1865: Prehistoric Man Ain’t Here No More (sez Paul Kane)

What’s taken his place is a new Chinuk Wawa-speaking society, according to this writer.

(The above video is “Prehistoric Man” by Peter Cherches & Sonorexia. For kazoo fans.)

Some of the following is just reporting stuff Horatio Hale or Paul Kane already published, but some is new “personally communicated” info from the latter. Kane, the famous traveler and artist, had spent a good deal of time with the Chinook Indians, speaking Jargon.

This is an excerpt from an neat analysis of language contact, in the book “Prehistoric Man: Researches into the Origin of Civilization in the Old and the New World“, by the Scottish-born Canadian academic, Sir Daniel Wilson (1816-1892) (London: Macmillan & Co., 1865).

(A light side note: Sir Daniel is said to have something in common with another scholar who has worked with Chinuk Wawa, George Lang — a previous engagement with wine selling. A small world contracts…)

[page 586]

But it is on the North Pacific coast
that the most remarkable example of the development of an entirely
new language out of the commingling English and native vocabu-
laries, is now in progress. Mr. Paul Kane, during his travels in
the North-west, resided for some time at Fort Vancouver, on the
Columbia river, and acquired the singular patois, styled the Oregon
jargon, which is there growing into a new language. The principal
tribe in the vicinity is the Chinook, a branch of the Flathead
Indians, whose native language so entirely baffles all attempts at
its mastery, that it is believed none have ever attained more than
the most superficial knowledge of its common utterances but those
who have spoken it from childhood. Pickering remarks, on his
approach to the straits of De Fuca, “after the soft languages and
rapid enunciation of the Polynesians, the Chinooks presented a
singular contrast, in the slow, deliberate manner in which they
seemed to choke out their words, giving utterance to sounds some
of which could scarcely be represented by combinations of known
letters.” After hearing its utterances as spoken for my behoof [sic] by
more than one traveller, I can only compare them to the inarticu-
late noises made from the throat, with the tongue against the teeth
or palate, when encouraging a horse in driving. Mr. Kane states
in reference to it, “I would willingly give a specimen of the bar-
barous language were it possible to represent by any combination
of our alphabet the horrible, harsh, spluttering sounds which pro- 
ceed from the throat, apparently unguided either by the tongue
or lips.”

Fort Vancouver is the largest of all the posts in the Hudson’s
Bay Company’s Territory, and has frequently upwards of two
hundred voyageurs with their Indian wives and families residing
there, besides the factors and clerks. A perfect Babel of languages
is to be heard amongst them, as they include a mixture of English,

XXIII.] The Oregon Jargon, 587

Canadian-French, Chinese [really?], Iroquois, Sandwich Islanders, Crees,
and Chinooks. Besides these the Fort is visited for trading pur-
poses by Walla-wallas, Klickatats [Klickitats], Kalapurgas [Kalapuyas], Klackamuss [Clackamas], Cowlitz,
and other Indian tribes; and hence the growth of a patois by which
all can hold intercourse together. The English, as it shapes itself
on the lips of the natives, forms the substratum; but the French of
the voyageurs has also contributed its quota, and the remainder is
made up of Nootka, Chinook, Cree, Hawaiian, and miscellaneous
words, contributed by all to the general stock. The common salu-
tation is Clak-hoh-ahyah, which is believed to have originated from
their hearing one of the residents at the Fort, named Clark, fre-
quently addressed by his friends: “Clark, how are you?” The
designation for an Englishman is Kint-shosh, i.e., King George;
while an American is styled Boston. Tala, i.e., dollar, signifies
silver or money; oluman, i.e., old man, father, etc. The vocabulary
as written, shows the changes the simplest words undergo on their
lips : e.g., fire, paia; rum, lum; water, wata; sturgeon, stutshin;
to-morrow, tumola; cold, kol; suppose, pos; wood, or a tree, stik;
dry, tlai, etc. And the French in like manner : la médecine be-
comes lamestin; la grasse, lakles; courir, kuli; la langue, lalan;
les dents, litan; sauvage, sawash, i.e., Indian; la vieille, lawie, etc.
The formation of the vocabulary appears to have been determined
to a great extent by the simplicity or easy utterance of the desired
word in any accessible language, or familiar imitative sound. As
to the grammar: number and case have disappeared, and tense is
expressed by means of adverbs. Nouns and verbs are also con-
stantly employed as adjectives or prefixes, modifying other words ;
and are further increased, not only by borrowing from all available
sources, but by the same onomatopoeic process which has already
been referred to as one of the sources of growth in all languages.
Thus we have moo-moos [sic], an ox, or beef; kalakala, a bird ; kwehkweh,
a duck ; tiktik, a watch ; tingling [sic], a bell; hehe, laughter ; tumtum,
the heart; tum-tumb or tum-wata, a waterfall; klak, let go, or the
sound of a rope suddenly loosed; mash, the sound of anything
falling; olo, hungry, thirsty; tsish, cold; wawa, to speak; pah, to
smoke; poo, to shoot; mok-e-mok, to eat, or drink; liplip, to boil.
Nor is this patois a mere collection of words. Mr. Kane informs
me, that by means of it he soon learned to converse with the chiefs
of most of the tribes around Fort Vancouver with tolerable ease.
The common question was: cacha-mikha-chacha, where did you
come from? and to this the answer was: sey-yaw, from a distance;

688 Accent and Emphasis. [chap. XXIII]

but in this reply the first syllable is lengthened according to the
distance implied, so that in the case of the Canadian [i.e. East-Coast] traveller he
had to dwell upon it with a prolonged utterance, to indicate the
remote point from whence he came. This stress of voice, or
prolongation of the sound, modifies many words and phrases; e.g.,
haiās, great, with the last syllable drawn out, becomes exceedingly
great; ānakati, with the first syllable prolonged, signifies very long
ago; and the transition from the positive to the superlative degree
is wrought by similar means, on haiak, quick; haiu, many; tanas,
little, young, or a child; etc. Traces of an inflectional process are
observable; e.g., iakwa, on this side; iawa, on that side; matlini,
near the river; matlkwili, inland, or away from the river; mitkoi,
to stand; mitlait, to sit, or reside; etc. The pronouns are neiki,
I; mikha, thou; yahka, he; musaika, we; nusaika, ye; klaska,
they; as: neiki mok-e-mok tschuck, I drink water; kata nem mikha
papa, what is the name of your father? But accent and varying
emphasis modify the sense in which the words are to be under-
stood; and the relation of words in a sentence, or their case, tense,
etc., is determined by their position, as in the Chinese. Mr. Hale,
the philologist of the United States Exploring Expedition, remarks
in reference to the Indians and voyageurs on the Columbia river:
“The general communication is maintained chiefly by means of the
jargon, which may be said to be the prevailing idiom. There are
Canadians and half-breeds married to Chinook women, who can
only converse with their wives in this speech ; and it is the fact,
strange as it may seem, that many young children are growing up
to whom this factitious language is really the mother-tongue, and
who speak it with more readiness and perfection than any other.”
Thus in all ways are the emigrants from the Eastern Hemi-
sphere making a new world of the West. The face of the country,
its fauna and flora, with man himself, his habits, arts, and lan-
guages, are all being modified, efiaced, displaced. Whatever be
the fate of the intrusive races, they have wrought mightier changes
in two centuries, than it is probable the American continent wit-
nessed for twenty centuries before. The rapidity, indeed, with
which such changes now take place strikes the onlooker with
astonishment, and is inconceivable to those who have not witnessed
it for themselves.

— pages 586-588

What do you think?