LBDB: Prose, not lyrics (Part 2)


The experts on LBDB (image credit: Steilacoom Historical Museum Association)

We’ve been looking at pioneer Laura Belle Downey Bartlett’s writing in Chinook Jargon, in contrast to her well-known song lyrics.

Part 1 of this mini-series showed her as a genuinely fluent speaker, although she may have been rusty in her older age, which is when she did her writing.

We have further samples of her prose to work with. Today, the Dedication (page [2]) in her “Chinook-English Songs” book…

lbdb 2a.PNG

lbdb 2b.PNG

mámuk pátłach. [1]
make gift.

Kopa ankutta tellicum, mitlite okoke hy-as klosh illahee,
kʰapa ánqati tílikam*, míłayt [Ø] [2] úkuk hayas-łúsh ílihi, 
to long.ago people, be.located [in] this very-good place,
DDR: ‘To the old-time people who are in this wonderful place,’
LBDB: ‘To the pioneers, of this great Northwest,’

yah-ka man pee kah-kwa kloochman, konsi chaco, kah-kwa, yah-ka 
yaka [3] mán pi kákwa [4] łuchmən, qʰánsi* [5] cháku, kákwa, yaka 
he man and like.that woman, when* come, so, he
DDR: ‘who are men and ?also? women, when coming as they did, they’
LBDB: ‘the men and women who left their home’

kopet nanich klosh tellicum si-yah kopa sun chaco, steg-wah, 

kapit-nánich łúsh tilikam sayá kʰapa sán-cháku [6], stəgwák* [7a]
finish-see good people far at sun-come, south,
DDR: ‘no longer saw the good folks far away in the east, the south’
LBDB: ‘and loved ones in the far east, south’ 

pee sitcum sun illahee; spose yah-ka chaco klonas mitlite chick-chick,
pi sítkum-sán-ílihi [7b]; spus yaka cháku t’łúnás míłayt c’híkc’hik, 
and middle-day-land; when he come maybe exist wagon,
DDR: ‘and the south [sic]; when they came maybe there were wagons,’
LBDB: ‘and middle west; who came by’ 

moos-moos mamook haul, klonas mitlite ship yaka chaco
músmus mamuk-hál [Ø] [8], t’łúnás míłayt shíp yaka cháku 
cow make-pull [it], maybe exist ship it come
DDR: ‘cows pulling them, maybe there were ships that came’
LBDB: ‘ox teams across the plains, or around’

si-yah pee okoke nose yah-ka nem, Horn; mamook chee illahee.
sayá pi [9] úkuk nús [10] yaka ním, Horn; mámuk chí* ílihi. 
far and that point its name, Horn; make new place.
DDR: ‘a long way and (all the way to) that point called Horn; (and) made a new land.’
LBDB: ‘Cape Horn, in sailing vessels and builded [sic] up a new country;’

Mesika man, kah-kwa kloochman, konaway, hy-iu mesah-chie, kull,
msáyka mán, kákwa łúchmən, kʰánawi, [Ø] [11] háyú masáchi*, q’ə́l, 
you.folks man, so woman, all, [have] much evil, hard,
DDR: ‘You men, ?likewise? women, all, (had) much evil, hard,’
LBDB: ‘men and women who suffered extreme’

kah-kwa hy-iu mamook, mitlite hy-iu sahale skookum stick, kopa

kákwa háyú mámuk, míłayt háyú sáx̣ali skúkum stík, kʰapa 
thus much work, exist much tall strong tree, at
DDR: ‘(and) likewise much work, there were many tall strong trees, in’
LBDB: ‘hardships, surrounded by forests which’ 

kah, mitlite hy-iu masah-chie shah-wash, kah-kwa lemolo chetwoot,
qʰá* [12], míłayt háyú masáchi sháwásh [13], kákwa limuló* [14] chétxwut*, 
where, exist much evil Indian, thus wild black.bear,
DDR: ‘which there were many evil Indians, (as well) as wild black bears’
LBDB: ‘were infested with savage Indians and wild ani-‘

swaa-wa; yah-ka mamook whim stick pee mamook house.
swáwa*; yáka mamuk-xwím* [15] stík pi mámuk háws. 
cougar; he make-fall.down tree and make house.
DDR: ‘(and) cougars; they felled trees and built houses.’
LBDB: ‘mals; who felled trees, builded homes’

Pee kah-wa [sic] yah-ka chaco mamook kah-kwa, konaway klosh chaco
pi kákwa yáka cháku mámuk kákwa [16], kʰánawi łúsh cháku [Ø]* 
and so he come make thus, all good come [in]
DDR: ‘And that’s how they made it happen as it is, (with) all good coming to’
LBDB: ‘and made possible the wonderful development of’

okoke illahee. Kopa konaway ankutta tillicum mitlite, kah-kwa

úkuk ílihi. kʰapa kʰánawi ánqati tílikam míłayt [17], kákwa 
this place. to all old.time people exist, thus
DDR: ‘this place. To all the old-time folks alive, (as well) as’
LBDB: ‘this grat [sic] Northwest; to the remaining few and’

wake kopet kum-tux tellicum klatawa kopa Sahale Papa house,
wík kapít-kə́mtəks tílikam łátwa [18] kʰapa sáx̣ali-pápa háws [19]
not finish-known people go to above-father house,
DDR: ‘not forgetting the folks who have gone to the Heavenly Father’s house,’
LBDB: ‘in memory of those departed’

nika potlatch okoke t’zum.
náyka pátłach úkuk t’sə́m. 
I give this writing.
DDR: ‘I give this book.’
LBDB: ‘this little book is respectfully dedicated.’

