(Image source: NILI)

In honor of the Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) and all of the good work it’s done for Chinuk Wawa, let me talk about -ni/-li 🙂

Here’s a list of Jargon adverbs that come from Lower Chinookan and have very similar-sounding endings on them:

  • máł[-](i)ni ‘seaward’
  • máł[-]x̣w[-]əli ‘inland; on the other side’
  • łáx̣[-]ani ‘outside’
  • kíkw[-]əli ‘below; down; low; downstream’
  • sáx̣[-]ali ‘above; up; tall; upstream’

So maybe -ni/-li are two shapes of a single adverbial location suffix? My readers have heard me point out many times that there’s a well-known tendency for “N” and “L” to alternate with each other in Chinookan.

How about these two words as well, which I can imagine might have been locative adverbs too in Lower Chinookan (‘in the dark’?, ‘in the sand’?) —

  • ? púlakʰ[-]li ‘dark; night’
  • ? púl[-]ali ‘powder, sand’

I’ve already written that there seems to have been an ending –akʰli in Chinookan; maybe it was actually two suffixes in a row.

Sometimes, late at night, I also wonder about the Jargon adverb líli, meaning ‘for a long time’ — an adverb, if not literally a spatial one. That’s actually got a solid SW Washington Salish etymology, as well as a Chinookan one. But something mysterious would have to have happened, to turn it from its original Salish form líl/léʔ(l), into a Chinook Jargon word with an extra -i on the end! Could that process have been Lower Chinookan speakers making the word sound more adverbial in their language?

On that subject, take note — In addition to the already known Chinookan form líli, I’ve now found a variant lí:: (i.e. one very extended syllable) ‘[for a] long [time]’ in Kathlamet Lower Chinookan, Boas 1894:14. So Chinookan líli could indeed be potentially lí  ‘long time’ + –li ‘at’, if it’s not (only) straightforward reduplication of lí  ‘long time’.

More research needs to be done into how Chinookan grammar works, I assure you.

What do you think?