1914: Some loanwords in “Thlinget”

natives vending curios.PNG

from between pages 88-89

A pretty good observer of Alaskan Lingít life noticed more about Chinuk Wawa than he realized!

Here, Presbyterian missionary Livingston French Jones shares a number of words in Tlingit that he’s noticed are borrowed from other languages.

What he doesn’t realize is that Chinook Jargon played a bigger part than he says.

I’ll comment on each word in my transcription of this passage…

tlingit loanage 01

tlingit loanage 02

pages 36-37

The language now abounds with corruptions through the effort of the natives to adopt or incorporate words from the English and Russian into their own tongue. Their word dŏnʹnă is a mispronunciation of dollar [actually of Chinuk Wawa dála], Kin-ditchʹ for King George [actually CW kʰinchóch], and Kin-ditch-wänʹ (King George’s people) for Canadians [actually CW kʰinchóch-mán]. Kin-ditch-wän-gotʹty is the name of an island in the Chilkat river, so called because some Canadians once camped there. Gŏwʹe is a Thlinget corruption for the English coffee [equally likely is CW kʰófi or Russian kófe], and goo-nashʹes for molasses [again CW is plausible: məlásis]. We might multiply examples almost indefinitely, but those cited will suffice for our purpose.

Some of their borrowed words which they have incorporated they pronounce correctly. Among these are sugar and butter in English [CW influence is not unlikely: shúk(w)a & báta], and shădeen’gă (pig) [Russian svín’ya; interestingly, most Tlingit vocabularies have ‘pig’ as the newer CW loan gishoo] and wŏs (cow) in Russian [this doesn’t resemble Russian koróva but it sure looks like Tlingit’s known CW borrowing wasóos].

An invention known as the Chinook, a jargon, has also had a share in corrupting the pure Thlinget. Terms from this linguistic hybrid are frequently mixed with the Thlinget. Such terms as Siwash (Indian), skookum (strong), tillicum (people), tenas (little) and many others are pure Chinook words.

Then, the writer makes some valuably accurate observations of where Jargon is spoken in Alaska — despite his concluding remark that it’s of no interest.

tlingit loanage 03

page 43

While in some localities, especially in the extreme southeastern part of the archipelago, the Chinook jargon is used to some extent, in others it is scarcely spoken at all. It was invented as a means by which traders might communicate with the natives of different tongues scattered along the coast from Oregon to Yakutat, Alaska.

Very few of the natives living north of Wrangell have any acquaintance with it, and those who have, seldom use it. It has little to recommend it to the serious consideration of any one, other than a curiosity. Its vocabulary is very limited, it has no grammatical construction, and is not a language, but an invention pure and simple. This last fact is the only thing that makes it of any interest.

— from “A Study of the Thlingets of Alaska” by Livingston French Jones (1865-1928) (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1914)

Just imagine if Mr. Jones had known more about Chinuk Wawa…

With his perceptive nature, he would’ve surely provided us with even more fascinating notes on its use in southeast Alaska!

What do you think?