‘Angry’ because of White people?

angry white people

(Image credit: ZedBooks)

Chinuk Wawa’s basic word sáliks surprised me the other day.

When I happened to be looking at the entry for this word meaning ‘angry; fight’ in the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde 2012 dictionary of CW, I saw that its etymology is — authoritatively — considered to be “obscure”.

Wow! Thanks to a bunch of good linguistic research, we know the source of 99% of Chinook Jargon words with good accuracy. So, what’s going on here?

I got onto this idea because, like CTGR 2012, I found nothing similar to sáliks in any of the 4 Chinookan languages. They use roots like Shoalwater-Clatsop Lower Chinookan náx̣ax̣ax̣ ‘anger’, əlkayu ‘fight’, maqt ‘fight’.

We don’t know a form resembling sáliks in the old Nootka Jargon that formed part of early Chinuk Wawa. (Nor in the Nuuchahnulth languages of Vancouver Island that shaped NJ.)

Could sáliks instead come from the Salish part of Chinuk Wawa’s ancestry?

Let’s call that a big “maybe”.

There are vaguely similar words for the same concepts in the area’s Southwest Washington Salish languages.

  • In Lower Cowlitz, for instance, we find a root qəłə́x̣a- ‘growl; be angry’ (with the related/allomorphic qalí- ‘attack’ [‘fight’]), and quite similar forms in Upper Chehalis. Notice the identical semantic range to CW’s sáliks.
  • And in Lower Chehalis, there’s saq-y’əq ‘[to get] angry’ (but qəlí-m’əł ‘fight’.

These are not wonderful matches for sáliks, but with a bit of squinting, they might be prospects for an etymology. I can only phrase these as questions:

… could we be seeing in sáliks a mashup of the two roots saq and qal/ł(əx̣)? Maybe that’s the sort of confusion you’d find among non-Salish “foreigners” talking Salish?

… could there be a trace here of the Lower Chinookan tendency to alternate /q/ and glottal stop /ʔ/ with each other? (Was there an earlier pronunciation like *saʔliks?)

… and could the Jargon word’s final -s reflect the known habit (within Chinookan languages) of phrasing emotional states as possessed nouns, transferred to Chinookans’ speaking of Salish? That is, Salish -s = ‘his/her/its’.

…on a similar note, sáliks could reflect early White mangling of Southwest Washington Salish, just as your average Nootka Jargon word in CW is demonstrably influenced by the Euro-Americans who brought NJ south to Chinookan territory.

So there you go, at best one step forward in the quest for the origin of sáliks.

What do you think?