And another Haida-style “northern song”!


A Tla-o-qui-aht girl (image credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Hayu masi kopa Deb Masso, who shared a song I’d never heard before…

(Note: my website is doing odd things with paragraph spacing here. But this post is highly worth the read!)

Deb, who is Tla-o-qui-aht (one of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations of the west coast of Vancouver Island), knows it from her mother, who referred to it as the “Haida Man Song”.

háyda-mán-sóng would be a grammatical BC Chinuk Wawa compound phrase, by the way.

The lyric is this:

mámuk qáy quyáy nayka-š tə́mtəm.
do “qay quyay” my-s heart.
‘My heart goes qay-quyaay.’

I should say that these lyrics sound like a grammatical Chinuk Wawa indicative expression using Haida ‘vocables’/’song syllables’.
I take the subject here to be ‘heart’, which is an inanimate — well, nonhuman — entity and therefore it doesn’t take a resumptive pronoun (I call it agreement marker) *yaka. (So we don’t have *yaka mamuk… here.)
The “-š” ending on nayka is something we’ve also seen in a Mungo Margin northern song. (See “Haida Drinking Song“.) It’s been previously reported that BC Jargon sometimes had possessive pronouns with this -s suffix, presumably modeled on English possessive -s and/or Salish 3rd person possessive -s.
Because this lyric is an intransitive expression, the subject here is able to, and does, come after the verb.
I infer the sense to be ‘My heart goes thumpity-thump.’ 🙂 Here’s why I think that:
In Erma Lawrence’s Alaskan Haida dictionary there is a verb < kuyáadaa > /qʰuyá:ta:/ ‘to love’. (The final vowel is short in the Sealaska Haida dictionary.) Inflected forms have quite different endings from what we hear in this song. Here, might we be hearing a playful, baby-talkish version of this verb?
The Sealaska dictionary also has < Gugáa > /quká:/ ‘to be lovesick, lonesome’, among a few similar-sounding and -meaning forms.
By email, Henry Kammler noted to me:
What first came to my təmtəm was that mamuuk also serves as a causative. Is an oblique 3s subject thinkable, like “he/she makes my heart qayquyay“?
Yes, in songs, some mildly odd syntax can happen. It’s just possible that an animate 3rd person subject yaka is implied in the lyric.
And for that matter, the lyric could in a pinch be read as an imperative, “Make (it [my heart]) go qayquyaay(,) my heart!”
But I typically find that Jargon songs that are orally composed (rather than literary written ones) use the clearest possible syntax. (See my mini-series “Re-evaluating Boas’s 1888 ‘Chinook Songs’ “.)
So, of the analyses so far voiced, I favor my indicative-mood “My heart goes qaayquyaay.” It has the advantage of matching the lyric style of numerous Northern songs both in Jargon and in Haida etc.
I find no documentation of this song in a check of John Enrico & Wendy Bross Stuart’s “Northern Haida Songs” book, FYI.
But this song appears to be of a type that Northern Haida speakers describe as “not owned” by anyone — unlike several genres of traditional songs sung in the Haida language.  Mind you, I consider it owned by Deb’s family and I’m only writing about it here with her permission.
I’m grateful for the chance to learn another Haida-style song, from one family’s traditions.

What do you think?