Every which way but proved: ‘crooked’

there was a crooked man

(Image source: Hi-Def Ninja)

File this in the Annoying Linguist Dept.

I know just enough to ask the following question, which could complicate the etymology of a Jargon word.

I don’t know enough to answer it, though!

The word I’ve got on my mind is q’áyʔwa ‘crooked’.

That’s one of several synonyms, all of them seemingly limited to the lower Columbia River region — what I broadly call the ‘southern dialect’ of Chinook Jargon.

The others include x̣ə́nɬqi and < klook >.

That latter word evidently reflects English-language influence (crooked) on Chinuk Wawa łúk ‘broken’, which comes from a Chinookan source, as does x̣ə́nɬqi.

But as the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde 2012 dictionary proves, q’áyʔwa is from Salish.

That’s why my thought of the day is odd.

I keep hearing the similarity with Chinuk Wawa qʰá-iwa ‘which one?; which way?, whence, to where’.

That’s purely Chinookan in etymology; again I refer you to the 2012 dictionary.

However, there’s a fair bit of consonant alternation that goes in lower Columbia River languages, and it includes popping (ejective) Q’, like our q’, versus plain Q, like our qʰ.

And if a glottal stop (ʔ) was going to sneak into qʰá-iwa, it’d be expected between the two morphemes; in other words, where you see the dash mark.

Lining the two words up to show how well their sounds correspond:


In addition, I feel that the meanings might be legitimately parallel.

The interrogative qʰá-iwa ‘which way?’, if it works like other Jargon content-questions, could also mean an indefinite reference, ‘some way or another’, maybe phraseable as ‘this-or-that way’. Further, my understanding of Grand Ronde CW is just enough to think that this expression could also mean ‘to some side or another’.

Which isn’t very hard to compare with ‘crooked’, is it?

Final point: Lower Chinookan, particularly the coastal Shoalwater-Clatsop language, shares a large number of words with neighboring Salish, particularly the Lower Chehalis language. And in practice it’s frequently quite hard, or even impossible, to determine which of those languages a word originally came from.

They’re as intertwined as that. (I’m choosing that word to set my fellow language-contact researchers a-thinking.)

All of this is to suggest it’s not absurd to see both a Salish and a Chinookan etymology for the Jargon’s ‘crooked’, q’áyʔwa.

But I can’t prove it beyond doubt!

qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm?
What do you think?