Chief George of Skwa’s blurb for the Chinook prayer book

Another of the few direct quotes in Chinuk Wawa to be found in the pages of the old Kamloops Wawa newspaper,…

…comes from a chief in Stó:lō country, BC.

I’ll show and translate this neat quotation for you first.

After that, I’ll go into explanatory details, which are made all the more useful thanks to questions I’ve received from “the Saturday Group” of Chinook Jargon learners.

Chief George of Skwa.PNG

     Taii Shorsh kopa Skwa iaka nanich ukuk Chinuk 
Táyí Djórdj* kʰupa Skwéy* yaka nánich úkuk [1] Chinúk
     chief George from Skwa he see that Chinook
‘Chief George of Skwa saw the Chinook’

buk, iaka iskom iht pi iaka chako komtaks pus 
búk, yáka ískam íxt pi yáka chako-kə́mtəks pus [2]
book, he get one and he come-to.know whether
‘book; he got a copy and he found out whether’

drit tlus ukuk styuil mitlait kopa ukuk buk; iaka 
drét (t)łús(h) úkuk st’íwiʔəł* Ø [3] míłayt kʰupa úkuk búk; yáka
really good these prayers are in this book; he
‘the prayers in the book are any good; he’

chako aias tiki ukuk styuil iaka tsim kopa ukuk 
chako-(h)ayas-tíki úkuk st’íʔwiʔəł yaka [4] t’sə́m [5] kʰupa úkuk these prayers they written in this
‘fell in love with the prayers that are written in the’

Chinuk buk. Iaka ukuk tanas son styuil, pi 
Chinúk búk. Yáka úkuk [6] tənəs-sán st’íwiʔəł, pi
Chinook book. They that little-day prayer, and
‘Chinook book. These are the morning prayer, and’

ukuk mimlus son styuil klaska kwanisim kuli kopa 
úkuk míməlus-sán [7] st’íʔwiʔəł Ø łáska [8] kwánisəm kúli [9] kʰupa
that dead-day prayer they always run in
‘the evening prayer that are always recited in’

Tomson pi kopa Okanagan pi kopa Shushwap lalang. 
Tómsən pi kʰupa Okənágən pi kʰupa Shúshwap lalángg [10].
Thompson and in Okanagan and in Shuswap language.
‘Thompson, and in the Okanagan and Shuswap languages.’

Mitlait wiht kakwa styuil kopa mimlus son kopa 
Míłayt wə́x̣t kʰákwa st’íʔwiʔəł kʰupa míməlus-sán kʰupa
exist also such prayer at dead day in
‘There are also such prayers for evening in’

Lilwat lalang pi kopa Skwamish lalang, pi kopa Shishil lalang 
Lílwat lalángg pi kʰupa Skwámish lalángg, pi kʰupa Shishéł lalángg
Lillooet language and in Squamish language, and in Sechelt language
‘the Lillooet language and in the Squamish language, and in the Sechelt language’

pi kopa Slaiamin lalang. Taii Shorsh kopa Skwa iaka wawa: 
pi kʰupa Slayámən lalángg. Táyí Djórdj kʰupa Skwéy yaka wáwa:
and in Sliammon language. chief George from Skwa he say:
‘and in the Sliammon language. Chief George of Skwa said:’

[“]Nawitka, aias tlus ukuk styuil; mitlait tomtom
“Nawítka, (h)ayas-(t)łús(h) úkuk st’íʔwiʔəł; míłayt tə́mtəm [11]
“true, very-good these prayers; exist sense
‘ “Indeed, these prayers are very good; there’s sense’

kopa ukuk styuil; mitlait drit wawa kopa ST kopa
kʰupa úkuk st’íʔwiłəł; míłayt drét wáwa kʰupa Sáx̣ali-Táyí kʰupa
in these prayers; exist real talking to Above-Chief in
‘in these prayers; there are true words to God in’

ukuk styuil[“]; kakwa iaka aias tiki pus ukuk 
úkuk st’íʔwiʔəł; kʰákwa yáka (h)ayas-tíki [12] pus úkuk
these prayers”; so he much want so.that these
‘these prayers”; so he desires for these’

styuil iaka tsim kopa Stalo lalang; pi alki kanawi 
st’íwiʔəł yaka t’sə́m kʰupa Stálo lalángg; pi áłqi kʰánawi
prayers they written in Stó:lō language; and eventually all

