=na =na =na =na, =na =na =na =na, hey hey hey, data!

Howdy folks, I started an essay on what we know about the Yes/No particle =na, and it surprised me by getting complicated…

na na na

(image credit: MGAE.com)

…so today I’m going to slow down & show you all the examples of its use that I could find in a day. (Please ignore some funny font colors; I’m going to write another post about =na and those are sort of notes to myself for it.) 

First, let’s look at the descriptions of =na given by the sources I found. These are of special interest because they’re based on observations made during the early frontier period when Fort Vancouver was the center of the Chinuk Wawa world. But they’re uniformly vague, saying only that it has the force of a question (they don’t specify what kind of question); only one source (Granville Stuart) comments on its placement, and is not firm about that subject̄ the sources vary about the frequency and obligatoriness/optionality of its use:

  • Hale 1846[1841]:648 < na > ‘Interrogative particle’
  • Gibbs 1863[1850s]:18 “< Na >. The interrogative particle… Interrogation is, however, often expressed by intonation only.” [Distinguished by Gibbs from < nah > ‘look here! I say!’]
  • Stuart 1865[1850s]:[120]a “< Nah? > is always used in making an interrogation, and may be placed either before or after the first word.” [This is his comment in a footnote.]
  • Coombs 1891:23 “< Na >. An interrogatory particle.”
  • Gill 1909:43 ” ‘< Na >’ is a general interrogation, and is used in many different forms of question.” 
  • Gill 1909:64 ” < Na >. An interrogatory interjection.”

Now, let’s look at the usage data. I’ll present this stuff to you in chronological order, separating it into a few categories.

Let me pause for a moment to recall that Spokane tribal elder Pauline Flett used to tell us students of her language that sentences using its equivalent of =na really don’t need question marks. Think about that.

A very few examples claim to show this =na standing as the first item in a sentence, but, for reasons that are going to immediately become clear, I think that these are not =na but rather a rare confusion with the old full-word exclamation ná! ‘hey!; see here!; look here!’:

  • Stuart 1865[1850s]:[120]c < Nah? oʹ-lo miʹ-kah? > ‘Are you hungry?’ (Gill 1909 copies this example)
  • Stuart 1865[1850s]:[120]d < Nah? oʹ-lo chuck miʹ-kah? > ‘Are you thirsty?’ (Gill 1909 copies this example) 
  • Gill 1909:79b < Nah, skóokum mika lólo ókoke. > [punct. sic] ‘Can you carry it?’ (I understand these words more exactly as ‘Hey, are you strong enough to carry this?’ — DDR)
  • Gill 1909:81 < Nah, mika iskum mika klóochman yáhkwa? > [this ex. sent. may be copied from Coombs 1891] ‘Did you get your wife here?’ 

(I think the post-frontier writer Gill shows little to no personal expertise with this particle. He also copies Stuart 1865[1850s]:[120]b < Sick nah? miʹ-kah? > ‘Are you sick?’, and possibly takes an example shown below from Long 1909.)

But a powerfully clear trend, from the earliest example that I looked at, is that =na stands as the second item in a majority of clauses. (I’ll be underlining the units that take =na; translations of D-B-S & Le Jeune are my own work; I’ll also add “Ø” to indicate occurrences of “silent it”; and I’ll highlight the start of a clause as needed with “|”.) 

