Not all Chinuk Wawa adverbs are created equal


in the beginning

íləp-ánqati (image credit: Amazon)

Proceeding from my post on Laura Belle Downey-Bartlett’s “Last Rose of Summer” translation…

…There, I commented on how her expression < tinas alki > has a couple of possible interpretations:

  • Maybe 2 separate adverbs in a row, ténəs* áłqi ‘a little bit in the future’. And that’s totally solid Chinuk Wawa — it would be tunús áłqi in Grand Ronde style.
  • Or maybe tənəs*(-)áłqi — a Diminutive of the adverb áłqi (which is what the dash signals), which I think fluent Jargon speakers would find as hard to understand as I do.

The latter option struck me as bizarre and probably ungrammatical, for reasons I’d never thought of before.

I hypothesized that, unlike most other adverbs, the ones referring to spans of time relative to the present moment…

  • áłqi ‘eventually’,
  • ánqati ‘in the past; long ago’,
  • álta ‘now’ — also ‘and then…’

…aren’t freely inflectable for degree (‘a little bit’, ‘very’, ‘more’, ‘too/excessively’, ‘the most’).

I said this despite my already having taken pains to point out that these 3 words are indeed adverbs, by another criterion.

That they are, because they freely vary among the slots in a sentence where adverbs are allowed to go, i.e.

  • sentence-first,
  • right before the predicate, or
  • end of sentence.

So there’s no material difference in meaning between, say, these 3 versions of one expression for ‘I will eat’:

  • áłqi nayka mə́kʰmək
  • nayka áłqi mə́kʰmək
  • nayka mə́kʰmək áłqi

(Although, in the real world, you’d put differing intonations on each of these, and use them in slightly differing circumstances that have to do with what’s already known or talked about in the conversation.)

We can look at some contrasting examples of “normal” adverbs & these 3 special ones, where * shows hypothetical forms that I believe aren’t grammatical (I’d love the input of the good Jargon speakers out there) —

The future-tense adverb:

  • *tənəs-áłqi (‘little-eventually’) ~ ?’in a little while’, *hayas(h)-áłqi (‘very-eventually) ~ ?’in a great while’, *mánaqi-áłqi (‘more-eventually’) ~?’later on’, *íləp-áłqi (‘most-eventually’) ~ ?’last of all’
    vs. normal adverbs…
    tənəs-líli (‘little-long.time’) ‘in a little while’, hayas-líli (‘very-long.time’) ‘after a great while’, mánaqi-ławá ‘slower [more slowly]’, < ilip skukum > ‘most powerfully’ (Kamloops Wawa)

And the present-tense adverb:

  • *tənəs-álta (‘little-now’) ~ ‘?’, *hayas-álta (‘very-now’) ~ ‘?’, *mánaqi-álta (‘more-now’) ~’?’
    vs. normal adverbs…
    tənəs-sayá ‘a little farther’, < hyas-hulloima > ‘very different[ly]’ Gibbs 1863,  mánaqi-sayá ‘farther’

However, upon examination, the past-tense adverb turns out to be the exception to my exception! Look:

  • tənəs-ánqati (‘little-previously’) ‘a little while ago; recently’ is in the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary,
    and < hyas[-]ahnkuttie > (‘very-previously’) ‘ancient’ (Shaw’s 1909 dictionary),
    and íləp-anqati (‘most-previously’) ‘The Beginning of the world; the primeval age’,
    (and I’m inferring that mánaqi-ánqati would be grammatical for ‘longer ago; farther in the past’, even though I can’t find an example of it so far)

So, what I gather from this examination is that, even though all 3 pass my first adverb test of being able to vary their positions:

  • only ánqati ‘previously; long ago’ operates like other adverbs in Chinuk Wawa under my adverb test #2 of accepting degree-marking,
  • álta ‘now’ & áłqi ‘eventually; in the future’ fail that test, & thus behave less like adverbs & more like the grammatical-operator particles/affixes/clitics in the language.

Kind of a neat little discovery, in terms of my efforts to describe the language as fully, accurately, and scientifically as I can, with a view to sharing any insights into “good Jargon” with learners.

I want to add that I’ve only looked at adverbial roots here, that is, single-word adverbs. Now, to extend our observations:

If I’m not mistaken, multi-word adverbial phrases (which include prepositional phrases like kʰapa pʰótłən ‘from Portland’ and complex forms like láx̣w-sán ‘afternoon’), while they too are positionally variable, also dislike degree marking.

(Again, I’d love the input of the speaker community — can you say ‘I come more from Portland than from Brooklyn’ or ‘I nap at the most afternoon (time)’?)

So adverbial phrases have that trait in common with álta ‘now’ & áłqi, and with grammatical operators.

Somehow that’s less of a surprise than what we’ve just found with simple time adverbs; I can’t recall having found grammaticalized degree marking on any complex (phrase-sized) forms in Jargon texts. So expressions like *iləp q’əl-latet *’the most obstinate, [literally] the most hard-headed’, in my impression, seem rare indeed. Honest disclosure: I haven’t done a full and careful search for such phrases at this time, but this is a potential new observation about Jargon grammar.

Note, we do find structures like the Grand Ronde dictionary’s manaqi wik-łush ‘worse; the very worst’, but I still count this as the comparative degree of a simple adverb, because (1) wik-, in this function, has no independent existence as a word, instead being a bound negative prefix like English un-, and (2) wik-łush has its own idiomatic meaning distinct from wik- ‘not’ and łush ‘good’.

Also note, I believe we do find structures like (an admittedly made-up example) iləp-łush(-)pus(-)nanich ‘best-looking’, perhaps explainable as degree marking only on łush, despite the fact that the phrase łush(-)pus(-)nanich amounts to an adjectival idiom. In other words, with iləp- on it, you get a meaning ‘{best} to see’, rather than *’most {good to see}’.

Next question: are there still more subsets of the Jargon adverbs that have special behavior?

Kata maika tumtum?
qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm?
What do you think?