qʰá-mún: Discovering another BC ‘when’

berries ripe

In my PhD dissertation on Kamloops Chinuk Wawa, on page 134 I noted the rarity of words for ‘when?’.

That is, I meant question words about time.

Unlike Grand Ronde and the “southern” dialect in general, BC dialect hardly uses qʰə́nchi at all to say ‘when’. Spelled as < kansih >, that word is limited to meaning ‘how much; how many’ up north.

The common, non-question, BC way of expressing ‘when’ is < pus >, which also means ‘if’. There are hundreds of examples of that in the Chinuk Pipa documents that my diss tells about.

But when it comes to finding out the time something occurs, as well as forming a relative clause (i.e. saying such-and-such happens when this-or-that occurs), all I found were some instances of a unique phrase < kah son > — literally ‘where day’, as in the following:

Naika tiki komtaks kah son maika chako kopa Spisom.
I want know where day you come to Spuzzum.
‘I want to know when you’re coming to  Spuzzum.’

(By the regular rules of Chinook Jargon grammar, you can analyze such sentences as literally saying ‘where (is the) day (that)…’ And in many ways that’s more sensible to me than a supposed compound of ‘where-day’.)

I added a speculative note in the dissertation, wondering if maybe smaller units of time could be used in the same structure. (Could people say < kah tintin > or < kah awr > for ‘when’ as in ‘what time of day’?)

Well, that question hasn’t yet been answered. 🙂

But, I was on the right track!

I find it really cool to discover that you can indeed use larger time units in this construction, like < kah mun > in this passage from the “Chinook Book of Devotions”, page 84:

Pus iaka kro kah mun olali chako tlus…
when it arrive where month berry become-good…
‘When it got to be when the berries ripen…’

Now I’ll have my eyes peeled to see if you can say < kah iir > / < kah sno > for ‘when’ (‘where year’)!

What do you think?