Alaskan Haida’s BC / Aboriginal Jargon traces

haida chinook

Haida-inspired chinook (image credit: Serenity Now Outfitters)

Alaskan Haida retains quite a few indications of contact with Chinook Jargon, and they connect it directly with British Columbia.

In the data-heavy list that follows, I’ve left out several times more words that are obvious loans, mostly of more recent borrowing straight from English, such as ‘ulcer’, ‘pain killer’, ‘velvet’.

Rules for making today’s list:

I tend to view as Chinuk Wawa any Haida borrowings of originally-English words that

  • retain a plural -s,
  • but are glossed in the singular in this dictionary,
  • and are known as Jargon in other regions.

I’m also including items that are partially or completely built from native Haida parts, but parallel in structure and metapors to Chinuk Wawa expressions. That is, calques, a.k.a. loan translations.

There are important strands to point out in today’s word list:

1. A minor pattern among some multi-syllable Jargon words up there in the north coast languages, including Haida: some words deviate from the old Jargon tendency towards stressing the first syllable, towards stressing the last syllable instead. I have mused previously that Tlingit must have played a big role in diffusing Chinuk Wawa knowledge around the north coast — maybe this stress pattern correlates with a Lingít tone pattern? At any rate it’s not known to us from CW dialects farther south, nor from the CW of White speakers.

2. Another quite solid pattern is that a number of the words below are mainly known as BC Coast Chinook Jargon. So Haida’s CJ borrowings place Haida speakers within that ‘dialect area’.

3. One more important quality of the Jargon you’re about to see is that it preserves a definitely Indigenous structure.

  • Only by having learned Jargon from other Native people could Haidas have learned and held onto such details as the popping “ejective” sounds symbolized by the apostrophes, and the back-of-the-mouth “uvulars” symbolized by the underlined letters in k‘aláaxan ‘fence’, t’luxt’lux ‘oyster’, and ts’agts’ag ‘wagon’.
  • Similarly, certain sound changes in the words below (like the “N” in “China” becoming an “L”; the “B” of “Boston” becoming a “W”) are typical only of Native speech.
  • And at least one expression here, Waahúu ‘Hawaii’, seems to be undocumented in the speech of anyone but Indigenous people, as you’ll see.)

(“3.b.” I suspect that also the “short A” in janúug ‘Chinook’, jagáns ‘chicken’, ts’agts’ag ‘wagon’, etc., reflecting a “schwa” sound, is also due to Haidas hearing Jargon from Native-phonology speakers. The Haida language, with its “short I” sound, is perfectly capable of saying these words with the “I” that we’re used to hearing, as *jinúug, *jigíns, *ts’igts’ig. So there has to be some good reason for the switch to “A”.)

I think these facts tell us northern Indians were talking Chinuk Wawa to each other, as much as to Whites.

Putting all of that together, let me drive the point home —

I often say on this site that the Jargon lost many words and other nuances, each time it was suddenly taken to a new region. But one thing not thrown overboard in traveling to Haida Gwaii was these distinctive Indigenous sounds. Whites had trouble pronouncing these right, so it’s easy to spot White-influenced Jargon by its simpler pronunciation. I infer that it wasn’t contact with suddenly arrived White gold seekers, or even their jobs aboard the sealing ships with their mixed Native and White crews, that moved Haidas to finally learn Jargon. (Recall that they had used a Haida-based pidgin with sea-otter traders decades earlier, circa 1840, but it soon died out with that trade.)

Instead, I’d bet Haidas picked up CW mainly during their known frequent visits to Victoria, BC, where a widely varied sampling of Aboriginal people clustered in one particular part of town in the later 1800s. Chinuk Wawa is known to have flourished in that Native quarter. Haidas are documented among the creators and singers of the many Jargon songs composed in that section of Biktoli.

