Sm’algyax’s Jargon traces

tsimshian chinook

Portrait mask with chinook, by Brian McKee, Tsimshian (image credit: Spirit Wrestler Gallery)

Much as we’ve seen in Alaskan Haida and Tlingit, the Tsimshian language of southeast Alaska carries a number of traces of its contact with Chinuk Wawa decades ago.

With my linguistic archeology eyes engaged, I combed through the Sealaska Heritage Foundation’s generously provided online PDF, “Dictionary of Shm’algyack“.

In it, I found some definite and probable borrowings from Chinook Jargon. Some are single words, others are phrases partly or wholly modeled on the Jargon but using Shm’algyack Tsimshian words.

There are fewer items in this list than I found in either Tlingit or Haida. That harmonizes with the impression I’ve heard from other linguists that Tsimshian was less impacted by Chinuk Wawa than other languages of the region were.

Of the words in today’s list, several share a trait with Tlingit & Haida borrowings from the Jargon, of shifting the stress to the final syllable. On the other hand, and maybe it’s just due to the smaller data set, I see much less evidence here of a strong shared heritage with broader BC Jargon.

I left out items like ‘jeans’ (‘backsha dsina, literally ‘pants jeans’) and such, which I believe to be more recent, and therefore more likely borrowed from English than from (let alone used in) local Jargon.

A helpful pointer about reading the Tsimshian words here: in the SE Alaskan writing style, stress is shown by underlining a syllable. Single-syllable words aren’t underlined.

boad ‘boat’ — compare Chinuk Wawa bút

boods ‘boots’ — cp. búts

daala ‘money’ — cp. dála

doosh[-]m gilhawli (cat-of in.the.woods.or.forest) ‘tiger, wildcat’ — cp. Kamloops Jargon < wail kat >

gabids ‘cabbage’ — cp. kʰapech, but with the distinctive north coast / SE Alaska shift to final stress also seen in Haida & Tlingit

galot ‘carrot’ — cp. lakʰarát, but with unusual removal of the original French definite article syllable, maybe influenced by local English carrot, with or without familiarity with spoken French

ggald[-]m[-]wa‘at ‘store’ (container-of-selling), cp. mákuk-háws

gool ‘gold’, cp. gúl

gwashoa ‘pig’ (notice final stress), cp. kúshu, Haida < Chinuk Wawa gwáasaaw, Tlingit < CW gishoo

gyuwadun ‘horse’, cp. kʰíyutən, Haida < CW gyuudáan, Tlingit < CW gawdáan (all with final stress, unlike the original CW form)

hahloa[-]m[-]boad ‘sailboat’ (cloth-of-boat) — implies a CW or English síl-bút / sailboat

hahloa[-]m gyamg ‘flag’ (cloth-of-Sun(day)) — I’ve already written a separate article inspired by this phrase; I think it’s Tsimshian evidence for an old Jargon expression, < Sunday sail >

laam ‘alcohol’ — cp. lám

lapwail ‘frying pan’ — cp. lapʰuwél

liplaid ‘minister, pastor, preacher, priest’ — cp. lipʰrét

lukhlee[-]hoaya ‘undergarment’ (under/inner-clothes) — perhaps implies a Jargon *kíkwəli-íktas, see the next two entries

lukhleekshlushg ‘undershirt’ (under/inner-shirt) — cp. < kikwile shat >

lukhlee[-]‘backsh ‘underpants’ (under/inner-pants) — cp. kíkwəli-sik’áluks

mishmoosh ‘bull, cattle, cow’ — cp. músmus, but with the north coast shift to final stress

me‘ish[-]m mishmoosh ‘cow’s milk’ — cp. músmus-tutúsh

moolaa ‘sawmill’ — cp. lemulá, again with removal of original French definite article syllable; cp. also Haida < CW múulaa

shdeem boad ‘steamer’ — cp. stín-pút; an extension in Tsimshian is shdeem boadm gilhouli ‘train’ (‘steam boat-of in.the.woods’), maybe suggesting a local CW *stík-stín-pút

shgool ‘school’ — cp. skúl

waab[-]shgool ‘schoolhouse’ (house-school) — cp. Kamloops CW < skul haws >

waab shiwilaaykwsha ‘school (lit. house of learning)’ — perhaps compare Cowlitz Salish’s word literally meaning ‘know-paper-house‘?

waab tckoackg ‘restaurant’ (house eating) — cp. Kamloops CW < makmak haws >

waads ‘clock, watch’ — cp. wách

‘dsig‘dsig ‘car, wagon, vehicle’ — cp. t’síkt’sik, with the north coast stress shift to final syllable; note that Tsimshian, like Haida, accurately preserves the ejective sounds (signaled by the apostrophes) in the original Jargon word

What do you think?

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