  • Cox 1831[1820s]:134 < Patlach nain maika Ø? > ‘Will you give it to me?’ < nain > is probably a typo for a handwritten < nah > )
  • Demers-Blanchet-St Onge 1871[~1839]:48a < Mitlaït, na, itluil yaka? > ‘Does he have a body?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:48b < AnHate, na, kwanesom iaka mitlaït SaHali Taï? > ‘Did he always exist long ago, (did) God?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:48c < Alke, na, iaka memelust pi iaka kopet SaHali Taï? > ‘Will he ever die and stop being God?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:48e < Skukom, na, iaka SaHali Taï? > ‘Is he powerful, (is) God?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:49e < Til, na, iaka spos iaka kopet mamuk kanewe ikta[?] > ‘Was he tired when he finished making everything?’ 
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:50a < Iaka na, mamuk tlaska tlush? > ‘Did he make them good?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:51a < Iaka, na, mamuk tlaska kanewe tlush? > ‘Did he make them all good?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:54c < Iaka, na, chako man ok SaHali Taï iaka Tanas? > ‘Did he become a person, (did) God’s child?’ 
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:57a < Lele, na, Sesu Kli iaka mitlaït kopa memelust? > ‘Did Jesus stay long among the dead?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:58 < WeHt, na, alke Sesu Kli iaka chako kopa elehi? > ‘Will Jesus again come to the world?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:62 < Skukom, na, okuk plie kopa SaHali Taï? > ‘Is this prayer to God powerful?’ 
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:60a < Spos tlaksta komtoks pi tlush nanich okuk tatlelom SaHali Taï wawa, | iaka, na, alke nanich SaHali Taï? > ‘If someone knows and observes these 10 God-words, will he eventually see God?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:60b < Spos tlaksta wek komtoks pi wek tlush nanich okuk tatlelom SaHali Taï iaka wawa, | iaka na, alke nanich SaHali Taï? > ‘If someone doesn’t know and doesn’t observe these 10 words of God, will he eventually see God?’ 
  • Hale 1846[1841]:645 < Maika na kUmataks AlkE shnAs > [punct. sic] ‘Dost thou think it will rain?’ [tr. sic] (I interpret this as ‘Do you know, will there be rain?’ — DDR)
  • Gibbs 1863[1850s]:6 < Mika na iskum Ø? > ‘Did you get it?’
  • Gibbs 1863[1850s]:9 < Mika na klap mika kiuatan? > ‘Did you find your horse?’
  • Gibbs 1863[1850s]:18 < Mika na klatawa okook sun? > ‘Do you go to-day?’
  • Stuart 1865[1850s]:[120]b < Sick nah? miʹ-kah? > ‘Are you sick?’ (Gibbs 1909:64) copies this example)
  • Stuart 1865[1850s]:[120]e < Miʹ-kah nah? tickʹ-ey muckʹ-a-muck? > ‘Will you take something to eat?’ 
  • Stuart 1865[1850s]:[120]f < Miʹ-kah nah? tickʹ-ey-mam-mook tenʹ-nas ickʹ-ta? > ‘Will you work for me?’ 
  • Stuart 1865[1850s]:121a < Miʹ-kah nah? coʹ-pet mamʹ-mook? > ‘Have you done?’ 
  • Stuart 1865[1850s]:121b < Nez Perce nah miʹ-kah? > ‘Are you a Nez Perce?’ (I take ‘Nez Perce’ as a single word in CW, as it appears in the Grand Ronde 2012 dictionary — DDR)
  • Coombs 1891:23 < Mi-ka-na-kish-kish o-coke-sun? > [‘]Are you going to drive your team to-day?[‘]
  • Le Jeune (LJ) 1902:5 < …msaika na tlus kakwa Sin Shwakim pi Sint An? Msaika na tlus mitlait kanamokst? … Msaika na styuil kopa ST pus iaka patlach tanas kopa msaika? Pus msaika mitlait tanas, | msaika na tomtom: ST patlach ukuk tanas kopa nsaika. Msaika na tlus nanich msaika tanas, pus klaska chako drit tlus kopa ukuk ilihi? Msaika na lolo msaika tanas kopa styuil haws pus patlach klaska kopa ST? > ‘…are you folks good like Saint Joachim and Saint Ann? Do you live well together? … Do you folks pray to God so that he’ll give children to you? If you have children, do you think: God gave this child to me. Do you take care of your children, so they grow up really well in this world? Do you take your kids to church to give them to God?’
  • LJ 1902:7 < Wik na msaika shim kopa ukuk, wik na msaika chako kwash alta? > ‘Aren’t you folks ashamed of this, aren’t you getting afraid now?’ 
  • LJ 1902:9a < = Iaka na maika ukuk man alki chako mamuk klahawiam nsaika? > ‘Is it you that’s the man who is going to come and take pity on us?’
  • LJ 1902:9b < Iaka na iht mituit tipso ayu klatwa kopa wind? … Iaka na iht man, aias makuk iaka pasisi? … Iaka na iht profit?> ‘Is it some tree moving in the wind? … Is it some man whose blankets are fancy? … Is it some prophet?’ 
  • LJ 1902:10b < Pus msaika mamuk aias masachi, | iaka na tlus pus lili pi wik msaika haha milalam? > ‘If you folks do great evil, is it a good thing for you to go a long time without confessing?’ 
  • LJ 1902:10c < Iaka na drit sik msaika tomtom pus msaika ilip haha milalam? Iaka na drit skukum msaika tomtom pus ilo wiht iskom masachi? > ‘Are you truly sad when you first make confession? Are you really resolute (enough) to no longer take up evil things?’ 
  • LJ 1902:88 < = Taii, kansih taim naika tilikom chako cipi kopa naika pi naika mamuk klahawiam kopa iaka? Sinmokst na taim? > ‘Chief, how many times will my people come falsely to me and I take pity on them? Is is seven times?’
  • Gill 1909:79a < Yáhka nah mika káhpo, ókoke man? > [this ex. sent. may be copied from Long 1909] ‘Is that man your brother?’

