wrote the preceding: I’ve also found a Chinookan noun i-k̓əná[-]tan ‘potentilla roots’. This ‘potentilla’ is probably the widely harvested edible plant now known as Pacific silverweed. The middle portion resembles, to my eye, an Upper Chehalis Salish form ʔukʷíla that’s perhaps borrowed from Chinookan. (Chinookan’s Feminine noun prefix u- normally turns a following /k/ into /kʷ/; Chinookan /n/ varies pretty freely with /l/). This word is confusingly glossed as ‘large camas (?Lomatium sp.)…a root 3-4 times larger than camas’ in Kinkade’s 1991 dictionary. So, is the -tan in i-k̓əná[-]tan the same thing as -tn?)

Speaking of broadening our view, I’d like to point out that Chinookan may have borrowed all of its stem (word) for ‘horse’ from Salish. In numerous Coast Salish languages from Southwest Washington at least up through Puget Sound into BC’s Squamish and Sechelt territories, ‘horse’ sounds like s-tiqíw / s-təqíw. I suspect it’s more plausible for this to be a Salish word (natively invented for a new animal, or borrowed from an Interior language where we know horse culture came earlier), than for it to have been loaned from Chinookan into numerous faraway languages.

And I see it as reasonable to imagine Chinookans, hearing s-tiqíw / s-təqíw from the Salish neighbors whose languages they are known to have spoken, “knowing” that the Salish word is “really” Chinookan t-qiw / t-qiu / t-kiu. Because you typically find Salish nouns having that s- at the start. And because in the Chinookan languages, t- is the noun plural prefix. And horses are a herd animal, occurring in bunches. And because “everyone knows” it’s a Salish word, Chinookans could slap that Salish-y suffix -tn right onto it as well.

Such is my somewhat detailed analysis…are you still with me?

Having deduced such facts, Chinookans could then freely apply different noun prefixes to this stem, which would explain why we find the the singular of *(s-)tə-qíw(-tn) being assigned a gender (masculine, as it happens) via the prefix in i-kiu-tn ‘horse’.

A neat extra puzzle is whether an early reported Chinook Jargon word, sometimes spelled < siskiyou > and meaning a ‘bobtailed horse’, contains this suggested root –kiu. There’s been a ton of inconclusive arguing over this word’s source. I’ll add to it by asking, what if < siskiyou > is just a misspelling of Salish stiqiw?

We can speculate further on whether another old supposedly Jargon word < cayuse > for Indian ponies, might also contain a form of –kiu. At least some etymologists have suggested that this particular word traces back to Spanish caballos ‘horses’ — notice the plural again — and indeed the Spanish word supplied numerous Indigenous languages with their ‘horse’ word. (There’s a juicy little study titled “Animals of Acculturation in the California Indian Languages” by William Bright that lays this out.) (I myself have proposed a Salish etymology for “cayuse” based on a stem and suffix giving a meaning ‘spotted face’, perhaps appropriate for a Nez Perce appaloosa kind of horse.)

Somewhere in all of this, I’d love to be able to figure out the history of Sahaptian k’úsi ‘horse’…!

qʰáta máyka tə́mtəm? What do you think?

Editing to add (12/3/2018): tán is a full Lower Chinookan word for ‘(some)thing’ (“Chinook Texts” 1894:154). This is extremely similar to neighboring but unrelated Lower Chehalis Salish tám ‘(some)thing; what’. It’s not hard to imagine Chinookan speakers bringing this element into a mix that would produce the supposed suffix discussed above, forming phrases meaning ‘X thing’ just as we routinely see in Chinuk Wawa. Even more food for thought.