Again, Métis “French of the Mountains” influence?

In our Saturday (09.26.2020) CW Zoom session, a minor tangent emerged…It has to do with you say “it was also like that” in Chinuk Wawa.

Here’s the sentence we were reading when this came up:

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— from Kamloops Wawa #144 (September 1896), page 144

This snippet is from a current news item of the time about record flooding, which I picked out for its resonance with our contemporary climate disasters.

Father JMR Le Jeune here is writing:

Wiht kimta, wik saia kopit Shulai mun, pi
iaka wiht kakwa kopa hloima ilihi.

In Grand Ronde-style writing, that would be:

wə́x̣t kʰimt’á, wík-sáyá kʰəpít djuláy-mún, pi 
again after, not-far finished July-moon, and 
‘Also later, it was near the end of the month of July, and’

yaka wə́x̣t kákwa kʰupa x̣lúyma íliʔi. 
(s)he again like.that in other place.
‘(s)he happened like that again in another place.’

My English translation there ought to show you what caught my attention. It’s mighty odd to speak of some unspecified event as occurring, with the wording ‘she happened’ or ‘he happened’!

In Jargon, yaka is strongly associated with animacy and with being a human.

When you need to say “it”, it’s most normal to either say úkuk (‘this/that’) or to say nothing at all — the latter being the Chinuk Wawa “silent it” that I’ve been laboring for years to make you all aware of.

It occurred to me that Le Jeune’s literal ‘(s)he was again like that’) is a little bit of a French “accent” in CW. Because Father Le Jeune was European, compare standard French c’était encore comme ça, ‘it was like that again’.

The c’ is (historically) a reduced form of ça ‘this/that’, so we might’ve supposed Le Jeune would have put this idea into Jargon with that ukuk.

But he didn’t. He used a word for a human instead, yaka ‘he/she’. And Le Jeune did that, actually, quite a lot in his Kamloops Wawa newspaper.


I want to refer you to an idea my colleague Stéphane Goyette has pointed out in comments on my website:

Father Le Jeune sometimes wrote CW as if he were translating specifically from Métis French / BC’s Français des montagnes.

In my understanding of the grammar of such nonstandard Western Canadian French varieties, the above expression could be expressed as il était encore comme ça, literally ‘he was like that again’. Which would explain the use of yaka here. 

This is definitely not a final proof, but it’s going to be worthwhile to keep an eye out for other possible indications that Le Jeune was “hearing” the local variety of French, which he sometimes commented on, as he spoke in Chinuk Wawa.

What do you think?
Kata maika tumtum?