“Far” as another Intensifier: a French metaphor?

far and away french

“Far and Away” in French (image credit: Pinterest)

We’ve seen how Chinuk Wawa uses a number of words as adverbial Intensifiers…

…such as, quite early in CW’s history, hayas- (from the word for ‘big’); and perhaps a bit later, dlet/dret (‘straight; really’). 

Here’s a rarer one, saya (‘far’). So far, we know it from just one person’s Chinook Jargon.

And there, I’ve found it modifying just one word, iləp.

Probably no great coincidence, that. Both saya and iləp have pretty fundamental spatial meanings — so it strikes me as something like natural that they’d get associated in folks’ minds

Interestingly, that word has two really different functions in the examples I’ve found.

In our first and third of the chronologically arranged illustrations below, it’s forming the Comparative Degree of an adjective.

In the middle one that you’ll see, it’s an adverb meaning ‘before’.

The divergence in functions suggests to me the possibility that Father Le Jeune understood ilip saia as a set expression, a pair of words that feel natural to say together, regardless of how, specifically, they’re being used in a sentence.

< Ilip saia… >, as Father Le Jeune wrote it in his shorthand “Chinook Writing”, is literally something like our English-language idiom “far and away…” as an Intensifier of adjectives.

Is there a parallel expression in Le Jeune’s native European French?

I’ve not noticed comparative metaphors being employed in the Salish languages of regions where Le Jeune worked and spoke with people — am I mistaken there? In Kuipers’ 1974 grammar, I’m having the devil of a time finding how Comparative and Superlative degrees of adjectives are formed in the Secwepemc (“Shuswap”) of the Kamloops area.

  • ‘Far’ is kəkéw; I haven’t noticed it being used as an Intensifier.
  • The word for ‘ahead, in front’ (corresponding to < ilip >) is x̣ətéqs, but the Intensified ‘way ahead’ is just expressed as ‘much ahead’: xʷʔít γ n-s-x̣əté{t}qs ‘I’m way ahead’ (much Article my-Noun-ahead; note, this is used metaphorically, “after winning or making a lot of money”).

I don’t know of another possible source for < ilip saia >, i.e. this structure hasn’t come to my attention in earlier varieties of Chinuk Wawa from farther south, in the old homeland closer to the lower Columbia River. I’ll keep my eyes open.

This use of < ilip > seems to have held on pretty solidly for a number of years.


Ukuk Shinuk pipa iaka saia ilip skukum kopa ukuk hlwima tsim klaska mamuk.
‘This Chinook writing is far more powerful than those other ways of writing that are used.’

— Kamloops Wawa #70 (March 19, 1893), page 46

… pi iaka mitlait kopa sahali ilihi alta, iaka sit dawn kopa ST iaka rait hand: iaka saia ilip kopa kanawi lisash…
‘…and he is in Heaven now, sitting at God’s right hand: he is far ahead of all the angels…’

— “Chinook Book of Devotions” (1902), page 31

Ayu tawn nsaika nanich alta; aias tlus tawn kanawi; saia ilip tlus kopa Kamlups…
‘There were many towns that we saw now: they were quite nice towns all, far nicer than Kamloops…’

“Kamloops Wawa” 1904

I’d appreciate hearing any insights my readers may have about this previously undocumented grammatical form in Chinuk Wawa.

Kata maika tomtom?
What do you think?