Antedating reduplicated x̣ə́ləl-x̣ələl?

chinook shake

My hands would be hayu-x̣ə́ləl-x̣ələl from trying to hold up this big Fraser River Chinook! (image credit: Silversides Fishing Adventures)

In Laura Belle Downey-Bartlett’s translation of the American pop song “My Old Kentucky Home”, she uses a word that I take as being x̣ə́ləl-x̣ələl ‘to shake, tremble’.

Here we seem to have a neat instance of a creolized CW verb reduplication, something that’s more or less been assumed to have started with the mid-1850s Grand Ronde community.

LBDB’s other book, the dictionary she published, has this word for ‘to shake’ spelled variously as

  • < hul-lel > (page 14)
  • < hulhul > (page 39)
  • < hollel > (page 74)
  • < hul-hul > (page 76)

These perhaps reflect both x̣ə́ləl ‘to move, shake, quiver’ (known as early as Demers et al. 1871 [1838-ish data] & Lionnet 1853 [1848-ish data]) and the reduplicated x̣ə́ləl-x̣ələl ‘be shaking, trembling, quivering; be in constant motion; teeming, scurrying; be bustling, busy’ (known from Grand Ronde)!

(Also notice the similarity with xúlxul ‘mouse, rat; thief’…We can only speculate on a historical connection there.)

The point of interest there is that if LBDB’s “H” spellings can be trusted, and aren’t just a repeated typographical error, this makes her the earliest person to document the reduplication of this root!



Another interesting point: x̣ə́ləl receives a superb etymological writeup in the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary of Chinuk Wawa, which analyzes it as a Lower Chinookan verb stem meaning ‘to continually move oneself vigorously’.

But we can add a little to the story.

It’s worth noting that quite a number of Chinookan ideophones, that is, onomatopoeias, end in repetitions of resonant consonants, such as -l(ə): Boas 1910:630ff lists quite a few, some of which are productively reduplicated —

  • də́ll ‘noise of bursting; noise of bear spirit’
  • šəll ‘noise of rattles on a blanket’; šíll•šill ‘rattle of breath of one choking’
  • qúll ‘noise of falling objects; noise of heels striking the ground’
  • kúllkull ‘light of weight’
  • tə́ll ‘tired’; tə́ll•təll ‘tired all over ( = rheumatism)’

There are more a few pages later, Boas 1910:636, showing that repeated-l(ə) really functioned to imitate the sound of sudden noises —

  • hálələlələlələ ‘noise of flight of an arrow’
  • wúlələlələ ‘noise of flight of cormorants’

So today we’ve added a little bit to the history and etymology of a typically creole Chinuk Wawa word.

What do you think?
íkta mayka tə́mtəm?