Lapwen for ‘frying pan’ — Cree influence?

frying pan

Another phonological mutation (image credit: Redbubble)

A tip of the siyápułchapeau / drying pan to Dale McCreery for putting this bug in my ear during the weekly Chinook Wawa online study session this Saturday. (Message me if you want to try that out.)

A French noun la poêle ‘frying pan’ gave us the Chinuk Wawa noun that we know, in one of its pronunciations, as lapʰuwél. That’s how it’s recorded in the wonderful 2012 Jargon dictionary by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Oregon.

Historically, though, this same Chinuk Wawa word has been documented in a somewhat divergent pronunciation.

  • The 1871 Demers-Blanchet-St Onge dictionary [data from 1838 to early 1840s] shows < lapoen > as well as < lapuel > for ‘frying pan’.
  • Lower Cowlitz Salish borrowed this word from the Jargon as lapuén ‘pan’.

These “N” pronunciations seem to me comparable with what Dale pointed out as the usual Cree way of saying ‘frying pan’, napwen / napwên.

I’ll highlight the fact that we don’t find the “N” pronunciation in the French-Cree Michif data available to me; Laverdure & Allard’s 1983 Turtle Mountain dictionary has the relatively straightforward < la pwel > for ‘frying pan’. So that particular kind of Canadian Métis speech doesn’t seem to be implicated in < lapoen > / lapuén.

But Cree speakers, including Canadian Métis employees, and/or several of the Indigenous wives of Hudsons Bay Company personnel, and/or HBC officers themselves — many in each category having a good acquaintance with Cree or its close relative Ojibwe — could plausibly have used and introduced the pronunciation with “N”.

The picture is complicated by the straight-up fact that “L” and “N” are pretty interchangeable in lower Columbia River tribal languages’ pronunciations habits. We see traces of this in other Chinook Jargon words.

So there may be more than one good explanation of the innovative “N” pronunciation for ‘frying pan’ in the Jargon.

I wonder if it’s significant that the “N” variant is known only in the immediate vicinity of Fort Vancouver? Cree influence would’ve been the most concentrated in that largish community, and more sporadic elsewhere.

What do you think?