Re-evaluating Boas’s 1888 “Chinook Songs” (part 5)

The takeaway here is that it’s a good thing we’re examining these song lyrics in light of Chinook Jargon knowledge acquired since 1888.

Here are 3 more reasons why.


SONG #13:

chinook songs 13

Ka Chali tlatowa alta?
qʰá cháli (t)łátwa álta?
where Charlie go now?
‘Where is Charlie going now?’
DDR: ‘Where is Charlie going now?’


Ka Chali tlatowa alta?

qʰá cháli (t)łátwa álta?
where Charlie go now?
‘Where is Charlie going now?’
DDR: ‘Where is Charlie going now?’


Ky’elapai nanitch 

k’ílapay [1] nánich
return see
‘He comes back to see me,’
DDR: ‘Coming back to see’


Naika tumtum. 

náyka tə́mtəm. [2]
my heart.
‘I think.’
DDR: ‘(How) my feelings (are).’

Comments on song #13:

k’ílapay [1] — Here, as in song #15, we encounter a verb clause without a subject, and this should be interpreted like an English “-ing” expression, backgrounded to the preceding clause.

náyka tə́mtəm [2] — The intent of these words, a set expression in the Jargon, is to comment on ‘my emotions; my thoughts’, a distinction Boas doesn’t make clear. 

Summary of song #13:

You get the main idea of this song if you only read Boas’s translation, but a couple of its expressive techniques are lost if you don’t also attend to the Chinuk Wawa wording.


SONG #14:

chinook songs 14

Naika nanitch Johnny tlatowa 
náyka nánich djáni (t)łátwa
I see Johnny go

‘I have seen Johnny go’
DDR: ‘I saw Johnny going’

Pe naika tumtum yeke mitlait [Ø] house 

pi [1] náyka tə́mtəm yáka míłayt Ø háws 
and I think he be.located at home
‘And I think he is at home’
DDR: ‘When I thought he was at home(;)’

Naika haias pelton tumtum kakoa. 
náyka hayas-píltən tə́mtəm [2] kákwa.
I very-crazy think thus.
‘I am very foolish to think so.’
DDR: ‘I was out of my mind thinking like that.’

Comments on song #14:

pi [1] — this little word is the key to interpreting the lyric. As I’ve noted previously in this mini-series, pi (‘and/but’) in most dialects of Chinuk Wawa has an important function of backgrounding a clause, so that it can be translated often as ‘when’ or even ‘because’. 

tə́mtəm [2] kákwa — with no expressed subject, this little clause is best translated as a present participle ‘thinking like that’. This is a structural trick in Jargon that is frequently missed by translators. 

Summary of song #14:

Boas’s translation is again highly serviceable, but at the same time it looks as if he  (and virtually all writers about Jargon at the time) missed some fundamental traits of verbal subordination.


SONG #15:

chinook songs 15

Good-bye, oh my dear Charlie!
< good-bye, oh my dear Charlie! >
good-bye, oh my dear Charlie!
‘Good-bye, oh my dear Charlie!’
DDR: ‘Good-bye, oh my dear Charlie!’

Spos maika iskum tlotchman,
spus máyka ískam (t)łúchmən,
when/if you take woman,

‘When you take a wife,’
DDR: ‘If you get married,’


Wek maika ts’epe naika. 

wík máyka t’sípi [1] náyka.
not you trick me.
‘Don’t forget me.’
DDR: ‘You won’t cheat (on) me (any more).’

Comments on song #15:

t’sípi [1] — I’ve never found this Chinuk Wawa verb to mean ‘to forget’, as its core sense is ‘to miss (a mark)’, albeit with a strong secondary usage (especially in BC) as ‘to fool; to trick; to cheat’, which should be held in mind here. 

Summary of song #15:

As with so many of these “Chinook Songs”, an important detail of meaning is missing from Boas’s otherwise useful translation.


íkta máyka chaku-kə́mtəks?
What have you learned?

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