1893: A quick study at Spences Bridge…a kid from Ontario?

archie lloyd clemens

Did this 14-year-old [sic] learn Chinuk Pipa in a couple hours? (image credit: findagrave)

Here’s one of the many nice examples of people quickly learning to read Chinuk Pipa back in the day…I challenge you to match their success!

spences bridge

< Spences Bridge. > = Chi nsaika kopit mamuk kopa 
                                        chí nsáyka kʰupit-mámuk kʰupa
                                        just.now we finish-work at 

                                       ‘We [Father Le Jeune] had just finished working at’

Kol Watir pi nsaika chako kilapai kopa Kamlups. Kopa oihat
kʰól-wátər* pi nsáyka cháko-k’ílapay kʰupa Kémlups. kʰupa úyx̣at [1]
Cold-Water and we come-return to Kamloops. on road 

‘Coldwater and we were returning to Kamloops. On the way’

nsaika nanich Mayus kopa Kroiskana. Iaka kwanisim skukum
nsáyka nánich Máyus kʰupa Q’wisqné [2]. yáka kwánsəm skúkum-
we see Mayus at Q’wisqné. he always terribly-

‘we saw Mayus at Q’wisqné. He is still terribly’

sik. = Wiht nsaika stop kopa Spinsis Brich. Pi nsaika
sík. [3] = wə́x̣t nsáyka stóp kʰupa Spénsəs-Brích*. pi nsáyka
ill. = also we stop at Spences-Bridge. and we 

‘sick. We also stopped at Spences Bridge. And we’

mitlait sitkom son kopa Spinsis Brich pi mokst tkop man[,]
míłayt sítkum-sán kʰupa Spénsəs-Brích pi mákwst tk’úp-mán,
be.located mid-day at Spences-Bridge and two white-man, 

‘were at Spences Bridge at noon and two white men,’ 

iht iaka nim Lorans, pi iht iaka nim Archi Klimis,
íxt yaka ním Lórəns, pi íxt yaka ním Árchi Kléməs* [4],
one his name Laurence, and one his name Archie Clemmis*, 

‘one named Laurence, and one named Archie Clemmis,’ 

klaska iskom Chinuk pipa. Klaska aiak chako komtaks. Ukuk
łaska ískam chinúk-pípa. łáska (h)áyáq chako-kə́mtəks. úkuk
they take Chinook-paper. they quickly come.to-know. this 

‘got the Chinook paper [from me]. They learned fast. This’ 

Mistir Lorans iaka komtaks rīd Chinuk, pi Inglish[,] kopa short hand
místər [5] lórəns yáka kə́mtəks ríd [6] chinúk, pi ínglish [7], kʰupa shórt-hánd
Mister Laurence he know read Chinook, and English, in short-hand 

‘Mr. Laurence knew how to read Chinook, and English, in shorthand’ 

kopa klunas iht hawr [SIC] pi sitkom [Ø] nsaika mamuk kanamokst
kʰupa t’łúnas íxt áwr [8] pi sítkum [Ø] [9] nsayka mámuk kʰanamákwst
in maybe one hour and half [that] we work together 

‘in the hour-and-a-half or so that we worked together’ 

kopa ukuk. 
kʰupa úkuk.
on this. 

‘on it.’ 

— from Kamloops Wawa #67 (February 26, 1893), page 4


[1] kʰupa úyx̣at (which would literally mean ‘on the road/path’) here = ‘on the way; while traveling’. 

[2] Máyus kʰupa Q’wisqné: this is Charley-Alexis Mayoos, perhaps the most influential “unknown” historical figure in BC, in his home village also known as Canford, BC, just west of Merritt in the Nicola Valley. 

[3] kwánsəm skúkum-sík: literally ‘always terribly-ill’, here this is just the latest report on Mayus’s health by Father Le Jeune, so it’s meant as ‘still deathly ill’. The word kwánsəm is very often the best equivalent of English ‘still’. 

[4] Árchi Kléməs*: I suspect this fella may be Archibald “Archie” Lloyd Clemens (from Ontario; he was then 14 years old!), and that Le Jeune absent-mindedly slipped into French-language shorthand habitss here. (When you write French in this Duployan shorthand, < en > or < on > would be considered a nasalized vowel, having its own symbol quite similar to Chinuk Pipa‘s < i >.)

[5] místər: I don’t recall seeing any Indigenous people referred to as “Mr.” in the old Chinuk Pipa. It’s as if the title was strongly associated with Settlers. But misis “Mrs.” is sometimes found in Jargon, as with our recent look at a letter from Mrs. Jamie Boston Bar. Go figure.

[6] ríd: this is “read”, and it’s yet another example of a recent borrowing into Kamloops-area Jargon when the need was felt to be more specific than the available older terminology, which would’ve said something like nanich-pipa (literally ‘look.at-writing’). 

[7] ínglish: another recent borrowing. Surely you’ve seen the older terms for this language, such as bastən-wawa (‘American-language’) and kinchoch-wawa (‘British-language’).

[8] (h)áwr: notice how Le Jeune, a native speaker of French, seems slightly shaky on the pronunciation of this recent English borrowing.

[9] [Ø] is a symbol I’m throwing in here to highlight to you how there’s no “relative clause” marker, unlike English. So ‘…the hour and a half that we worked’ is just áwr pi sítkum nsayka mámuk. The context makes perfectly clear that this relative-clause meaning is what’s intended.

What have you learned?
ikta maika chako komtaks?