wík mánaqi, & a new layer of Canadian heritage?


Image source: SocialWorker.com

A Grand Ronde expression…

…which I haven’t found it elsewhere in Chinuk Wawa. Which may be a clue.

wík mánaqi (literally ‘not more’) is said to mean ‘at most; no more than that; that’s about it’, and these examples are given in the 2012 Grand Ronde dictionary:

  • íxt-ixt na łátwa fishing, wík mánaqi.
    ‘once in awhile I go fishing, that’s about it’
  • íxt-ixt wík mánaqi.
    ‘once in awhile at most (that is, very seldom)

This little phrase never really caught my attention before, but now that it has, I marvel at its uniqueness. 

To expand on a comment in its 2012 entry, the lower Columbia CW adverbial mánaqi is most often found modifying an immediately following constituent:

  • an adverb,
  • an adjective,
  • or a quantifier.

Examples of each:

  • mánaqi-sayá ‘farther; too far’, 
  • mánaqi-łúsh ‘better, best; too well; as good as’,
  • and mánaqi-hayú ‘more of (it/them)’.

Its use by itself, that is as a stand-alone quantifier, is much less frequent. A couple of example sentences from a single speaker are given in the 2012 dictionary, both basically meaning ‘He/she knows more than I do.’ In my experience of now-living speakers of Jargon, the synonym mánaqi-hayú is used way more often than plain old mánaqi.

The negated form wík mánaqi is especially interesting, because as you can see above, it’s used less as a quantifier than as a sort of interjection, or discourse marker. I mean, in the example sentences it doesn’t literally mean ‘no more than’ some quantity — instead its sense is ‘that’s all I do/did’.

In thinking about possible sources for wík mánaqi, there are the usual possibilities.

  1. It could be an innovation by Grand Ronde people, without any influence from outside factors.
  2. Otherwise, it could be traceable to an inspiration from one or more other languages, broadly divided into:
    1. Indigenous versus 
    2. European languages.

If (1) is the explanation, please skip to the end of this article 🙂 Because we linguists lack tools to explain such purely random changes in a language. 

If (2) is worth considering, please continue reading 🙂 

I looked into whether any regional Indigenous languages use their quantifier words in this way. Here of course I mean the Chinookan and Salish languages that contributed so prominently to the formation of Jargon.


I checked all 4 Chinookan languages; in the “Chinook Texts” collected from Charles Cultee, for example, the two instances of ‘no(t) more’ that I find in the English translations are:

  1. a quantifier (‘enough salmon’) and
  2. a discourse usage ‘and (that’s) enough’ in Chinookan.

Of these, (1.) is irrelevant as it’s not a discourse marker. But (2.) is an extension of function that does parallel what we’ve seen above with wík mánaqi. However, in common with (1.), it uses a different root word. (Kʰəpit, shared with Chinuk Wawa, which also can use it in this discourse-marking function). And (2.) isn’t a negated phrase. So, semantically and syntactically, Chinookan wouldn’t be a model for wík mánaqi.

In Southwest Washington Salish languages I find, again for individual words, semantic ranges similar to the Chinookan pattern, such as Quinault tís ‘stop; enough; that’s all’. But again I’m not locating negated phrases used in these ways. (FYI, Cowlitz & Upper Chehalis use a prepositional phrase involving a similar root word, but still not a negation.) So my take is that Salish isn’t a candidate for a direct source model in this case. 


European languages emerge as excellent potential models. Canadian French has pas plus ‘no(t) more’, and English has no(t) more; both of these are literal equivalents of wík mánaqi.

It seems to me as a native speaker that what linguists consider “modern” spoken English (i.e. from fur-trade times to now) doesn’t use this phrase very much, however, as a discourse marker.

I’m on less solid ground with spoken French, but I have a positive impression that Romance languages in North America do indeed say ‘no(t) more’ quite a lot in this function. Mexican Spanish that I’ve heard certainly uses no más (so much that it often gets written as one word, nomás) in this way.

Wrapping up this little meditation, I feel that Grand Ronde’s wík mánaqi is likely to have a primarily Canadian French heritage.

And on reflection, that would categorize this expression along with a number of other Chinuk Wawa functional items that operate at a syntactically “high level” — linking together phrases and clauses into sentences and verbal paragraphs, and showing the speaker’s attitude toward those.

Because several such also come from Canadian French:

  • pi ‘and’, 
  • əbə ‘or’, 
  • aba ‘well then’,
  • and the interjection masi ‘thanks’, all come to mind. 

So it’s pretty neat to contemplate that another way we might trace the Canadian influence on Chinook Jargon goes beyond individual words, up to the quite sophisticated level of how CJ sentences are put together!

To my mind, this points to the Fort Vancouver-era blossoming of what had earlier been a pidgin language, into a massively functional creole that was used in the “Indigenous mom, Canadian dad” households typical of that setting.

What do you think?