Still counting as “sentence-second =na” to my way of thinking are the examples beginning with a conjunction such as ‘and’:

  • DBS 1871[~1839]:51b < Pi mitlaït, na, kwanesom tlush kanewe tlaska? > ‘And will all of them always live well?’ 
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:54a < Pi aïak, na, iaka chako ok tluchmen iaka Tanas pus mamuk tlush telikom? > ‘And did that woman’s child come soon to heal people?’ 

Also counting as “sentence-second =na“, for me, are the many cases that demonstrate what I’ve long claimed about certain complex forms in Chinuk Wawa actually being  indivisible, due to their containing affixes and/or compounding. I’ll highlight this fact by visually joining such groupings together with dashes:

  • DBS 1871[~1839]:49a < SaHali-Taï, na, okuk iaka papa? > ‘Is God that father of his?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:49b < SaHali-Taï, na, okuk iaka tanas? > ‘Is God that child of his?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:49c < SaHali-Taï, na, okuk iaka Tlush Tomtom? > ‘Is God that good spirit of his?’ 
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:53a < Pi chako-kwotl, na, ok masache kopa kanewe telikom? > ‘And does the evil get stuck onto everyone?’ 
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:64b < Spos tlaksta iaka tlatoa kopes, pi iaka ipsut ikta masache, | chako-stoH, na, iaka masache? > ‘If someone goes to confess, and he hides something evil, does his evil get untied (from him)?
  • LJ 1902:10a < Pus wik nsaika haha milalam, | wik-kata na iaka chako mash nsaika masachi? > (N.B. wik kata is always treated as a single word in taking =na, supporting my dissertation’s claims about a phrasal negation prefix wik-…) ‘If we don’t confess, is it impossible for our evil to get thrown off?’ 

Now, we also find that besides conjunctions, adverbs can stand before the predicate that’s taking =na. I’m not sure if it’s important that all 3 examples involve the adverb ‘always’ and all are statives, that is, what we’d take as “be” statements. My feel of CW suggests that adverbs should be OK before active/transitive verbs too: 

  • DBS 1871[~1839]:48d < Kwanesom tlush, na, iaka ok SaHali Taï? > ‘Is God always good?’ 
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:55a < Kwanesom man, na, iaka Sesu Kli anHate? > ‘Was Jesus always a man previously?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:55b <  Pi kwanesom SaHali Taï, na, Sesu Kli anHate? > ‘And was Jesus always God previously?’

One single example treats a Quantifier+Noun phrase as the single unit questioned by =na

  • DBS 1871[~1839]:49d < Pi tlon SaHali-Taï, na, tlaska? > ‘And are they three Gods?’