          MAMOOK T’ZUM.
          mamuk-t’sə́m. [20]
DDR:          ‘WRITING.’
LBDB:          ‘THE AUTHOR.’


mámuk pátłach [1] — This is not a standardly recognized expression, and I doubt the average speaker of Jargon would recognize LBDB’s intended meaning without the presence nearby of her own English translation. I’ve found a different expression for ‘dedicate’, < potlatch kopa saghalie tyee > (‘give to God’), in at least one old Jargon dictionary (George Shaw’s of 1909). But the very concept is so exclusive to European culture and so uncommon in everyday speech that it’s unlikely folks said it much in Chinuk Wawa, or mentally translated any CW phrase as ‘dedicate’. 

tílikam*, míłayt [Ø] [2] úkuk hayas-łúsh ílihi — Here’s an example of the “null” preposition. That’s to say, you don’t always have to say < kopa > in fluent Chinuk Wawa. The trick is knowing when to leave it out…! 

yaka [3] mán pi — LBDB again looks like a genuine pioneer speaker of CW, using yaka as a generic 3rd-person pronoun instead of just the singular ‘he/she/it’ that all the old dictionaries oriented towards English-speakers claim. She keeps doing this throughout her paragraph. 

mán pi kákwa [4] łuchmən — This use by LBDB of kákwa as a conjunction meaning ‘and also; and likewise’ is totally her own literary invention, inspired by written English. It’s not likely any fluent-speaking readers would catch what she meant without a good deal of thought about it. And she repeats it a number of times!

qʰánsi* [5] cháku — LBDB’s literary usage here is another one modeled on English. She seems to have intended a tenseless, participle form like ‘while coming here’; in my experience of Jargon, such constructions are infrequent, and they’re not introduced by a ‘when’ word. On the other hand, her use of < konsi > to mean ‘when’ does reflect genuine fluent old-time Jargon, normal for the lower Columbia and early settlers but rare in later and more northerly speech, where the word meant ‘how much’ instead.

kʰapa sán-cháku [6] — The meaning intended by LBDB is pretty clear here, ‘at (the place where) the sun comes (up)’ i.e. ‘east’. Expressions like it are known in Jargon dictionaries of the era. But her precise wording is odd; she seems to have meant for the first word to be < kah > ‘where’, but had a lapse in writing it. I infer that here, as elsewhere in this paragraph, she was under the influence of written sources. 

stəgwák* [7a], pi sítkum-sán-ílihi [7b] — the first word is a dictionary term for ‘south’, hardly every found in actual speech. The second phrase is a more common synonym of it, and more easily understood by fluent speakers. 

c’híkc’hik, músmus mamuk-hál [Ø] [8] — ‘wagons that oxen pulled’ — Take note of the fluent Jargon expression here, literally ‘wagons, oxen pulled them’, with the “null” 3rd-person pronoun. See below for more relative-clause practice. 

pi [9] — This word normally means ‘and’, but it’s a definitely known frontier-era usage to have it mean ‘up to, up until, as far as’. 

nús [10] — The sense ‘promontory, cape’ of land appears to be traceable to Portland publisher J.K. Gill’s influential dictionary (1902 edition or earlier), and to Shaw’s of the same year.

kʰánawi, [Ø] [11]  háyú masáchi* … This turn of phrase can just barely be analyzed as ‘(they) all had many evil (experiences)’, with a “null” for ‘have’, although it’s quite a stretch, as is most “literary” Chinuk Wawa of the time. 

kʰapa qʰá* [12], míłayt háyú masáchi sháwásh — Remove the comma, and you have an easily understood, fluent Jargon turn of phrase: ‘where there were lots of hostile Indians’. < Kopa kah > is the real deal, when you want to express a relative clause of location. 

limuló* [14] chétxwut* — ‘Wild black bear’ is a redundancy, and therefore another obvious example of literary Chinuk Wawa. It’s pretty hard to imagine someone in a real-world speech situation saying ‘wild bears’, since bears were by definition all untamed on the frontier. If LBDB intended ‘black bear’ as a generic word for ‘animal’, that’d be unique to her, and not easily understood in that way by fluent listeners or readers, but we have to admit it would resemble the known strategy of using máwich ‘deer’ to mean ‘animal’. 

swáwa* … xwím* [15] — Both of these are rarer words, purely literary in that they’d be known to LBDB only from older published dictionaries of Chinook Jargon. 

yáka cháku mámuk kákwa [16] — The Jargon wording as seen here would mean ‘they came (in order) to do like that’, but my strong hunch after reading her English version is that LBDB intended yáka mámuk cháku kákwa ‘they made it happen that way’. 

míłayt [17] — A reminder that this word can also mean ‘be alive’. 

tílikam łátwa [18] — ‘People who have gone’. Another relative clause. You can get good at spotting them. Usually when a written Jargon sentence goes on for ages, you’ve got a relative clause lurking in there. 

sáx̣ali-pápa háws [19] — Another indication that LBDB genuinely spoke excellent Jargon from girlhood is that she uses this frontier-era Southwest Washington regionalism of expressing a certain few possessives without the expected yaka ‘his’ (sáx̣ali-pápa yaka háws). It’s also known in the 1850’s Jargon of travel writer Theodore Winthrop.

mamuk-t’sə́m [20] — In my understanding, this would always be a verb to fluent speakers of Jargon, never the noun ‘author’ that LBDB is trying to make it mean. 

In summary, LBDB’s Chinuk Wawa is the real McCoy, in that she uses constructions that only the better old-school speakers knew. On the other hand, though, we have again some wording that tries too hard and is very difficult for to understand, because it’s overly influenced by English literacy — a factor that never played a meaningful role in actual Jargon speech. So I come away with a strengthened sense that LBDB was pretty rusty at speaking C.W. by the time she wrote these words.

What do you think?