Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa in the “Kalapuya Texts” (part 1)

lucindra jackson

Lucindra Jackson, Yonkalla tribe, K’alapuya, 1912 (image credit: Wikipedia)

I’m starting another mini-series, making the case that there’s much, much more Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa in a classic collection of “Kalapuya Texts”.

This was a 1945 publication by the eminent Pacific Northwest linguist Melville Jacobs (1902-1971). It does a wonderful job of collecting the known documents of speech in the K’alapuyan languages traditionally spoken in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon.

(Yes, “languages”, plural. Up front, let me confess I’m not going to label their specific languages, because the focus here will be on CW. And I may alternate between the older spelling “Kalapuyan” used by Jacobs and the more accurate “K’alapuyan”.)

Jacobs notes that all of the speakers represented (being Grand Ronde Indians) spoke Chinuk Wawa as well as their Kalapuyan languages.

CW loan words are frequent enough in this material that he presents a pretty sizable list of them, which I’d like to present in today’s first installment.

It can be noted that the words labeled as Chinuk Wawa by Jacobs, just like the ones he decides are “English”, are as a rule somewhat nativized into K’alapuyan. That is, they carry K’alapuya affixes such as the noun marker a(N)-, possessive prefixes, and so on.

Future research on which Jargon words are used *unaffixed* in Kalapuyan, and why, should be interesting. (Any Linguistics students reading this?)

The difference appears to be that the words he lists as “Jargon” are usually…

  • common nouns (not personal names or place names, or verbs or adjectives etc.)
  • easily recognizable from old Chinook Jargon dictionaries, which had a strong tendency to copy from each other instead of doing new original documentation
  • pronounced with distinctly Aboriginal sounds.

Here’s a key for converting Jacobs’ 1940s phonetic letters to current Grand Ronde creole Chinuk Wawa writing, which is pretty easy to do since the K’alapuyan speakers involved were G.R. Indians:

  • “ʙ” = p (not pʰ)
  • “c” = sh, so “tc” = ch
  • “ᴅ” = t (not tʰ)
  • “ε” = e
  • “ɢ” = k (not kʰ)
  • “ω” seems to = o


  • a dot • after a sound makes it pronounced long
  • ʹ [the math ‘prime’ symbol] is a stress mark
  • ‘ [apostrophe] is a glottal stop (ʔ)

Now, Jacobs’ list of Jargon words, from page 371. I quote:

(used in the texts)

     It is useful and interesting to segregate those words, italicized in the Indian
text and lacking [Jacobs’ notation for supposed English loans] E., that were borrowed by the natives from the Chinook Jargon which all of them knew. Such Jargon words were employed because appropriate native words had been forgotten or more often because matter under discussion was of recent development and only recently introduced words were available for its expression. A very small portion of the total vocabulary of the Chinook Jargon appeared in the Kalapuya text monographs. The phonetic variants witnessed in some of the words are many, exhibiting the wide range of permissive pronunciation in Jargon, even in the speech of only one individual. Each phoneme may appear in still more variants, but only those occurring in the Kalapuya texts have been listed here.

ʙaʹsᴅin, ʙaʹcᴅin, ‘American, United States citizen, Boston person’ [1]
ʙi•ʹʙa, ʙi•ʹʙa’, ‘paper, book’ [also ‘map’ on page 297]
ca•ʹnᴅi, ‘Sunday, week’
ca•ʹt, ‘shirt’
cu•ʹga, ‘sugar’
cω•ʹl, ‘shawl’ [actually licω•ʹl in actual usage, see page 192]
ᴅa•ʹla, ‘dollar, money’
ᴅiʹnᴅin, ‘bell, gong, o’clock’
ɢaʹʙu, ɢaʹʙu•, ‘overcoat’ [2]
ɢω•’fi, ‘coffee’
ɢuʹcu•, ‘hog’
hε•ʹktcum, hε•ʹktcim, ‘handkerchief’ 
kiʹutan, kiʹuᴅan, ki•ʹtan, ki•ʹdan, ku•ʹᴅan, ‘horse’
laʹʙi•ʹʙ, ‘pipe’
laʹkli, ‘key’
laʹm, ‘rum [3], whiskey, liquor’
laʹmεc, laʹmεna [4], ‘mass, church’
laʹmətsi•ʹn, ‘medicine’
laʹwi•n, laʹwε•n, ‘oats’
liʹʙu•m, ‘apple, apple tree’
liʹprε•t, ‘priest, Catholic father’
li•ʹyω•ʙ, ‘the Devil’
lumaluʹ’un, luʹm•alun, luʹm•alu•n, ‘breeches, trousers’ [5]
muʹcmuc, mu•ʹcmu•s, mu•ʹcmu•c, muʹsmus, mu•ʹsmu•s, ‘cattle, ox, cow’
ptsi•ʹza, ptciza•ʹ, ptsiza•ʹ, ‘Petit Jean’
saʹʙli, saʹʙlε, saʹʙla’, sa’pla, saʹʙlil, sεʹʙlil, saʹʙlεl, saʹʙlε•l, ‘flour, wheat’
siʹl, ‘sail [6], flag, cloth’
tciʹɢtcik, tciʹktcik, t’si•ʹkt’si•k, tsiyiʹktsiyik, ‘wagon, car’
yu•ʹɢ, ‘yoke’

