How do you say ‘too much’?

too much

My favorite Google Images search result, ever: this Tolo Dance announcement came up for “too much” + “Chinook Jargon” (image credit: Quora)

How do you say ‘too much’ — or ‘too’ anything — in Chinook Jargon?

Ah, the answer to this varies by dialect of CJ.

There are effectively two answers, although one of them is more intricate than the other, as you’ll see!

(1) In the Grand Ronde community of northwestern Oregon, there’s a morpheme for “too”: t’úx̣əlq’a. It’s used in the same syntactic position as the English word, i.e. immediately preceding the adverb or adjective that it’s modifying. So Grand Ronde speakers of Jargon are documented as saying: 

  • t’úx̣əlq’a-hayú ‘too much; too many’
  • t’úx̣əlq’a-hayásh ‘too big’
  • t’úx̣əlq’a-sayá ‘too far’
  • t’úx̣əlq’a-tunús ‘too small’
  • t’úx̣əlq’a-wám ‘too hot’

Something that hasn’t been pointed out in previous research on the Jargon is that this morpheme t’úx̣əlq’a (which appears to have been two words in old Chinookan) for the Excessive Degree should be anayzed as an prefix. It occurs only as a dependent of a following descriptor, never as an independently uttered word. — This means that we must add yet another item to the list of sophisticated creolized features in the G.R. dialect.

(2) Elsewhere, and especially in British Columbia as documented overtly in my UVic dissertation, there is no morpheme for this “too” concept. (And for once I’m not going on about “null” forms here!)

Instead, in those CJ dialects, descriptive words are more clearly understood to be scalar, which is to say they are latently relative in degree. What this technical talk means is, a bare adjective or adverb (such as Kamloops-area lon ‘long’) can mean ‘long’; ‘longer’; ‘longest’; or ‘too long’, according to the context.

I hypothesize that vocal intonation historically played a part in conveying the distinctions among these, but we may not have sufficient audio documentation of connected speech (like conversations or storytelling) to evaluate that idea. I do find that tone of voice helps present-day speakers to hint at ‘too ____’.

An example of the scalarity of adjectives, specifically aias ‘big’, in Kamloops-area Jargon is in an older post on this site.

Another that I remember from an Indigenous-written “Chinuk Pipa” letter teases Father Le Jeune that maika iakso aias lon ‘your hair is very long’, meaning clearly ‘too long’ from the context.

In BC there are further developments, as usual, in the form of additional later loans from English having greater specificity of meaning than previous Jargon words had. Thus in the letters from the Kamloops area, we find Indigenous people and Father Le Jeune using tumach ‘too much; excessively’ and tulit ‘(too) late’ (e.g. in arriving at church).

So that’s the summary of what we know.
I’m interested to hear frontline reports, though, from groups of present-day learners and speakers, about how they deal with this common pragmatic demand upon the Jargon’s resources…

What do you think?
Kata maika tomtom?