Confirmation of lisítaluy ‘squash’ from Canadian French

Previously in this space…

I’ve written that a word for ‘squash’ in Quinault Salish of southwestern Washington, lisítaluy, is not just from French les citrouilles — it had to have come via Chinuk Wawa.

Even though we hadn’t previously known such a Jargon word!

Well, now I’ve found what I consider enough evidence to tilt things decidedly in the Jargon direction.

Because in a (linguistically) unrelated language, Clackamas Upper Chinookan of northwestern Oregon, the same word shows up.

The common factor is not a ton of direct contact with French-speaking people; you can’t reliably claim that for Quinault, even though Clackamas is right in the early creolized zone of Chinook Jargon and would’ve interacted with Canadian French talk to some degree.

The uniting theme is instead the Jargon.

In Clackamas, the word I’ve just found is i-sídlu ‘squash’ in “Clackamas Texts”, page 540.

A detail or two about that that I find really neat —

What was originally the French plural definite article les, pronounced li in Jargon and from all indications also in Canadian/Métis French, became what I’ve sometimes referred to as a prefixed marker of the noun class in Jargon. Some of us linguists might take the behavior of Clackamas ‘squash’ as support for that latter idea. Because the speaker Victoria Howard, who was also natively fluent in Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa, effectively replaces that li- with normal Clackamas masculine noun prefix i-.

Also notable, both Quinault & Clackamas have exactly the same stress placement in the French root word, i.e. on the sí syllable. Whereas French stress is pretty mobile, it tends to be more fixed within Chinuk Wawa. So by finding the word in an additional language, we’ve gained the opportunity to sort of triangulate back to what a CW form would’ve sounded like.

The loss of the final y sound in the Clackamas borrowing of the word for ‘squash’, by the way, makes it sound precisely like what we’d expect for a borrowing of French le(s) citron(s) ‘lemons’! However, common sense tells us that’s not what’s going on. As a tropical crop, citrus fruits were fantastically rare and expensive on the early Pacific Northwest frontier, whereas squash and pumpkin seeds were easily transportable and grew readily in our climate.

So adding up all the clues, I’m daring to proclaim lisítaluy as a Chinuk Wawa noun that we accidentally never learned from our dictionaries. The evidence for it looks really strong to me.

What do you think?