Confirmed: Grand Ronde CW ‘colt’

Serendipitously, we can now confirm a “new” Jargon discovery that I noted just the other day.

While discussing Melville Jacobs’ 1945 book “Kalapuya Texts”, I noted

q’aʹyi > ‘colt’, said by editor Jacobs to be CJ in a footnote on page 171

That would be a word we hadn’t known yet in Chinook Jargon.

But now I happen to have noticed some proof of it.

In one of the earliest published vocabularies of Chinuk Wawa, Father Lionnet (1853) on the lower Columbia River has < kayé >, translated as poulain in French and the synonymous ‘colt’ in English.

This came to my attention when I spotted it (sorry!) listed under ‘SPOT’ (!) in Samuel V. Johnson’s 1978 dissertation.

All the other entries under that headword are versions of Jargon likʰay ‘spotted, speckled [horse]’.

Being a big-city boy (you know, Spokane), I’m unaware of any tendency for baby horses to have variegated coats. Do they?

I think Johnson erroneously, and understandably, took < kayé > as a French-based word.

Not only are the semantics mismatched, though, but also the sounds.

kayé > being the spelling of a native French speaker, it definitely implies a 2-syllable pronunciation. That’s definitely different from the 1-syllable root < caille > that shows up in likʰay.

Notice, too, there’s no trace of the French definite article le/la/les on this ‘colt’ word; all known occurences of the Jargon word for ‘spotted/speckled/piebald horse’ do have that.

We’re very lucky Jacobs happened to record this word a few decades later, in an even more detailed phonetic rendition that shows it’s Indigenous.

One question that remains is just which tribal language it’s to be traced back to. A couple of words in Umatilla Sahaptin are close matches:

  • q’ayík ‘colt, calf, calf elk, adopted colt or calf (as when put with a new mother)’
  • q’áyq’ay ‘elk calf, horse colt’ (also ‘carrion beetle’!)
  • k’áyk’ay (the Diminutive form of the preceding)

The Umatilla Dictionary also points out Nez Perce (a related language) qeʔeyik, evidently meaning ‘colt’ too.

I don’t have a Nez Perce dictionary handy, but I suspect one or more of these inland languages spoken by the tribes who got horses before other PNW people is the source of the Jargon word. Certain other words often said to be early Chinuk Wawa, such as saplél ‘bread; flour’, (la)kámás (‘camas’), and káws* (‘couse root’), do trace back to this same “Sahaptian” language family. So why not?

Another question, as I’ve hinted more than once in the past, is whether a number of broadly similar-sounding horse words in Jargon are related to it.  Offhand I can think of < siskiyou > ‘bob-tailed horse’, < cayuse > ‘pony’, and kʰíyutən ‘horse’, not to mention Salish stiqíw.)

What do you think?