A “Gloria” Rosetta stone


(Image credit: Luis Dias)

One way to teach people Chinuk Wawa is to set them up with a reading passage, providing a running translation…

…so here is an example from Kamloops, BC, from more than a century ago, giving you the meaning of the Chinuk Wawa words — in shorthand Latin phonetics!

(If that’s your bag, you might also enjoy Bill Poser’s nice study of Latin written in Dakelh syllabics.)

I assume Latin isn’t my readers’ go-to form of relaxation, so I’ll add in some English. Take note, I’m translating the Chinook Jargon for you, not the Latin. Those of us with some Latin knowledge will find interesting questions coming up from the translator’s choices of Jargon expressions. Speaking for myself, I learned a couple things, for instance that in excelsis can be understood as referring to Heaven and not just as a metaphor of “high” praise.

Why don’t you have a go at Father Le Jeune’s translation of the traditional Catholic Christmastime prayer/hymn “Gloria in Excelsis”.

The bolded content is in Jargon, and my added English is bracketed:

gloria in excelsis 1

Gloria in iksilsis.

     Iaka ukuk lisash ankati shanti pus
     It this angel previously sing when 
    ‘This is what the angels long ago sang when’

ShK chako tanas. Iakwa msaika tlap
Jesus.Christ become child. Here you.folks find 
‘Jesus was born. Here you folks will find’

ukuk shanti kopa Chinuk.
this song in Chinook.
‘this song in Chinook.’


Gloria Glori [glory]
in kopa [in]
iksilsis sahali ilihi [heaven]
Dio. kopa ST [to God]
it pi [and]
in kopa [on]
tirra ukuk ilihi, [this earth,]
paks tlus mitlait [let there be]
omnibyus ukuk tilikom [those people] 

gloria in excelsis 2

boni “klaska mitlait” tlus [“who have” good]
volontatis tomtom [hearts]
Lodamyus Nsaika wawa tlus [We speak nicely]
ti. kopa maika [about/to you]
Binidisimyus Nsaika blis [We bless]
ti. maika [you]
Adoramyus Nsaika mamuk [h]aha [We worship]
ti. maika [you]
Glorifikamyus Nsaika mamuk glori [We glorify]
ti maika [you]
Grasias Mirsi [Thanks]
ashimyus nsaika wawa [we say]
tibi, kopa maika, [to you,]
proptir kopa ukuk [for this (reason)]
magnam aias [great] 

gloria in excelsis 3

gloriam glori; [glory;]
tyuam. maika “glori” [your “glory”]
domini o nsaika taii, [o our chief,]
Diyus ST, [God,]
riks taii [chief]
silistis, kopa sahali ilihi, [in heaven,]
Diyus ST [God]
patir papa, [(the) father,]
omnipotins skukum kopa kanawi ikta, [strong (enough) for every (kind of) thing,]
domini o nsaika taii, [oh our chief,]
fili “ST” tanas [“God” the child]
yunishiniti, kopa (SIC, i.e. kopit) iht, [in (i.e. only) one,]
Shisyu Kristi ShK. [Jesus Christ.]
Domini O nsaika taii, [Oh our chief,]
Diyus, ST, [God,] 

gloria in excelsis 4

agnyus “iaka” lamuto [“his” sheep]
Dii, ST, [God,]
filiyus “iaka” tanas [“his” child]
patris “ST” papa. [“God” the father.] 

Le Jeune was being careful in picking translations for each word, trying to be accurate and to give his Aboriginal readers grammatical, sensible Chinook Jargon sentences to reflect on.

Perhaps the only remarkable point in his translation here is seen in the last block of text, where possessives take an unusual word-order. (His sheep God = ‘God’s sheep’; his child God = ‘God’s child’.) Far more frequent in Jargon is the reverse (God his sheep, etc.). But this “backwards” possessive is still equally grammatical, and we have many many examples of it in the historical documentation of Chinuk Wawa.

(An interesting idea about this “his sheep God” structure, yet to be researched, is whether it’s

  1. most frequent in the Chinook Jargon of the line of French-speaking missionaries from Lionnet and Demers through Durieu and Le Jeune, and
  2. a speech habit that we should attribute to Canadian/Métis French. Certainly the pidgin “French of the Mountains” in BC, which seems to have sprung from Métis French, normally forms possessives in this identical way.

There’s always more work to be done…) 

Kata maika tomtom?
What do you think?