Read, think, learn…

Note: modern written Haida’s b, d, g, G aren’t really “voiced” stops as in English, but instead “unaspirated”, so they sound more like p, t, k, q respectively.

bihhíns ‘bean’ — compare Grand Ronde labíns; here the word ‘beans’ has been turned into 2 syllables, with a final stress that may match the pattern I noted above.

bíid ‘dime’ — cp. bít

bíid in’wáay ‘nickel’ (dime half) — cp. sítkam-bít

búud ‘boat (other than canoes)’ [note native Haida tlúu, tluwáay ‘boat; canoe’, also known in the old Pidgin Haida] — cp. bót

cháaj náay ‘church building’ — cp. other BC Indigenous languages and place names, including the Homalco village of Church House, which is likely to have originally been Chinook Jargon!

cháalamaan ‘Chinese people’ (also used in old compounds for a kind of large bottle and for jeans) — cp. < Shaina man > in Kamloops Chinuk Wawa.

cháaliis ‘cherries’ — cp. chə́lis

dáalaa ‘dollar, money, silver’ — cp. dála

dáalaa in’wáay ‘half-dollar, fifty cent piece’ -cp. sítkam-dála 

dáalaa náay ‘bank’ (dollar house) — cp. the many expressions that literally mean ‘dollar-house’ in BC & WA languages, strongly implying that Jargon said *dála-háws — and note that a potential synonym, *chíkʰəmin-háws (money/metal-house), seems as if it would mean ‘blacksmith shop‘ in the Grand Ronde area

dáayaang[-]w ‘flag’ (???? dáayang ‘to serve food, to have a party’ + -w ‘tool’???) — cp. what I’ve recently written about Jargon flags as literal ‘celebration tools

jáabnii ‘Japanese people’ — cp. cháyni ‘Chinese’

jagáns ‘chicken’ — cp. chíkʰin — again the final-stress pattern noted above

jag[-]w ‘gun, pistol, rifle, shotgun, revolver, firearm of any kind’ (???could it be related to early CW səqwalala? I doubt it actually!)

janúug kíl (chinook language) ‘Chinook Jargon’ — cp. chinúk wáwa

júus xaat’áay ‘Jewish people’ — cp. Kamloops Wawa < shus tilikom >, mostly a Bible-teaching word, but there were indeed Jewish Settlers

kanáagaa ‘to be Hawaiian’ — cp. kʰanákʰa

kígs ‘cake’ — cp. Kamloops Chinuk Wawa < kiks > and the same word in several BC Indigenous languages

kwáadaa ‘quarter (25 cents)’ — cp. kʰwáta

kwáag chagáa náaguusii ‘petticoat, slip’ ([skirt] inner.part….) — cp. kíkwəli-kʰút

kyáanlii ‘cannery’ — a place where Jargon was the working language

k’un náaguusii ‘underpants, underwear’ (pants inner.part/the.inside.of.something) — cp. kíkwəli-sik’áluks

kugíin náay ‘library’ (paper house) cf. St Onge 1892 manuscript < pepa-hows > 

k’adáa náay ‘hotel, bunkhouse’ (sleep house) — cp. músum-háws

láam ‘hard liquor’ — cp. lám

láam náay ‘saloon, bar’ — cp. the parallel expression in several PNW languages, implying that regional Chinuk Wawa said *lám-háws

lableed ‘minister, priest, preacher, pastor’ — cp. lipʰrét etc., with the Haida spelling suggesting a pronunciation ləpléyt.

lahaal ‘hand game’ — cp. (s)ləhál

lamdúu ‘(domestic) sheep’ — cp. limotó

léelwaad ‘railroad train’ — cp. < la-lode >, a CW word characteristic of Puget Sound and northward into BC

léelwaad k’yuuwáay ‘railroad track’ (railroad the.path/door) — cp. *páya-t’síkt’sik úyx̣at and Kamloops Chinuk Wawa < stim kar oihat >, using different words for ‘train’ but the same phrasing

lúusan xaat’áay ‘Russian people’ — cp. < Lushan tillicums >

máalii kígs ‘wedding cake’ — an expression we haven’t known in Chinuk Wawa, but cp. malyí & < kiks >

masíin ‘machine’ — cp. Kamloops Chinuk Wawa < mashin >; with this word as with lúusan ‘Russian’, it’s good to realize there is no “sh” sound in Haida

masmúus ‘cow, steer, bull’ — cp. músmus — again a word with innovative final stress

masmúus gíit’ii ‘calf’ (cow an.animal’s.offspring/young) — cp. < tenass moos-moos > ?