My footnotes to Jacobs’ list:

[1] Bástən never refers to the city of Boston in Chinuk Wawa! (Think about it. How often would Pacific Northwest Indigenous people ever talk about this one specific city far away? — except in very early ship-centered fur trade days, which came before we have any real signs of the Jargon existing. And, K’alapuyans are not a coastal group.) See my comments at footnotes 3 & 6 too; here Jacobs is giving the etymology of a word as if it were a meaning of the word, which is confusing to anyone who’s not a linguistic specialist. 

[2] Jacobs’ translation ‘overcoat’ for kapú — what we nowadays just call ‘coat’ — is exactly right. The loan of English ‘coat’ as kʰút has a typical meaning in Jargon of a woman’s ‘petticoat’, an undergarment. Among other proof of this is that Upper Chehalis Salish borrowed a Chinuk Wawa synonym for it, kíkwəli-kʰút, literally ‘under-coat’. 

[3] Lám hardly ever means the specific drink ‘rum’ in Chinuk Wawa, except in some of the very oldest sources, long before linguists worked with K’alapuyan speakers. So, like footnotes 1 & 6, this is another example of Jacobs pointing out an etymology, which shouldn’t be taken as the meaning of the word in his K’alapuya experts’ Jargon. 

[4] Two important points here, beyond noting that this word only means ‘church’ in the limited sense of ‘going to a church service’ (which is how it’s used on page 343).

(A) The form lames(h) is common throughout Chinuk Wawa dialects, and it directly reflects the French source, la messe. But the puzzling variant lamesna [lamena is a typo; lamesna is what occurs in the text on page 343], as us linguists say, “awaits further research” in order to be explained.

(B) The numerous French-sourced words that start with the definite articles le/la/les show a strong pattern, in these K’alapuyan speakers’ pronunciations, of shifting away from their original last-syllable stress, to first-syllable stress. (Look at the following 6 words in the above list.) I’m unaware of any such tendency within the K’alapuyan languages, whereas there is indeed such a pattern of regularization going on in Grand Ronde’s creole Chinuk Wawa, which Jacobs’ K’alapuya experts spoke. This stress shift seems more consistent among these K’alapuya speakers than it is in the overall GR data, so perhaps these were “movers and shakers” behind that evolution.

[5] This lumalun ‘trousers’ is a new discovery if it’s indeed Jargon, so it deserves more attention. There’s already the common word in all Chinuk Wawa dialects, sik’áluks, for ‘pants’. In my first language, English, I’ve always taken ‘breeches’ and ‘trousers’ as synonyms for ‘pants’. Does lumalun have a more specialized meaning, for a certain style? Is it to be traced to French le pantalon? If so, I tend to take the change of “P” –> “M”, plus the denasalization of “AN” –> “A”, plus the reduction from 3 syllables to 2, as being typical of a long history for this word in Chinuk Wawa. How did we not notice this word before? Oh well, that’s a question we often ask, because we keep on discovering more old Jargon vocabulary!

[6] You should take the English ‘sail’ here more as an etymological source than as a translation. The word never means a ‘sail’ of a boat in these K’alapuya texts. That meaning is rare in Chinuk Wawa as well, where it’s more characteristic of the oldest documents. See also footnotes 1 & 3.

So now you see the words that Melville Jacobs chose to present as “Chinook Jargon” loans in Kalapuyan.

In our next installment, be ready for the list to expand massively…

What have you learned?