‘prayers to be written in the Stó:lō language; and then all’

Stalo tilikom chako aiak komtaks iaka. Nawitka 
Stálo tílikəm cháku (h)áyáq kə́mtəks [13] yáka. Nawítka
Stó:lō people come quickly know them. true
‘the Stó:lō people will come to know them soon. Indeed’

kakwa: ayu Stalo tilikom kopa kanawi kah ilihi 
kʰákwa: (h)áyú Stálo tílikəm kʰupa kʰánawi-qʰá [14] ílihi
like.that: many Stó:lō people in all-where place
that’s how it is: many Stó:lō people from villages all around’

klaska aiak chako komtaks Chinuk pipa, pi klaska 
łaska (h)áyáq chako-kə́mtəks Chinúk-pípa, pi łáska
they quickly come-to.know Chinook-writing, and they

‘are quickly learning Chinook writing, and they’

alki aiak komtaks kanawi ikta iaka tsim kopa Stalo 
áłqi (h)áyáq kə́mtəks kʰánawi-íkta yaka t’sə́m kʰupa Stálo
eventually quickly know all-thing it written in Stó:lō
‘will soon know everything that’s written in the Stó:lō’

lalang. Alki pus kah son nsaika tlap ukuk, nsaika 
lalángg. Áłqi pus qʰá-sán [15] nsáyka t’łáp úkuk, nsáyka
language. eventually if (some)where-day we get those, we
‘language. Some day when we [i.e. Father Le Jeune] get them, we’

mamuk tsim ukuk styuil kopa Stalo lalang, pi kakwa 
mamuk-t’sə́m úkuk st’íwiʔəł kʰupa Stálo lalángg, pi kʰákwa
make-written these prayers in Stó:lō language, and so
‘will write these prayers in the Stó:lō language, and that way’ 

klaska tlap ukuk styuil.
łáska t’łáp úkuk st’íwiʔəł.
they get these prayers.
‘they will get these prayers.’

— from Kamloops Wawa #151 (April 1897), page 55


[1] úkuk (literally ‘this; that; these; those’) very often need not be translated into much of anything. Another way of stating this is, it often means very little more than ‘the’, when you properly give the meaning of a Chinook Jargon sentence in English. 

[2] pus might often be thought of as meaning ‘whether’ in English. Also, if you know some language like French or Spanish, you could think of it as putting the following verb phrase into the Subjunctive mood. So it adds some doubt about the reality of a “subordinate clause”. In this instance, pus might also give you a translation like ‘…he found out what kind of good the prayers were’. Without pus, you’d have no subordinate-clause marker at all (that is, you’d have “Ø“), which happens to be what I talk about in the very next footnote!

[3] Ø, that is, no word at all, introduces subordinate clauses that the speaker feels are real, actual facts. In the example we have here, Ø leads us into a “relative clause”, which is the kind of subordinate clause that modifies a noun — so, ‘the prayers that are in the book‘. Pretty much all relative clauses in Kamloops Chinuk Wawa are factual ones, by the way, so they don’t use the word pus that I discuss in footnote 2. You don’t find expressions like *’a woman who might learn Chinook’. Instead you’d say for example ‘there might be a woman who learns Chinook’. These are important details of speaking proper Jargon!

[4] yaka in most dialects of Chinook Jargon is said to be singular ‘it; she; he’. In Kamloops Chinuk Wawa, and in BC Chinook Jargon generally, there is a strong tendency for yaka to also mean ‘they’ whenever you want. You’ll find more examples of that in today’s reading selection. You’ll also find that łáska, the word that always means ‘they’ if it’s used, shows up. It might be new news to you to learn that speakers of Jargon rarely felt the need to specify plural ‘they’ like that…see footnote 8. 

[5] t’sə́m essentially means ‘written; marked’. When you realize this, many expressions containing this adjective make much more sense. Keep your eyes open…

[6] Yáka úkuk is a classic BC Chinuk Wawa expression. Literally meaning ‘that (is) the…”, it specifies more information about what you’re already discussing, so it could be translated as “i.e.” or “that is (to say)” in English.

[7] mímlus-sán: terms for times of day vary quite a bit from region to region. This BC one for ‘evening’ is literally ‘dying-day’. Other dialects say tənəs-púlakʰli ‘little-night’, as at Grand Ronde in Oregon, which also has chxí-púlakʰli (‘new-night’) for ‘early evening’. 

