More about pʰasáyuks: why not pʰlasáyuks?


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If you’ve been exposed to my website more than a couple of times, you know I promote the idea that there’s a lot of history in every word…

…and, in a pidgin-creole langage like Chinuk Wawa, which developed so fast in the sudden contact of multiple, really distinct cultures, that’s massively true.

So I’ve had a lot to say, for instance, about the CW word for ‘French(-Canadians)’, pʰasáyuks.

We’ve already discussed how this word seems to have started out as pâ-shish’-e-ooks >, a Lower Chinookan-language term for all Newcomers who dressed European-style — literally ‘blankets’ or ‘blanket-people’.

It then somehow mutated into its present form, apparently under the influence of the French word français, which in North America meant not the French-Canadians who were so numerous in the Pacific Northwest, but instead primarily people from France, who were few and far between in fur-trade days. That’s already a bit of a puzzle, as I recently wrote.

Hold on, here’s more for you!

Because all of the massive linguistic data we have on Chinook Jargon indicate that français should have become lasáyuks if not rasáyuks. That is, the French “R” should be reflected in the CJ word by some “resonant” consonant. (To use a bit of linguist talk.)

I’ll show you just the quick list of CJ words that show a sequence of a “stop” consonant (like “P, B, T, D, K, G”) plus a resonant (like “R, L”), whether in a French word or an English one, pretty much always stays that way in CJ. (Sometimes with a vowel entering between the two.)

  • pʰliyé ‘pray(er)’, from French prier/priez and/or (just maybe) prière
  • laplásh ‘board’ … la planche
  • likʰrém ‘color of horse’ … le crème
  • latlá ‘noise’ … le train
  • libló ‘color of horse’ … le blond
  • lisítaluy ‘pumpkin’ … la citrouille
  • leblé ‘wheat’ … le blé
  • leklís ‘church’ … l’église
  • leblíd ‘bridle’ … la bride
  • lipʰrét ‘priest’ … le prêtre
  • lestlemosio ‘last rites’ … l’extrême onction
  • legléy ‘horse color’ … le gris
  • sandeli ‘horse color’ … cendré
  • lesipró ‘spurs’ … les éperons
  • drét ‘right; straight’ … droit
  • sesuklí ‘Jesus Christ’ … Jésus-Christ
  • kʰíláy ‘cry’, from English cry
  • klís ‘fat; oil’ … grease
  • kláms ‘clam(s)’ … clams
  • pʰlúm ‘broom’ … broom
  • klismas ‘Christmas’ … Christmas

Moreover, the Michif (French-Cree Métis) language that shares so much with Jargon has extremely similar pronunciations developing from the same French words, for example these equivalents to some of the above:

  • la krem
  • la plawnsh
  • li traen
  • la sitrooy
  • li blee
  • la priyayr
  • l(‘)igleez
  • la brid
  • gree
  • sawndree
  • lee ziproon
  • dret

All that data (and there are plenty more Jargon & Michif words containing clusters of obstruent + resonant) goes to show that we would expect the word for ‘French’ to be lasáyuks.

It’s not.

And neither Jargon nor Michif have any pattern of dropping “L’s” or “R’s” in such words.

So this word pʰasáyuks remains somewhat mysterious, a fascinating little unexplained episode in the history that’s preserved for us in the important Chinuk Wawa.

What do you think?