100 bucks up front: A rule they didn’t teach you in Jargon school

cash up front

(Image credit: me.me)

Or: quantities tend to be hot topics.

This is an observation that came to me only after I started helping with Saturday morning Chinuk Wawa lessons. So I owe big thanks to our circle of learners!

(Contact me if you’re interested in joining it.)

What I’m talking about today is this — Jargon speakers have a very strong tendency to place any expressions of quantities at the start of the clause/sentence. That’s the place where highly topical stuff of great interest goes.

Picking the first document open on my computer right now, it’s easy for me to find several examples of this rule.

These are from a single publication, the huge “Chinook Book of Devotions throughout the Year” that I’ve kept busy transcribing out of British Columbia’s Chinuk Pipa shorthand.

(The “putting quantities first” rule is common to both the southern & northern dialects of Chinuk Wawa. I find it equally often in the speech of Grand Ronde elders that’s been written down.)

Here I’ll put the symbol | at the start of each clause, so you have a reference point showing that the quantities (underlined) really are “being fronted” in CW.

You can see from my translations, which I try to keep as close to my natural way of talking as I can, that the Jargon “fronts” quantity expressions such as numbers, ‘all’, ‘many’, ‘a little bit’, etc., more often than English does:

  • |Mitlait iawa iht man, |<38> sno iaka sik…
    (|míłayt yawá íxt mán, |táłlam pi stúxtkin kʰúl yaka sík… in Grand Ronde style)
    ‘|There was a man there, |who had been sick for 38 years…’
  • |Ayu taim ukuk son ukuk wawa kuli kopa liplit iaka styuil…
    (|háyú tʰáym úkuk sán úkuk wáwa kúri kʰapa lipʰrét yaka pʰliyé)
    ‘|Many times today, these words run through the priest’s prayers…’
  • |…wik saia mokst tawsan sno msaika kimta kopa Sh.K. kopa ukuk ilihi…
    (|…wík-sayá mákwst táwsən kʰúl msayka kimt’á kʰapa shisikʰri* kʰapa úkuk íliʔi…)
    ‘…you folks are nearly two thousand years behind Jesus on this earth…’
  • |Kanawi ukuk iktas naika alki patlach kopa maika…
    (|kʰánawi úkuk íktas nayka áłqi pálach kʰapa máyka…)
    ‘I’ll give all of these things to you…’
  • |Tanas lili pi kaltash tilikom ayu tliminuit wawa kopa taii…
    (|tənəs-líli pi kʰə́ltəs-tílixam hayu-t’łəmínxwət-wáwa kʰapa táyí…)
    ‘|In a little while the no-good people were telling lies to the ruler…’

There’s plenty more that a linguist can say about this Chinook Jargon rule. I’ll spare you any further details for now.

See if you can bring this one weird trick into your own progress towards talking fluent Chinook!

What do you think?