[8] łáska ‘they’: as footnote 4 mentioned, in reality plural ‘they’ is mostly expressed by yaka in BC Jargon. In the infrequent event that a speaker really wants to specify plural as opposed to singular, they use łáska. This word also has a more frequent, and very important, function in this dialect — as a “dummy subject” to express the closest thing to the Passive voice in Jargon. So here, (st’íʔwiʔəł) Ø łáska kwánisəm kúli is best understood as a relative clause with a Passive sense: ‘(the prayers) that are always recited/run through’. 

[9] kúli: The Saturday study group astutely points out that George Coombs Shaw’s dictionary shows < mamook cooley kopa huloima lalang > (‘make run to another language’) for ‘translate’. That’s an excellent guess about what’s happening in this sentence. But here, what we’re reading instead is a typical Kamloops missionary expression, where kuli (‘run’) is used transitively to mean ‘recite’ a text such as a prayer. 

[10] lalángg is always the right word for ‘tongue’. HOWEVER, it’s relatively seldom that lalangg means ‘language’, using the European metaphor; I imagine it’s used a little more by native French speakers like Kamloops Wawa‘s Father Le Jeune. In other dialects of Chinuk Wawa (notice the language name), and usually in BC Jargon, wawa is the usual way to say ‘language’.
(I transcribe this word with two “G’s” to show that the basically phonetic Kamloops Wawa spells it with the Chinuk Pipa letters N+G, as if Jargon speakers of that region pronounced both of those sounds. There is a separate letter you can use if you specifically mean the “NG” sound in English ‘long’.) 

[11] míłayt tə́mtəm (‘there is sense’) might be best understood in light of other “tumtum” expressions, notably hílu-tə́mtəm (‘no-sense’) ‘lacking sense; lacking character; lifeless, dispirited’.

[12] (h)ayas-tíki (‘much-like/want’) is a pretty fixed verbal expression for ‘love; desire’. That’s why a few lines later, you see that I go on to translate chako-(h)ayas-tíki úkuk st’íʔwiʔəł as ‘fell in love with these prayers’. To understand and to translate Chinook Jargon, you’re well advised to build up a good sense of recurring phrases and the different, nuanced ways they get used. 

[13] cháku (h)áyáq kə́mtəks (‘to come to quickly understand; to come quickly to understand’) is of course about the same as (h)áyáq chaku-kə́mtəks (‘quickly learn’), or for that matter chaku-kə́mtəks (h)áyáq (‘learn quickly’). Now I’m going to enter into more detail, in response to the Saturday Group. To my understanding as a linguist, if you interrupt < chako > and < komtaks > by throwing that adverb (h)áyáq between them, you no longer have the Causative/Inchoative (‘to learn’, with chaku- as a stressless prefix), and instead you get stressed cháku ‘to come’ standing separately from kə́mtəks ‘to know’. What do you think? Is this another tiny but detectible influence from Father Le Jeune’s native French? There it’s not odd to say things like venir à faire ‘to chance to do, to happen to do, to be one’s turn to do’ and venir faire ‘to come (here) to do something’, is it? If that’s relevant, the most perceptive translation here may be ‘to quickly wind up knowing the prayers’, reflecting something like French *venir rapidement à connaître les prières

[14] kʰánawi-qʰá ílihi is a quintessential Kamloops Chinuk Wawa phrase. Literally ‘everywhere place(s)’, it’s constantly used to say ‘all the villages everywhere; all the Indigenous communities around the territory’. (Also ‘every country’.) This habit of using the word qʰá ‘where’ as a modifier of nouns is also seen in the next footnote. 

[15] qʰá-sán (literally ‘where-day’) — another absolutely classic Kamloops expression (compare footnote 14), this is the normal way for this dialect to express an unspecified time ‘when(ever); some day’. Note that the Subjunctive marker pus, found in this sentence, can be thought of as ‘when’ or ‘if’, depending on context; the clue that makes me decide on ‘if’ is the following verb t’łáp. That word in the Kamloops dialect has a strong connotation of a lack of control over an outcome — which helps explain several BC expressions such as < tlap sik > ‘get sick’ and < mimlus kopa ilo tlap win > ‘to die by asphyxiation (from not being able to get air)’ — so, correspondingly, here we’re seeing ‘if we ever get them; whenever we may get them’. I’ll leave off there, pointing out that what I’ve told you about < tlap > has many implications for ways of expressing ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ in Jargon! 

What have you learned?