masmúus ki’íi (cow one’s.meat/flesh) ‘beef’ — cp. Siletz Dee-ni < mvsh-mvsh svn’ > perhaps implying CW *músmus-íłwəli; Edward Harper Thomas 1935 gives < moos-moos yaka itlwillie > (cow its flesh)

masmúus k‘aláaxan-gaay (cow fence-the) ‘cow corral’ — perhaps implies Chinuk Wawa *músmus-q’əláx̣(ən) 

masmúus náay ‘barn’ — cp. músmus-háws

masmúus t’lánuwaay ‘milk’ — cp. músmus-tutúsh 

múulaa ‘sawmill’ — cp. lemulá

múuluu ‘donkey’ — cp. BC Chinuk Wawa mulo

páawan ‘pound’ — cp. Kamloops CW < pawnd > 

sablíi ‘bread, flour, biscuit, pie crust’ — cp. sablé / saplél

sablíi náay ‘bakery’ — implies possible CW *sablé-háws

sándii[-]gaa ‘week’ — not sure what the -gaa is in Haida, but cp. sánti ‘Sunday; week’

sándii[-]gaa[-]y ‘Sunday’ — see the preceding entry; this is the Definite Article form of the noun

sdáagins ‘stockings’ — cp. stákin

sdíimbood ‘steamboat’ — cp. stín-pút

Sdlagw Tlúu[-]sThe Otter (Hudsons Bay Company steamer from the 19th century)’ (otter boat[-]?) — I’m including this here more for its historical value as a name for a vessel known to be connected with Chinuk Wawa use; it seems to reflect a Haida translation from English

sélaman ‘sailors’ — cp. Kamloops CW < silors > + mán, the typical ‘occupational’ ending in Jargon

sgáadii ‘a fool, a person with no sense’ — cp. the distinctively BC Coast Chinook Jargon < scotty > (note, this sgáadii also means ‘a salmon’s collarbone’, probably a native Haida word, and I can imagine the mild joking that could’ve come from the pun)

sgúul ‘school’ — cp. skúl

sgúul náay ‘schoolhouse’ — implies CW *skúl-háws and/or a calque on English

sgúunaa ‘schooner’ — cp. Shoalwater Bay CW < schooner

st’íi náay ‘hospital’ — cp. sík-háws

súgaa ‘sugar’ — cp. shúka

súljuus xaat’áay (soldier people; the same phrase structure as ethnic group names, cp. ‘White women’ below) ‘soldiers’ — cp. shúlchast & tílikam

táawsan ‘thousand’  — cp. Kamloops CW tawsan

tláag ‘clock’ — cp. Kamloops CW oklak ‘o’clock’

tla híiluu ‘to use up, deplete, waste O’ — I don’t know what the tla is (it looks sorta Completive or Perfective in many entries), but híiluu is defined in the Alaskan dictionary as a verb (varying with yíiluu, which is remarkably like Kamloops Chinuk Wawa’s normal < ilo >!) meaning ‘to vanish, pass out of existence, become all gone, used up, depleted’ — cp. hílu in CW, which is believed to be the one Jargon word from Haida

t’luxt’lux ‘oyster; rock scallop’ — cp. t’łə́x̣wt’łəx̣w ‘oyster’

Ts’aagws Xaat’áay ‘Interior people (Athabaskan, Gitksan, Interior Salish, etc.)’ (~pitch people) — cp. the well-documented term ‘Sticks‘ or ‘Stick Indians’ (‘forest’ people) used by north coast tribes to refer to inland tribes

ts’agts’ag ‘wagon’ — cp. t’síkt’sik

Waahúu ‘Hawaii’ (from “Oahu”) — cp. wahúʔ ‘Hawaiian’ in Okanagan-Colville Salish (not in Mattina’s dictionary, but pointed out in M’s dissertation by Wilfried Schuhmacher, who happened to attend a lecture on Chinuk Wawa that I gave in Alaska…small world…and note that finding this word 1,000 miles away in Haida tends to shoot down this criticism of Schuhmacher!)

wáaj ‘watch’ (noun) — cp. wach in Kamloops CW

wáanuwaa ‘man-of-war (warship)’ — cp. BC coastal CW *manuwa. The w– pronunciation implies a Tlingit accent

Wáasdan Janáas / Wáasan Janáas (Boston/Washington women.belonging.to.a.particular.group) ‘white women’ — note the pronunciations Wáas(d)an match the confusion between ‘Washington’ and ‘Boston’, two terms for Whites in SE Alaska, that also shows up in Lingít (Tlingit)

wáayn ‘wine’ — cp. Kamloops CW wain

wál ‘wool’ — cp. < wool >, which I suspect I’ve also found in at least one SE Washington Salish language

xíid tlagáay ‘hell’ (below land) — cp. George Gibbs’s CW < keekwulee illihee >

‘wáadaa náay ‘store’ (sell house) — cp. mákuk-háws

qʰáta máyka tə́mtəm?
What do you think?

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