Two odd examples show us =na after a sort of maximal 3rd-person subject, i.e. one that consists of a noun + a pronoun  yaka/łaska. To my understanding these are perhaps ungrammatical within CW. (But they perfectly match the structure of French, which was all 3 of these priests’ native language…) When you use those 2 words as CW’s “resumptive pronouns”, I take them as being inseparable from the predicate/verb — but D-B-S are cramming =na right in there!?!? In other words, I’d find these grammatical if you only used =na with < SaHali-taï > or with < iaka > in the first sentence, or only on < Ata pi Ep> (which shows the possibility of a conjoined unit being Y/N questioned!) or on < tlaska > in the second one: 

  • DBS 1871[~1839]:51d < SaHali-taï iaka, na, potlach kopa nsaïka iHt tlush Lesash pus tlush nanich nsaïka? > ‘Did God give us (each) a good angel to take care of us?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:52d < Ata pi Ep tlaska, na, iskom Ø pi mokamok Ø? > ‘Did Adam and Eve take it and eat it?’

The very biggest surprise is that we find the earliest substantial source (Demers-Blanchet-St Onge 1871 [~1839]) frequently … but by no means always … adding the Yes/No question marker =na to the precise kinds of words that we’d expect to be incompatible with it! I’m talking about the interrogatives that express the other kind of question, “WH” (who/what/when/where/how). 

(And no, this pattern does not match anything I know of in French. It definitely is an innovation compared with the etymological source of =na in Salish languages. 

Also note, a WH-word would be totally fine together with =na if you were using it in its alternative non-question function to express ‘somebody’, ‘something’, ‘some time’, ‘somewhere’, ‘somehow’. But I don’t perceive any clear exampls of that in the data.)

Stranger yet, the only other source that shows this usage is the quite late Le Jeune 1902, a fellow priest who learned Chinuk Wawa from D-B-S’s own students. I think it’s significant that Le Jeune has this usage only in his formal religious writing; he hardly ever uses =na in his more conversational usage, nor do the Indigenous letter writers of his region ever use =na at all. Like D-B-S, Le Jeune only puts =na onto WH-questions some of the time. 

[Editing to add: in fact, quite a number of Le Jeune’s examples here seem to be lightly edited copies of those we see from D-B-S! I expect that when we get around to comparing Le Jeune’s 1896 “Chinook Manual” with the catechism in D-B-S, we’ll prove that parallelism and thus explain the anomaly of Le Jeune’s late retention of =na.]

Anyway, here are those examples:

  • Demers-Blanchet-St Onge (DBS) 1871[~1839]:47 < Ikta, na, okuk SaHali Taï? > ‘What is this God?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:51c < Pus-kansiH-lele, na, tlaska mitlaït kopa ok païa? > ‘How long did they stay in the fire?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:52a < Ikta masache tlaska, na, mamuk? > ‘What evil did they do?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:52b < Tlaksta, na, wawa kopa tlaska pi tlaska mokamok Ø? > ‘Who talked to them and (so) they ate it?’
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:52c < Kata, na, iaka ipsut, pi ikta iaka wawa tlaska? > ‘How did it hide, and what did it say to them?’ 
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:54b < Tlaksta, na, SaHali Taï iaka potlach pus mamuk tlush nsaïka? > ‘Who did God give to heal us?’ 
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:56 < Kata, na, iaka memelust Sesu Kli? > ‘How did Jesus die?’ 
  • DBS 1871[~1839]:64a < Tlaksta, na, Sesu Kli iaka mamuk skukom pus mamuk stoH nsaïka masache lepeshe aktuel kopa Kopes? > ‘Who did Jesus empower to untie our evil actual sins in Confession?’
  • LJ 1902:12 < Kata na msaika? Msaika na mamuk haha styuil haws? Msaika na patlach msaika tomtom, msaika sili, msaika mamuk kopa ST? > ‘How are you folks (doing)? Do you respect the church building? Do you give your hearts, your souls, your work to God?’   
  • LJ 1902:13 < = Pi klaksta na maika? Maika na Ili? > ‘And who are you? Are you Eli?’ 
  • LJ 1902:87 < …pus taii liiam hilp naika pus mash liiam(,) | klaksta na hilp msaika tanas pus mash liiam kopa tilikom? > ‘…if the chief devil helps me to throw out devils(,) who helps you folks’ children to throw devils out of people?’ 
  • LJ 1902:100 < = Kah na msaika mash iaka? > ‘Where did you throw him out (to)?’ 

As I mentioned, I’ll write a separate post on =na, going into a number of details beyond the broad patterns shown above. 

kata-na maika tumtum? 🙂